Leaving Substack

Just a quick note to say that I will be moving Doctor’s Note from Substack to Buttondown1. You don’t need to do anything to remain subscribed and the archive will contiue to live at its newsletter.polaine.com subdomain once the DNS changes are made.

2024-01-02 - Right now the DNS is still percolating, so you may get an SSL error on the newsletter.polaine.com page. Try this instead: https://buttondown.email/andypolaine or subscribe below:


As you may have seen, Substack’s founders have decided they would prefer to have Nazi content on the platform than moderate it. And here I’m talking actual white supremacist content, not just right-wing content I disagree with. The Atlantic article that pushed the founders to respond has all the details. This is an addition to Substack supporting anti-trans views a couple of years ago.

Audrey Watters and Ken White do an excellent job of analysing and explaining the issues and flawed arguments from Substack. They both align with my thoughts, so read them for the detailed analysis.

There have been arguments that Substack’s stance is just about them not wanting to lose the money they get from the monetised Nazi newsletters. I suspect this is more likely a mix of tech-bro hubris and not wanting to put the resources behind responsible moderation, which is a challenging task that might hinder wealthy VCs from becoming even wealthier quickly. Poor lambs.

All of this is a classic tech-bro play, as Ken White wrote:

They’re betting they attract more people than they repel with the “we don’t believe in Big Tech choosing what you can write or read” brand. They’re betting that the “we are the intellectual and moral superiors to the woke left” brand is profitable — and it is.

Substack are not neutral, free-speech absolutists (read: absurdists) like Musk. Substack has content guidelines, but they’ve decided porn is not okay, while Nazis are. Since porn writers and sex workers are usually far more tolerant of difference than perhaps any other societal group, this seems to be a particularly messed up set of priorities. It is, however, not a free-speech issue. Substack is a private enterprise. They can do what they want and allow who they want on their platform. As a customer, I have the choice to leave, too. So I am.

It’s a shame, because it’s otherwise a great platform and pleasant to use. What a waste.

But mostly I’m just so very tired of tech-bro leaders believing they are geniuses rather than simply lucky. I’m tired of the Californian Ideology and tech bros hiding their greed behind pseudo liberalism. I think we’ve had enough of that this year.

What does this mean for you?

As far as I can tell, this will be pretty seamless for you. You will just see a different look and feel to the e-mails and archives in the future. There may be a confirmation mail, but GDPR-wise your opt-in consent simply carries over. All of this might be a bit glitchy for a few days, so bear with me.

What does this mean for me?

I haven’t offer paid subscriptions to Doctor’s Note because I don’t feel I write regularly enough to warrant it. Moving off of Substack means going from a tens of dollars per year set-up to hundreds of dollars per year. That’s a bummer, for sure. So I might turn on a pay-what-you-want subscription in case anybody feels like contributing, but I haven’t worked out what you would get in return beyond a warm feeling in your soul. I plan to move the Leadership Dip book draft community off of Slack and onto Discord where there will be a special members channel, so that’s an option.

For now, I’m off to sort out subscriptions and subdomains in time for the New Year. I hope you all have a wonderful celebration!

I looked for removal boxes and couldn’t resist the Dachshund photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

  1. This is a referral link that will help a little with my newsletter costs. ↩︎

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