1155 Comments

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🟧 - I get that you guys want to stay on the platform, but could we do a community virtual office hours on a video-based platform? I'd really love to see other writers in time and spend time with them for a sense of community. :-)

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We would love to do this, but we want writers to be able to see and learn from each others' questions and answers. With this many writers and so many questions it seems like video wouldn't work.

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Yes, as great as it is to hang out with other folk on Zoom, it reduces everything to one verbal channel that everyone is trying to talk through. That way lies madness. I see video as a *nearly* 1-to-1 thing (ie. maybe 6-1 or 10-1 at the most, beyond which it's like being in a bar where EVERYONE IS TRYING TO SPEAK AND NOBODY CAN HEAR ANYTHING. Craziness in abundance and not much in the way of conversation, I bet?

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Where I’ve been to big open office hours on zoom everyone is muted and the host reads questions and answers as many as they can in real time over the hour.

As she’s answering people chat in the chat - you’ve got to have a certain type of brain to be able to hold that much space but it’s defo possible!

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I remember there was such a meeting. It was for New year in December 2021. But it was more about selebrating writers community rather than answering any questions. It was successful and I hope you will organize event like it again.

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I'll be the outlier here and say that I prefer the text-based format. I grew up in the era of forums and message boards, and frankly, I get very fatigued from video meetings. It's nice to come here a few times a month and get to know others through their words.

The text format also allows many more people to participate and creates space for numerous discussion threads. And I appreciate being able to gather my thoughts rather than giving rapid, on-the-spot responses or being distracted in a video meeting.

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I'm with you. I really don't' like video meetings. I've noticed that some people get a bit long-winded or take too long to get to the point and then I lose focus and have no idea what's going on!

I'd much rather be able to read and respond.

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I agree with you. I think it will be too difficult to reach as many people with video whereas with writing we can reach and respond to more people. sabrinalabow.substack.com

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It’s a problem a lot of people have figured out for the past few years. Too many people on a video conference and it becomes a problem for interacting.

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same with me, Theresa. I'm burnt out from the social media videos all the time, if i'm honest. Substack is a lovely escape from that, where the written word is King!

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I quit social media in October of last year. Not sure if I'll ever go back, but if I do, I'm staying away from Facebook and Instagram. I never got into TikTok.

I suspect video is "king" in the content marketing space right now because people have allowed it to be. I don't buy for a minute that people actually have short attention spans. I think advertising and media have trained us to want things that are easy to consume in a short period of time, and now businesses and brands think that's what they have to deliver to get seen. It's a silly and destructive precedent that doesn't have to exist.

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you did well, Theresa. I'm a musician as well as a writer and have been battling about how to quit the socials, or at least reduce them to one or two. It is virtually impossible for us as independent artists. As for short attention spans, i can only speak for myself when i say that mine became shorter since the internet, as our brains are not used to consuming so much information in such a short amount of time. But yes, we have been trained by the media, that i agree with.

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You're right, Jo. That it seems impossible to quit the socials if you're independent and need to market your work. But that's also the big tech corporations, trying to make you think you need them. I'd encourage you to check out Hub marketing. Tad Hargrave talks about it a lot. Basically, you find hubs where your people already hang out and you start engaging. Substack is a great hub, for example and you're already engaging on it. I also completely quit socials, although not long ago I went back on Facebook because I took an online training and the group was on there, but I don't use it for anything else. If you're interested in more of an explanation, I can dig up some material on it. Let me know.

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That's a good point. We're writers. We should be writing to each other!

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I'll join in with a personal point, as a visual learner I tend to struggle to follow videos conversations. At least with this format, we get to pick what interests us and skip the other points quickly instead of having to sit through people speaking. I also love to be able to read through while doing other things.

As @Andrew Heard said, I'm sooo done with sitting though video conferences.

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I haven't attended once since the pandemic was "over" lol

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How I envy you !

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yeah i haven't been forced into it with work yet haha

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FWIW, I don't think you're an outlier. We're all writers here. The challenge in this text thread is keeping up with all the interesting conversations. I'm good with that. If we were to do anything with video I'd hope it to be very, very focused on a specific genre so the number of participants is more limited.

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For sure, plus with how much video conferencing has been happening over the past few years, people are burned out by the idea.

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Yes, this. I have 1 or 2 video meetings per week, and that's more than enough for me.

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I must have not paid close enough attention the emails advertising these Writer Office Hours -- I thought it was a video conference myself and was very much looking forward to it! I second this. I would love a live discussion / Q & A panel for Substack as well as maybe Zoom sessions for write-a-thons or just a space where we can discuss what we're working on.

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For anyone interested in video collaboration as you work maybe? There's a couple websites where you can work together in a room with a pomodoro method of working an allotted time, then take a break and chat, then work, then chat.

I've only been to one in my coaching space on Facebook and feel very self-conscious with the camera on, but it is nice.

I dunno how to make sure you get Substack only peeps together but I'd look into Focus Mate and Study Together to see if you can create something you'd like.

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I know some Substack writers who host monthly video collabs while writing/working together, including Suleika Jaouad.

Ideally, it would almost be a matter of figuring out how to get the Substack community together. Maybe this is where the different communities of each writer comes together to figure out these sorts of events. Maybe sending out invites to the audience you have and building from there? Or collaborating with other Substack writers to host together? Spreading the love with multiple communities within Substack could help limit the audience.

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Ah yeah, exactly! It would have to come to the Substack communities coming together to create that type of collab, you're right. And that's true! I forgot about some people already offering those types of spaces already here on Substack as well.

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I’ve got a YouTube video sharing my thoughts on my first year here if you want to watch that. 🥰

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i also thought it was a video conf.

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Not sure that is going to be the most beneficial. Some people don’t have enough bandwidth for a video conference. You also have the problem of privacy. It doesn’t make much sense to make people go video.

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I agree. Plus I don't want to feel like I have to be "on" - video mean doing my makeup and being dressed haha! I like being able to jump on in whatever state and just learn and converse with other writers. You know, "write" to one another...

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I also hate to have to do my makeup.... no, not really. I'm not opposed to video, and my Skype subscript says "Don't worry! I look like crap too!!!"

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Yes, I can see that some might not want this. And... if some do it might be nice for them/us.

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I get that although it also kinda separates the audience between those who use video and those who don’t or can’t. Defeats the purpose of office hours, which is partly why I don’t like the trend of creating separate threads for different issues.

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I prefer a written forum, but have to admit I do NOT like this format. It is impossible to track, find, or scan the conversations in any easy way. When I am trying to find a particular comment or follow a certain level on the thread, it is somewhat maddening.

Way too easy to get buried way, way down under the "TOP" conversations that were lucky to get the first responses in the thread. Better than a video format for THIS type of event, but I'm not a fan.

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I completely agree...it is difficult to track or find particular conversations or comments...plus, I often feel like an ant crawling around in a forest...and no one pays attention to a solitary ant!

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I need to Collaborate with substack writers who would love to share information about graduate students such as: Grants, scholarships, fellowships etc.

Most of the people were only beneficiaries hence, I need writers my audience can truely benefit from.

Gradinterface@gmail.com

My substack: https://gradinterface.substack.com/

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I'd love to connect, but I work with undergraduate students. I run my family's scholarship fund for kids in the Bronx Housing Projects - https://www.jjmsf.org and have a lot of grant writing experience/general experience in the development world. Will definitely share your substack with our students though - as many of them are looking for supporting after undergrad to attend graduate school!

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Will subscribe and recommend your newsletter, kindly do same. we should connect via email as well: Gradinterface@gmail.com

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Undergraduates is also very important to me, I need them to attend the webinars I have at least twice a month were I bring in final year grad students and early research scientist to share their hacks and success stories, thereby encouraging the hopefuls.

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Great! Please feel free to reach out at jjmsfscholars@gmail.com

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What kind of collaboration did you have in mind? I’m a writer with 15 years experience writing grants, fundraising communications, marketing content, etc and can provide coaching and feedback on written proposals.

my specific niche is writing technical content that is accurate yet understandable by general audiences.

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I just subscribed and recommended your substack to my subscribers, kindly do same, thanks

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This is a very good area of collaboration. I can share or recommend your substack with my subscribers as some of them are graduate students while others are aspiring graduate students. I intend do continue doing this ( sharing information about funding opportunities) for the next 5-10 years. My competence is research, beyond that I don’t love the time it takes to help people individually.

I also started engaging professors whom I believe an help distribute my content to their students, hence that could be your reach.

Will send an email: Gradinterface@gmail.com

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I didn't always have an ugly mug (I once was in a rock band and people drooled over my looks), but I am showing my age

And in this era in which cameras click away with incessant cruelty, our photos fuck us routinely, i.e., when one's skin is wrinkled, the infinitely stupid masses assume that one's reasoning is a wrinklled wretched thing.

If everything were on video, those who are bright but homely will be banished.

Shit, entertainmebt, the arts and media is filled to the brim with shallow spoiled brainless bimbos who are getting attention only becasue they are photogenic

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✏️ - would love to know if any newsletter publishers are making good use of Chat, it's not something I've invested a lot of time in. Any suggestions on how to make good use of it?

🧠 - I regards Comments as a sign of the quality of a post, especially of Commentators build on each other's comments. I used to make a point of replying to every single comment but now I'm more selective. I do try to like most of the comments to acknowledge that I've seen them.

✏️ - does anyone see Notes cannibalizing attention from Chat and Comments?

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Unfortunately, Mark, I do see attention divided between Notes and Newsletter. I got a big jump in subscribers, but my open rate dropped significantly as well. Totally anecdotal, but I suspect somewhat related. A small amount of that will shift back I believe after a bit of the novelty wears off... maybe.

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We are doing an investigation into this. Open rates are not always within our control - for example, if Apple changes how this info works, it affects open rates. Hopefully we will no more soon, but in general open rates can be a bit unreliable as data :/

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I appreciate that confirmation, Bailey. I've heard similar things from others as well that have used various email programs, that it's a hard metric to track.

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Yeah I'm finding them wholly unreliable. I have people who leave a comment who apparently never opened the post. But I'm assuming that is because they opened the post via the App.

Is it possible to incorporate those stats? Or is that what you mean by it not being in your control?

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Thanks for the update Bailey!

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My open rate dropped significantly last week after a flood of new "subscribers" -- which appear to be some sort of spam. I'm going to let them ride a few posts and if they don't post any activity then purge them.

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I think I'm seeing a similar drop in open rate as well.

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Normally when I've had a small burst of new subs my open-rate drops but then recovers as people figure out they subscribed. Given the email addresses and domains I'm seeing I'm not as confident this time around. I didn't crack 50% for the first time, which is alarming.

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You know, this brings up a point: are we overvaluing open rate? Given that there are now multiple ways to get access to our newsletters outside of email (notes being the latest), is that as relevant as we thought it was? For example, does a social media link click trigger an open? Granted, it's probably the most useful metric that Substack has but does it fully measure how many people are seeing and interacting with newsletters?

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me too, what's going on there? i was getting an 80% open rate and suddenly a drop.

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What is an open rate to us newbies?

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Basically it's a count of the percentage of your subscribers who actually opened your newsletter email to read it as opposed to it sitting untouched in their inbox. In practice it's a little more complicated because somehow it takes into account when a newsletter is accessed within the Substack Reader application. It's one of the more accurate metrics you can use to judge engagement with your subscribers.

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I’m wondering about spam subscriptions, too. I’ve been getting little bursts of them and the emails do not all look legit. Is Substack monitoring this? Or do we need to weed them out?

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That thing called The Connection is a spam outfit. We think Hannah Williams" is not a real person but some kind of pirate. I had to delete about 30 subscribers who came over The Collection, with weird email addresses, who never opened an email.

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The Collection? That certainly tracks with my experience. Hannah was recommending me for a while. Now she's blocking me. Super-weird behaviour if she's legit?

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Did you also get UK Plumbing Services and Hong Kong Limousine Rentals? So weird... I removed them, but maybe they were legit readers? 🤨

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Hilarious, they aren't even trying to hide their spoofing...

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Haha. Oh my.

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Not sure if/what Substack's doing to monitor, but I think I'm going to manually prune periodically so they don't run out of control.

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We got a bunch this morning, Yahoo accounts that look sketchy.

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This happened to me too

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Bummer. It seems like you have a nice-sized list. How are you responding?

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My total open rate dropped when I started using Sample, cuz my overall page visits skyrocketed. But I get plenty of likes from my subscribers and plenty of comments, so feeling good about the engagement even those numbers now look funny.

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And if open rate volume is high that is probably OK. I guess it would be nice to see "time spent" to blend with those other metrics.

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I had a similar experience when using The Sample. In general, I've stayed focused on comments as my primary engagement. For fiction it's been critical to get that feedback.

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I've also noticed a drop in my open rate corresponding with a burst of new subscribers. Interesting. Glad I'm not the only one. 🤔

Even before this dip, I started putting more stock in clicks and comments to show engagement, since Apple made the open rate far less reliable as a metric. But I think open rates are still useful as a broad bellwether.

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My open rate has dropped as well. I'm usually in the 50-70% zone. Now I'm in the 30s and 40s.

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The one time I found a really nice use for Chat was in advance of writing an article about exposition. I asked on Chat how other writers handle exposition, and was then able to incorporate those responses into the article. It worked really well - and keeping it on chat made it a bit more exclusive/private prior to publishing the article, rather than going more broad on Notes or elsewhere.

You can see the end result here: https://simonkjones.substack.com/p/how-to-do-exposition-without-it-turning

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That's a really great use case, Simon! Thank you for sharing! I haven't really loved Chat as a place to hang out with readers (too hard to synchronize timing for a live conversation), but it's an interesting way to get community responses that inform a piece you're working on. Very cool!

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Interesting. Since Chat can be restricted to Paid Subscribers/Founders, this could be very useful for incentivizing paid subscriptions where Notes is more about reaching out more broadly.

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Yeah! Lot of potential there. I don't have enough paid subscribers for that to work yet, but it could definitely be a really useful perk for larger publications.

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Ha! Yeah, same here. Info that's good to keep handy as our Newsletters grow. 😉

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Yeah, as a reader of your newsletter, this worked really well! I've tried notes for this with some benefit, but chat is good for reaching just your subscribers. Alternatively, I've been using discussion threads as such. I'm not sure which is better :) pros and cons...

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It could be I just don't understand the nuances of Chat, but I'd much rather engage in the comments and at Notes. I find Chat very confusing.

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Not confusing for me, just not practical either. Notes and posts are far more intuitive interaction for me.

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What about discussion threads as an alternative?

I like Notes, but not everyone on your list will see them.

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🧠 I find I spend too much time in notes, and sometimes neglect the regular newsletters. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I'm resisting notes with every fiber of my social-media-hating being...lol.

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I've resisted chat and notes. I'm glad it's not just me. lol

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Hey Mark,

I played with Chat for a month. I told everyone up front that I'd be live for about an hour at a set date and time. The conversations were good, but it was a challenge to synchronize the conversation for the community. It wasn't a bad thing that the chat kept going days later, but at that point people were kind of just adding to a dead room, sorta like telling an amazing anecdote a day after the cocktail party ended. I don't know, I didn't love Chat, and I don't think it did much for my readers. Maybe if I stuck with it, but it felt like a Zoom would be a better format for a synchronized conversation.

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Yup, synchronous communication. It kind of felt to me like it's a potential challenger to Discord but don't know how that worked out.

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Chat seems to be useful for timely announcements to one's entire list. For example, I've seen writers post a reminder or cancellation for a live coworking event or notify everyone when the replay is ready.

For actually "chatting," Notes seems much more natural to use.

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It seems to me that you would need to build the habit for your readers to use Chat for best effect.

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I never had much success with Chat -- granted I'm not that interesting -- and my assessment is Notes rendered Chat irrelevant. Notes is definitely cannibalizing attention, which is the main form of currency we're all trading.

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I struggled a lot with what to do with Chat vs Notes. Here's where I'm at after a few weeks: I think Chat and Notes are totally different beasts. With Notes, you're talking to the broader Substack community. With Chat, you're talking to just your subscribers. So Chat is a bit more exclusive and personal. That's how I'm trying to think of it anyway. I'm not exactly sure how to curate my posts for either just yet, but as I'm sorting it out those are the things I'm keeping in mind.

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I didn't think about Chat being only for subscribers. That may be useful down the line. One other question: When Chat appears as a section on Notes, how is that done? How do you initiate that? And if it's only for your own subscribers, does that mean everyone on Notes doesn't see it?

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Oh can chat appear as a section on Notes? I haven't seen that.

I was under the impression that yes, only subscribers see my chats. But if chats is appearing in Notes then I'm not sure what that is.

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The only reason that I'm not Liking your comment is that I don't want to feed into the idea that you might not be interesting.

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I can’t easily find your comment. So far I’m not doing anything. But if my open rate stays low I’ll have to comb through the list & see if I can spit the bots 🤖

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I haven’t seen any cannibalism, but to be fair, I never use Chat (either as a reader or as a writer). For me personally, Notes and Discussion Threads have made Chat redundant.

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I agree. Notes seems to fill the void for which Chat was intended. It is lighter and more accessible than a full post and lets you engage with others in a similar format.

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Yeah, I've not used chat either...

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Same, but I love Notes and Comments.

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tell me about "care of united states"?

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Thanks for asking. :-) Lower case united states I take to mean respectful relationships of consent, justice, mutual dignity - anywhere. I have something of an abiding question: Does it take magic/enchantment to make stubborn individuals get along? If so, where is the magic? (In books!) :-) To care for united states is to apply the magic potion known best to poets and artists, effective only temporarily. Some of my posts focus more on what "enchantment" means, others (one queued up for June) about the rituals and practices that reduce social friction. Generally, I try to have a great book open and draw from it ideas about how to do the U.S. experiment better.

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I’ve used chat sparingly and in specific circumstances. For instance, when I got bored one night and pinged my readers with a specific question and we had a little fun for an hour.

I like chat because it goes directly to my community of readers.

I like notes because they go to my readers *and* get exposed to new readers.

I like them both for the different purpose they serve.

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I have many readers who have come from outside of Substack and just have no idea how to navigate Notes. I was excited at first, but now I worry it's just trying to "fix" something that wasn't broken, while simultaneously deluding what was working well...

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I'm starting to think of Substack Notes as the place where newsletter writers gather and chat, I think it has less appeal for other potential users.

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Same here. Notes is my writing group. I don't really think of it as being a place for my readers - though, inevitably, there's a lot of crossover.

An important element there is that I don't control Notes. Substack controls notes. If I decided to go elsewhere, I can take my newsletters, I can take my subscribers, but I can't take the Notes community. As such, I don't want to invest in Notes as a key part of what I'm doing in the same way.

Instead, Notes is like going down the pub or to someone's house to talk about writing with a bunch of other writers. Vital, fascinating, useful, but it's not part of 'my newsletter'.

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Got it. Good to know! Thanks so much, Mark

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I could never get Chat to work out, even before Notes. I find myself trying to be intentional by checking/reading the newsletters I have first, then maybe finding new reads on Notes/engaging in comments there and/or posting a thing or two... restacking... And then I leave it alone.

I find I'm still getting comments on my work... More honestly, since interacting on Notes. I try keeping my time on Notes purposeful and timed so I give more than I "take" (draw attention to my work). It's working out for me, so long as I keep that attention and keep in mind why I'm taking the actions I decide to take here on Substack as a whole!

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Had some good discussions with people on notes but not used the chat feature as of yet.

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I need to Collaborate with substack writers who would love to share information about graduate students such as: Grants, scholarships, fellowships etc.

Most of the people were only beneficiaries hence, I need writers my audience can truely benefit from.

Gradinterface@gmail.com

My substack: https://gradinterface.substack.com/

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I do prefer Comments for the slower pace (and permanency) over Notes. I keep dabbling in and out of Notes and do enjoy it, but from a writer perspective, I feel a single comment on a post is worth many, many subscribers. I value each and every sub who takes a moment to post a comment. It means so much to me and really helps build that sense of community and engagement.

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🧠 - when I have a creative prompt type post, I've found chat useful because I can invite subscribers to share images of what they've created, which they cannot do in the comments. Moving forward that's really the only way I envision using chat b/c I'd prefer the conversation to be attached to an original story (like you said, feels like a sign of a quality post)

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🧠 - when I have a creative prompt type post, I've found chat useful because I can invite subscribers to share images of what they've created, which they cannot do in the comments. Moving forward that's really the only way I envision using chat b/c I'd prefer the conversation to be attached to an original story (like you said, feels like a sign of a quality post)

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✏️ - How effective have Notes been for you in connecting with readers? What about Chat?

I tend to use Notes sparingly to comment on articles I come across that deal with issues I write about that don't warrant a full post. I don't have many subscribers yet, so Chat doesn't seem too useful just yet.

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I browse Notes whenever I can and follow author names to new Substacks when I see a sense of humor or perspective that speaks to me. I’ve Subscribed to several from Notes and had some subscribers find me the same way. I don’t use Chat.

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In a way, Notes feels like Newsletter Lite. I can see that as a good way to discover creators without diving into longer posts.

I actually use these Office Hours in a similar way. 😊 I've discovered plenty of folks on here with cool Substacks

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Agreed! I just published my first newsletter last week, and have already met a lot of great writers through notes + these office hours.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: glad you popped in cause I got to discover you because of it!

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congratulations, how does it feel?

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thank you Jo! It honestly feels incredible. The feedback has been so wonderful and supportive. Very grateful.

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Love this perspective, and it's been exactly how I've been using Notes! I find new people through both spaces too haha. :)

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Newsletter Lite, i like that 😊

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I really like that perspective of Noted being a good place to find other writers (similar to Office Hours like @Quiet Sight mentioned below). I hadn't thought of that but I quite like it. Thanks.

I also don't use chat.

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This is really helpful to hear. I haven't been sure how to use Notes in a productive way, but this gives me some ideas. Thanks so much!

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I find notes surprisingly effective. People read them and some then subscribe to HOT GLOBE. But a note created from a comment works best, that is, you comment intelligently to someone and then click to share it as a note.

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Thanks for sharing Steve, that's cool to hear that your comments-turned-Notes are proving effective.

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OK thanks, Steve. I think I've done that once or twice...

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That's a really smart idea - and it pushes you to think up thoughtful comments, instead of "Great piece!" or w/e

I'll be stealing this idea!

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Do you find Notes distracting or noisy at all? I dislike anything that resembles a social media feed and so have been avoiding using the feature.

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Hi Theresa! I appreciate your comments here. Just thought I'd add some context from the Substack team's side

Writers don’t have to use Notes at all if it's not their cup of tea.

We built Notes because we know some people want to post in a way that means you don’t have to email your subscribers; some readers want to snack. The honest truth is, those things are happening on other platforms, pushing into an attention game where no one wins. People are using Notes differently than these attention-driven places—promoting each others works. It’s a lot of writers lifting each other up.

Notes should only be additive—another place you can go where some people who don’t know your work already get a glimpse into your mind, a little vision of who you are and how interesting your are. But it’s not for some people and we’re not saying it should be for everyone. That’s completely fine, and we hope it won't affect your core Substack experience if you're not into it.

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It can be kind of distracting when someone I follow posts a note and it shows up in my "activity" feed/notifications. I'm very sensitive to anything that feels like noise or distraction (digitally). Is it possible to turn off notifications for notes but leave new post notifications on?

I honestly feel like Notes encourages more noise and keeps writers and readers trapped in shallow streams of attention. Social media platforms provide that "snack" experience if people want it. But I feel a platform for writers and readers should maximize deep attention, thoughtful reflection, and meaningful interaction.

The appearance of subscription CTA popups on the platform also dismays me. I don't like it when something interrupts me in the middle of reading and try to block as much of those attention-grabbing tools as I can. It's honestly distressing to see some of the worst of the internet creeping into Substack.

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🟧 Good points to consider—thank you, Bailey. So then can I gather that everyone who writes on Substack can see your Notes, whether they are already subscribers to your newsletter? If so, it would certainly be a help in getting new subscribers through a brief intro to your work.

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Correct, yes! Unless you have blocked them, they can see your notes - and also can see notes from anyone who shares / restacks your publication there

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My first Note was about how I wasn't sure how much I would like Notes. For the same reason. I was extremely concerned about the civility of the discourse. There have been some valid issues raised since the rollout, but by and large I find it a lot like being at a large conference. You're on Substack to do your job, primarily, and to learn from others, but it gives you that sense of running into someone cool at the line for the bathroom, who turns out to be the person who hands you your next lead or job. If that makes sense. Less so like Insta or FB, which feels sort of like being at an awkward high school reunion these days.

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The promotion aspect of Notes has been genuinely lovely to see.

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I've never written a Note or read one. I'm here to read posts and share my written posts and interact with people after reading their post or them reading mine.

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Notes isn't really my thing. I do tune in to see what's going on, but I find myself muting more people because (a) they post over and over and hog the feed or (b) they reply to some political thing which makes it appear in my feed.

I've never thought Notes was the right direction for Substack, but I'm way in the minority in that regard.

I do like to restack a paragraph from someone else at times, that's pretty cool. But overall, ... not that thrilled.

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I'm with you in that minority. As soon as Notes launched, I thought, "Oh no, Substack is becoming Twitter." After I very deliberately deleted my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts last year.

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Yes totally. I haven't looked in a couple weeks, but when Notes first came out, it was also so confusing to navigate. Maybe it's gotten better but I'm hesitant to dive back in because it seems like it could just be a massive time sink.

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I've heard this from others, that it can suck up time and attention better spent writing.

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You speak for the silent majority; Notes is trash. We all know it but stay quiet because we can’t be bothered. It’s fine.

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I wouldn't call it trash. Perhaps misguided. The current internet landscape favors tactics that amount to shouting into a noisy room, and whoever shouts the loudest gets heard. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Not my bag, for sure.

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Notes is just a public bulletin. You're correct in that it's just shouting in a noisy room. We're writers though. What the hell is the team at Substack thinking with Notes, particularly after introducing Chats?

Most of us know the answer, we just wish they weren't so naive in becoming another social platform for writers rather than creating an online realm to attract readers.

We want to connect and attract readers and build an audience, not bargain with other writers for clout.

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The fight for clout is baked into the creator economy, at least in its current iteration. We've all been inundated with a false narrative of online hustle culture that leads us to believe we have to publish X times per week or month to "make it" and that big audiences equate to success.

I feel like many on Substack came here in the hopes of participating in something different and more realistic, but that hustle culture is creeping in. I see it in the Grow series and see its effects in the frustration or despondency some writers express during Office Hours. It seems like many who are just starting out are already discouraged and overwhelmed by the idea of trying to "measure up" to people with large audiences and lucrative subscriber bases.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere, one that allows writers to focus on craft while still making a decent living. It's a shame that the creative vocations are still undervalued in our society--unless you're willing to submit yourself to the internet framework that has created so much mediocre copycat content.

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I am not sure I have connected with that many of my readers (I have a much more robust community on Instagram) but I have connected with lots of writers on Notes.

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When Notes first began I gained some new subscribers but it doesn't seem to be that useful now.

I frankly don't know how to draw in new subscribers from the Substack platform. Everyone else seems to do it successfully but it's not doing much at all for me.

I'm guessing it's me!!

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I'm guessing it depends much on what KIND of Substack - serious/intellectual, fun/humour, personal, fictional etc etc. Also see my suggestion to the team (see below) about improving the list of 'topics' available on the Substack 'Explore' tab.

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🟧 Still trying to figure out exactly who sees Notes. Is it just my subscribers or anyone who writes on Substack and accesses Notes? Ramona or anyone else..., do you know? Thanks!

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I believe it's your subscribers (and those you subscribe to) and their subscribers (and those they subscribe to). I think...

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Thanks, Nathan,

I believe Bailey just replied that anyone who writes on Substack can see anyone else's Notes, as long as the author of the Note hasn't specifically blocked readers....?

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Surely if that was the case then Notes would be flooded with comments constantly?

I only ever see the same set of people.

Perhaps she means that it's possible for anyone to see the comment (in that Notes comments aren't private), but they'd need to be in the right network to do so?

Now I'm confused hehe.

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What have you tried so far, Ramona? :) I have a small list that grows slowly, but maybe I could help with some tips from what I've done.

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Both of my newsletters work as communities; Writer Everlasting more than Constant Commoner because I'm mainly writing to and for other writers. I don't go overboard on marketing but I do attend most Office Hours, I spend time on Notes, I comment and recommend and keep a blogroll at both of my newsletters.

I announce new posts on Facebook (no longer on Twitter; I never get much action there, anyway), and I try to keep my readers happy.

I have a fine group of loyal and engaged readers at both sites, so I'm not necessarily complaining. Just observing.

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Are you reading around other newsletters that might be in a similar genre to yours? I used to the Explore tab a bit to find others and subscribe and engage in conversations and it's been really nice building something of a community between a number of fiction writers. That only expands so far, of course, but it's been an enjoyable process.

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Sounds like you're doing quite a bit, then. My other suggestion would be to try submitting to some newsletter directories and see if that brings in a few new readers. I get a slow trickle from that. :)

Do you include your Substack links in your email signature, too?

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Following. I am also having trouble with growth. Any suggestions or articles to read?

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Here's what I've done:

- Submitted to directories like Inbox Reads

- Added a link to my Substack in my email signature (personal and business)

- Mentioned my newsletter or writing in conversation when it makes sense

- Attended Office Hours here most weeks

- Read and commented on 1 other Substack post 4-5 days per week

- Replied to comments on my Substack every weekday

- Emailed or texted contacts and friends whom I thought would be interested in reading my essays

And I'm currently doing a Substack Letters exchange with a friend who also writes on the platform. Not sure if that will drive any subscriptions, but it's a fun experiment.

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Thanks! I have been doing some of these, but you gave me some new ideas to try. :)

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These are great. Also Recommendations! They can be super powerful.

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I never knew about inbox reads! Thanks!

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Those are very good suggestions, Theresa. Thank you for sharing them. I'm also thinking of making a stack of business cards for my Substack, perhaps others may like that idea too?

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Doing all of the above...collectively have helped a bit.

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Excellent tactical breakdowns.

Do you find commenting on other Substacks to be effective?

How far afield from your topic do you venture?

I'm writing at the intersection of

-data science

-automation

-business

-ai

And wondering if I should limit my engagement to those four domains or if there is value expanding further to other circles?

-

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I wrote this one a while ago, but it's still valid. It's behind the paywall but I'm happy to comp you a month to read it. https://authorstack.substack.com/p/how-to-find-more-readers-for-your

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That’s great! Thank you.

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it is definitely not you, Ramona. I'm certain others will back me up when i say that you are most loved on Substack.

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Notes has been very good so far. Accelerated my subscriptions, and been a way to meet new people and get to know my subscribers more closely. Very positive so far.

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Simon, I would love to hear more about your Notes "strategy" if you're willing to share!

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Also interested!

Are the notes engaging them in the conversation in some way?

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Hi Sue and Matt! I'd hesitate to call it a 'strategy'. I've posted on Notes and interacted with people because I've found it interesting, and there hasn't been much conscious thought put into it.

A few things I've worked out along the way, though:

- Blatant self-promo doesn't really work. Sharing links to your own posts like you might on Facebook or Twitter doesn't get much traction.

- Sharing quotes and links from OTHER people's stuff goes down well, though.

- The 'My Subscribers' feed shouldn't be underestimated: It's a way to see what your readers are like, what they're interested in, in a single place. It's your readers, but you get to see them out of context. 'In the wild', if you like. That's not something I've really had before, and it's fascinating.

- My newsletter is about fiction writing, as well as where I post my actual fiction. I see Notes as an extension of that, so if I'm posting on Notes it's probably going to be related to what I write about on the newsletter in some way. ie, I'll be asking about a writing technique, or sharing something I just found out, or asking what people are working on. That kind of thing. That way, if someone finds one of my Notes interesting, there's a good chance they'll find my newsletter interesting as well.

- On the flipside, I don't tend to post about what I had for breakfast. I random thoughts about politics. Or other random stuff. I don't use it for idle ramblings, like I used to on Twitter. This keeps it more focused for readers and anyone stumbling upon my stuff - and, actually, I think is healthier for me as well.

- I make a point of trying to take part in other people's conversations, so it's not just me talking about me. This is made a LOT easier on Notes than it ever was on Twitter because my feed is automatically filtered down to people in my general area. The community I experience on Notes is the fiction writing community, basically.

- I've also been posting daily sketches. Nothing to do with my newsletter, but it's still a 'creative pursuit', so I thought people might be interested/not offended. I'm not a very good artist, so it's very much me trying to get better in public. That seems to have gone down well with people.

Those are a few things off the top of my head! What I haven't tried to do is game the system, trick people into subscribing etc etc. It's all felt quite honest and wholesome to date. Hope that helps!

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I appreciate the responses!

I need to engage with Notes a bit more myself. I only hesitate because I don't want to take away from the Newsletter/posts and I don't want to bombard readers too much (I'm publishing every two weeks for now and slowly building up frequency).

I love what everyone is saying about engagement and discovering other Substacks.

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I need to Collaborate with substack writers who would love to share information about graduate students such as: Grants, scholarships, fellowships etc.

Most of the people were only beneficiaries hence, I need writers my audience can truely benefit from.

Gradinterface@gmail.com

My substack: https://gradinterface.substack.com/

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I don't find them super effective to connect with readers, but it's great for networking with other publications and connecting with other people's comments.

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Notes has been good, but I also use it somewhat sparingly. I do love that you can take a short section of text from a post and restack it as a quote with a comment.

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I haven't found Notes to be worth much. It's probably me. I'm just not a social media person. I dislike posting something, something thoughtful, and getting zero response while a one-word note ("test") gets an overwhelming bunch of answers. I feel like I'm wasting my time. I'm not one of the cool kids that social media celebrates.

I do like to place a paragraph from someone else once in a while. That part is pretty nice.

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It is harder than other platforms to build a "following base" which usually requires following like 2,000 people and then have a couple hundred of them follow you back. That's almost impossible in Notes.

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It's been great for me so far - not just for chatting to readers but for connecting with other newsletter writers in realtime.

At the same time: most people using Notes are (I think?) other Substack writers. That'll change over time (it's only been a few weeks! I mean, it's astonishing what leaps and bounds Notes has made in so little time, such great work on all levels) - but right now, it's a small and very specific subset of my readers, mainly ones who are fellow newsletter writers, and I guess that's true for everyone else's too?

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Yeah I think I have like 6 subscribers who are also on Notes.

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I read like 150 newsletters and they are all fascinating. I met Mike on Notes and his publication is awesome. I just keep finding cool things, following them, and then getting fed their notes too.

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Notes have been lovely for exchanging ideas with other writers about future topics, or just to send greetings from overseas! However, i try to keep them to a minimum, as there is an overload of features already available to us on this platform and i respect how busy we all are.

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Still too early to gauge Notes - I drop the same content there as at Twitter etc. and I continue to observe what happens. I've never found a use case for Chat.

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