After Substack declared they wouldn’t remove extremists and Nazis from their platform and ultimately doubled down on this stance, many blogs including Casey Newton’s child Platformer elected to leave. Like many, I patiently awaited what sort of “response” the company would give to the flooding of hate-filled speech on their site, and I was disappointed that they elected not to do that much in the interest of not censoring anyone.
Act I. Hamish McKenzie responds, then Platformer leaves
Hamish McKenzie, Co-Founder of Substack, wrote in the company statement (emphasis mine):
“I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either—we wish no-one held those views. But some people do hold those and other extreme views. Given that, we don’t think that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away—in fact, it makes it worse.“
How exactly? It isn’t censorship to say “we don’t want hate speech on our platform.” The fact of the matter is that not allowing them on your platform gives them one less meaningful place to spread their hate and lies, or call for violence against Jews and others. It should be a platform’s goal to remove that sort of hate speech from their website and not give it space. And it’s certainly not an opinion that the Holocaust happened — it is a fact that it did.
Casey Newton writes:
“In the end, we found seven that conveyed explicit support for 1930s German Nazis and called for violence against Jews, among other groups. Substack removed one before we sent it to them. The others we sent to the company in a spirit of inquiry: will you remove these clear-cut examples of pro-Nazi speech? The answer to that question was essential to helping us understand whether we could stay.”
And why was the conscious decision to simply not do anything until the folks at Platformer stepped in to give you a (small) list of publications that were promoting this garbage? Whether or not Substack believes it, they’ve set themselves up for failure with this decision, as publications like mine and Casey Newton’s elect to leave it behind.
That’s a huge loss in revenue and readership for them. It hurts their bottom line. And in my opinion, that’s a good consequence for their inaction. I have a feeling that Substack won’t stick around long, and it’s probably for the best in this case.
Act II. Do I build something of my own, or use a turnkey solution?
With McKenzie responding the way he did, I knew I couldn’t stay with Substack. As someone who is both gay and autistic, I have a very low tolerance for hate–and if Substack would allow Nazis and other hateful speech on their platform, they’d allow the sort of thing that targets both of those underrepresented communities I’m part of, too. That doesn’t sit right with me.
Therefore, I knew I had to do something. In collaboration with a couple of my friends who will be testing it, I’m building Beauregard CMS out to fill the gaps that Substack will leave for publications like mine. It’ll have email newsletters, memberships (through Stripe), and so much more community-focused features. Oh, and if any friends still “stuck” on Substack want to migrate off of it, I’m happy to help you move to Beauregard CMS. I’m building this for you, not just me.
In fact, the website you’re reading now was made with Beauregard. My mom’s website (when it’s finished) is also powered by Beauregard. Everything about your website in Beauregard is customizable, from the themes to the plugins, all backwards-compatible with anything that targets WordPress 6.3+.
I have called upon a couple friends I trust to help build this. They’re readers like you who will be assisting me in testing the platform–from locking things behind memberships, to testing random little features I happen to build. As a thank-you, they (along with their partners) will get access to everything I’m writing and working on here, for free, forever.
Not everything’s in place yet, though. Email subscriptions don’t work right now (don’t worry–this will return soon, and existing subscribers will get moved over), there are some SEO things to clean up, there will need to be some design tweaks and other enhancements made over time as well to make sure this website is accessible.
On SEO: SladeWatkins.net isn’t a new domain name, but it has historically redirected to my main website, so search engines will need some time to crawl and grab the latest info again. I’ve made sure tags are in place to move this along as fast as possible.
Act III. Slade’s Corner expands
A side effect of the move off of Substack is the expansion of what Slade’s Corner has to offer. I’ll be updating more frequently, and more freely. I won’t be restricted by Substack’s limitations. That will lead to some interesting things.
For example, you’ll see commentary from me on news (similar to this), alongside random things about Pokémon and others. Paid memberships will return and things will be exclusive to that. I’ll be able to offer more out of a paid membership than I ever could before. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually excited to have my own little weblog again.
This comes at a cost, of course, and that’s my development energy. I’m developing Beauregard for my family, friends and I to use. In order to help myself not burn out, I’m following the same exact “cycle” schedule that 37signals uses, with some slight modifications. I’ll be collecting feedback from my friends, as well, and compiling all into one place as “quick wins” to work on during a “cooldown.” While this ultimately means slower development times, I think it’ll keep me sane making something that’s meant to “compete” (not really) with Substack.
Blogging is a beautiful thing that can turn into a career or side hustle on the modern internet. I want that to happen for me one day, but that can only happen by building Beauregard. My family and friends being on it gives me the motivation to keep building cool stuff. Things I think people will want to use.
But one thing’s for sure, this is going to be fun! Thanks for joining me, I hope you’ll stick around.