Cause if MKBHD can do it, why not me?
Okay, so I watch way more YouTube than I know I should. However, I would argue that 99.9% of the YouTube I watch is all educational one way or another. I’m learning as I absorb and not mindlessly scrolling TikTok (no offense to the platform…). Now, I don’t have MKBHD clout, as he knows the people who run just about any social media platform he’s on will see his videos and comments and usually act accordingly (in some way), but Substack is small enough (for now) that I think if I post this, someone in the home office might see it and “listen to the little guy” in a medium outside of the weekly Thursday Threads. No offense to that idea, but by the time I join in, there are hundreds of comments and threads already happening that it becomes very overwhelming and I decide to just say nothing at all.
For some context, cause context matters, here is the video that MKBHD posted last year to YouTube. He does one like this every year and I figured, why not me? I got some things to say about the platform that is Substack, especially while it’s still under ten years old.
As Substack is a written medium (thank goodness!) I am going to deliver my version of “Dear YouTube” in written form. So…
I joined on June 30th, 2021, when my feelings were extremely volatile towards Mailchimp. The way they were treating their users then (and even now) were less than ideal, at least for me, and I desperately needed out. Like a wave I was not ready for, I found you, I signed up with you, and I’ve been heralding your very existence to all my friends of any creative capacity. In short, I think you’re awesome, however…
In the time that I’ve joined there have been more updates, tweaks, and UI changes than I can count on two hands (and probably my feet as well). I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I am asking that perhaps you scale it back a bit. I understand the excitement one might have to put something out there because it just seems like such an amazing idea that so many users would benefit from! Why not just GO and leave us all to figure out this awesome change either when you update us days/weeks later or when we stumble upon it on our own. I know I’ve been guilty of doing this with my own Substack on a regular basis. But I’m just one person, I can afford to gamble with drastic (and small-ish) changes.
I’m so thankful for the (non-affiliated) Substack Writers Unite discord server because nowadays it’s where we all go to ask, “did you notice X change within Substack?” Many of us will nod our heads in agreement or check to confirm indeed something is looking, or worded, or behaving differently than it was just moments ago. You do always mention these changes in the update emails you send, but it’s time someone said: SLOW DOWN, WOULD YA!
I will admit most (not all) of your updates are great. They prove you actually are listening to us. And believe me, we appreciate it. But speaking as someone who visits Substack multiple times a day, it can be jarring to see it look one way in the morning and then have a slight change in the afternoon. I wind up spending more time trying to figure out why something isn’t where I assumed it should be or looks differently when I should be writing.
I think Substack as a whole has matured enough that updates of any size can be left to occur a couple times a year and not daily/weekly tweaks here and there. Trust me, I think I speak for many of us when I say, we’d much prefer the updates to happen all in one go after we’re told that it’s coming than to just do something daily and then lump it all together to share officially after. By then, most of us stumbled across it and figured it out. By then it’s too late and becomes a discussion of frustration at the change instead of appreciating why you did it, which is, I think, the reaction you’d much prefer us to have.
Again, I don’t expect this to be seen by anyone, and I realize this is going out to my email newsletter, so I apologize to you for having to sit and read through my love letter/rant to Substack, a platform you likely aren’t aware of because you subscribed to me way back when I was on Mailchimp.
But, if anyone at Substack is reading this, thanks for taking the time and even though it may not seem like it, I do look forward to the amazing new things you’ve got planned for us in 2023.
For anyone reading this who does use Substack, do you notice the frequent changes that have happened? Am I crazy to think it’s too often and should be scaled back? This is, of course, my personal opinion, but I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.
I only use Substack once or twice a week, but it hasn't really bothered me.
That said, I still agree with your suggestion. In fact, that's what many other platforms (let alone softwares) do: they'll bundle a bunch of updates all together and create some hype around it before hand, which I think makes a lot more sense.
The way it stands right now, you're lucky if you run across something--which is a shame if it's a cool feature, and an annoyance if it's something that can affect your growth and you would have wanted to know about earlier (like the recent change in how categories/tags are handled).
Good post, Erica. Hope someone at Substack sees it.
I actually appreciate the frequency of changes they make. It keeps the platform living and growing, which engages who is there and attracts new people. But there is always room to make those updates as we’re used to with operating systems.
I wish they did spend more time developing the text editing capabilities because that degree of customization is what bloggers like about websites like Wordpress or Wix. They do have to keep their identity but dammit, WRAPPED TEXT. Overall, I’m happy here.