Much like the lack of flying cars and personal jetpacks, the internet in 2023 is a major disappointment.
After mothballing my Twitter account last year at the very beginning of Elon Musk’s shenanigans, I finally deactivated it completely this week — saying goodbye to 15 years and 51k+ posts on the only online platform I’ve been on longer than my own blog. When I first joined in July 2008, I had no idea it would quickly become my favorite online platform, nor that a few years later it would quietly supplant my own blog as my online hub, despite me constantly saying for years that was a terrible mistake for anyone to make.
Over the past 15 years (but especially during the first five) I met a number of amazing people, interesting people, smart people — some of whom I consider friends and colleagues despite never having met them in person. In some cases, I can’t even remember how we met, because Twitter also enabled me to keep connected with people I’d only met briefly and would have likely lost touch with otherwise. I still remember how many people were convinced we’d met in person at the 2009 Tools of Change conference, one of the first I “attended” via hashtag, tweeting and blogging about it thanks to actual attendees live-tweeting from there.
My active engagement on Twitter played a big part of my getting the Digital Book World gig back in 2009, while also raising my profile in various circles where my takes on marketing, publishing, and social media were reaching people I’d never have been able to engage with otherwise. When I got into soccer back in 2014, Twitter was a major source of information and connections, especially for the Premier League and La Liga. By the time I got back into comics in 2020, though, it had become a very different platform, corroded from the inside out thanks to the Trump years, which paved the way for the Musk Error that officially, literally killed it for good.
Now, Twitter is a distant memory for me and a ton of dead links on this blog (among other places across the internet), unlikely to ever to be replaced, despite many fledgling attempts to capture the potential ad revenue, potential reach, and soft social connections ripe with potential that once defined Twitter’s unique value proposition. Now, it’s just another virtual Nazi Bar.
Speaking of Nazi Bars….
Where Twitter had been a slow-motion car wreck for several years before Musk smashed the fast-forward button, Substack has been pretty clear that they’ve happy being the Nazi Bar from almost the beginning. Despite many reservations, I moved my newsletter there last year when it was clear Revue wouldn’t survive Musk’s reign, with this caveat: “Every platform comes with its pros and cons, and the only way to not be a hypocrite is to just not be online at all. I’ve chosen this particular compromise and reserve the right to change my mind at some point down the road.”
While on vacation last week (celebrating our 25th anniversary!), I came across this post, ironically, ON Substack:
“It’s one thing to allow anyone — including open antisemites, racists, and anti-public-health conspiracy mongers — to use your newsletter hosting service. It’s another to actively promote them and make them the face of your company.”
I’d started exploring alternatives to Substack a couple of months ago, and even started trying out LinkedIn’s “newsletter” option in parallel with it. LinkedIn is not really a newsletter service in any useful way, but it does allow me to reach a relevant audience of people on there who’ve opted in to receive my bi-weekly ramblings, and it almost immediately grew larger than my Substack mailing list. Meanwhile, as soon as I stopped linking to Substack from other channels, only using it to send to subscribers who signed up there, my steady growth pretty much flatlined. I realized the majority of my subscribers there are just getting the email from Substack; they’re not actively engaged with the platform itself in any useful way.
While I don’t have a direct alternative to Substack set up yet, I also can’t use that as an excuse to justify staying there anymore, so a link to this post represents the last email I’ll be sending from there, and I’ll be deleting my entire account and archive in a couple of weeks, too. Unfortunately, that also means unsubscribing from any other newsletters there, too, but if I can access an RSS feed for it, I’ll continue reading that way.
If you want to keep getting my blog posts masquerading as newsletters (aka, Five Things), you can add the blog’s RSS feed to your favorite reader, or subscribe on LinkedIn for the version of the newsletter I’ll continue to post there for the time being.
NOTE: Yes, Microsoft is as bad, arguably even worse, than Twitter or Substack several times over on many fronts, but LinkedIn is a far more useful platform that at least attempts to not be a Nazi Bar. Every platform comes with its pros, cons, and compromises, and I’m not ready or able to go 100% analog any time soon. YMMV.