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Why Notes is More Like Discord than Twitter
And I’m here for it all day everyday
It occurred to me as I was visiting one of the few (I’m only in 6 servers) discord servers I’m currently in, that in more ways than one, Notes is very similar.
WHAT IS DISCORD?
For those who may not know, Discord is a place to connect with others of a like-minded topic and talk in real-time. In the distant past, Discord, like Twitch, was very niche and geared mostly towards gamers and various gamin community. And like Twitch, but much more successfully, Discord decided to pivot towards being more inclusive of any group that wanted to carve out their own space for their friends, family, book club, school. You name it and it can be created (or already exists). The thing Facebook Groups wants to be but never will achieve.
However, I would argue that long before Discord made this pivot towards branding for everyone, everyone was already using it. Similarly, the way Twitch mistakenly thought their platform was only used by gamers and they were making a change for the better by introducing a “creative” arm. We had already been using the platform. A small, but mighty band were streaming our creative endeavors, from writing to illustrating and even knitting. You just had to search a bit harder to find it as Twitch only had discovery for gamers. All they did was add the ability to discover topics outside of gaming. I’d say thanks but it was only a half-hearted attempt for their own financial gain and wasn’t a very sincere move to include us outsiders at all. Vive la YouTube!
On the other hand, when Discord made their platform more open it was with an olive branch of support as well. They didn’t simply open the door and say, figure it out yourself. They put systems in place so larger servers that had already been surviving and thriving could share their set-ups to the little guy. And Discord continues to impress. They didn’t just tack us on like an unwanted third arm, they made creatives a part of their entire fabric and realized we were an asset worth taking a chance on. As I said, creatives had already been flying under the radar with servers for writing and illustrating, some with thousands of members, only now we could be found and were given tools we desperately needed that were not necessarily just for gamers. Of course, discord still provides tools that are clearly for the gaming community, but what counts is the overall attention paid to all users and not just one group.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SUBSTACK NOTES
There is one key feature of Discord that without it would render it pointless; people. In order for a server to exist and make sense it requires a group of people to communists through conversation. With Discord that conversation happens inside channels, nested under categories, that are labeled according to the needs of the server. For example, a writing server might have categories for various mediums of writing, poetry, short stories, serials, novels, comics, graphic novels, etc. And within each category are channels where a person might share an idea that starts a conversation with others who share that idea. There are various other tools that can be used within Discord to facilitate conversation such as threads and events where typed words but also spoken words are used.
But the main component is that everyone in that server all came there because they share a surface level connection and love of writing.
Much like the people using Substack Notes. Our common connection is that we each have our own publication within Substack. We all write different topics but we all use Substack in various ways to share our passion with the world and we do it through writing or art or music. Substack is the common thread and Notes is where we come together to share how we each use our own thread in our own unique ways.
It’s not as “real-time” as Discord where you can actually see a notification above the chat window that will say when someone is typing something. But it’s pretty darn close. I think Substack expected Chat to have that more “real-time” conversation vibe but I think it falls flat, at least for me, mostly because of its layout. And because it’s dependent upon two things:
Writing something that someone else will find interesting enough to comment on.
A subscriber list of people who will use the app or feel compelled to respond outside of comments on a post I’ve written.
Both are a huge ask. And I think the latter point is what proves, to me at least, why Chat doesn’t work (it’s subscriber-centric) and Notes does (it’s user-centric). I’ve yet to see a non-Substack person in Notes. Meaning, someone who is simply a subscriber that went through the trouble of creating a Substack account just to be in Notes. The barrier to entry for both Chat and Notes needs to be lowered. Not sure how Substack can make that happen or if they see an incentive to making it easier for subscribers to use these features without the need of creating an account just to interact and not to create.
And quite honestly, I’m ok with how it is. It would be nice if Substack themselves would admit Notes is for the user not the subscriber as the tools and features seem more and more for the user. Their messaging just seems to never align with how we’re actually using it. As a space to connect with other Substack users that I’d never otherwise have unless they subscribe to me and visa versa. And it’s wonderful.
Everyday, and even throughout the day, I find myself visiting Notes more and more and opening my Discord app less and less. I’m getting my fill of creative ideas from reading my wall of Notes which is something I never got from Twitter and used to get from Discord.
SHOULD DISCORD BE WORRIED?
Not yet. It’s fortunate for them that Twitter saw this Notes feature as a direct competitor. But as more and more features come to Substack as a whole as well as Notes, there will be cause for concern. Substack is for everyone. A safe haven for those who may not be built for streaming on Twitter, or have the desire to create and learn the nuances of Discord life. With Substack all you have to do is share what you love and they will do the rest to bring people to you.
Honestly, and this might be a hot take, but I see Substack as the written format of YouTube in its algorithm and discoverability choices. It’s Wordpress and Patreon and Discord and MailChimp and anything else you want to throw in there all in one place.
There is only a matter of time before more and more people from all walks of life realize this is where you need to be. Especially, people on YouTube or Twitter who may not have any other line of communication with their audience, make a Substack. I can’t tell you how many people I have lost touch with because they are only on Twitter. And if I don’t have notifications on my phone I’d miss their streams on Twitch or new videos on YouTube. pretty soon video and music creators will see a benefit in being on Substack if only because here you own your audience because you have that email list. You may have 15m followers on YouTube but you’d have 0 should you get booted or it ceases to exist. Yeah, I’ve heard the argument before that it will never happen but never say never. Cause there are people on Twitter who felt the same way at one point and look at them now.
Jumping down off my soap box of praises to Substack now and leave you with one suggestion: if you haven’t told your creative friends about Substack, you might want to do so. This only works if we’re all in this together.