6 min read

In which I switch from Substack to Ghost

Always go open-source.
In which I switch from Substack to Ghost

I began keeping a daily log at Substack on March 16, 2023.

This is the final installment.

1:15: Awake, briefly.

3:00: Awake, briefly.

4:30: Awake, with thunderstorms.

6:00: Awake and ready to work.

6:15: Bowels.

6:30: Ablutions.

6:45: Yoga.

7:15: Breakfast, with Larry. We are both up early, today—maybe because of the storms, maybe because sunrise is getting earlier every morning, and maybe because both of us are so very ready to work.

8:15: Finishing yesterday’s post (the last one I'll write on Substack, though I don't know it yet) and starting this one.

Reading the April 4, 2023 installment of Letters from an American, which I find extremely coherent. Heather Cox Richardson has a slight Democratic bias, just as the writers of The Scroll (which I also read regularly) have a slight Republican bias, but both newsletters are looking to find the reality in the mess, as it were.

Reading, carefully, Cory Doctorow’s latest Pluralistic column:

When the Build Back Better bill was first mooted, it included a promise of universal, federally funded childcare. This was excised from the final language of the bill (renamed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill), because the CBO said it would cost too much: $381.5b over ten years.

This is a completely nonsensical number, and the way that CBO arrived at it is illuminating, throwing the ideology of CBO modeling into stark relief. You see, the price tag for universal childcare did not include the benefits of childcare!

As Warren points out, this is not how investment works. No business leader assesses their capital expenditures without thinking of the dividends from those investments. No firm decides whether to open a new store by estimating the rent and salaries and ignoring the sales it will generate. Any business that operates on that basis would never invest in anything.

Universal childcare produces enormous dividends. Kids who have access to high-quality childcare grow up to do better in school, have less trouble with the law, and earn more as adults. Mothers who can't afford childcare, meanwhile, absent themselves from the workforce during their prime earning years. Those mothers are less likely to advance professionally, have lower lifetime earnings, and a higher likelihood of retiring without adequate savings.

What's more, universal childcare is the only way to guarantee a living wage to childcare workers, who are disproportionately likely to rely on public assistance, including SNAP (AKA food stamps) to make ends meet. These stressors affect childcare workers' job performance, and also generate public expenditures to keep those workers fed and housed.

But the CBO model does not include any of those benefits. As Warren says, in a CBO assessment, giving every kid in America decent early childhood care and every childcare worker a living wage produces the same upside as putting $381.5 in a wheelbarrow and setting it on fire.




9:00: Inbox Zero! The pre-order for my newest philosophy zine is now live, and I can finally show you the beautiful cover:

Image credit: Alan Lastufka, Shortwave Publishing

I can also tell you what it’s about!

In this issue, Nicole deals with a complicated logic puzzle—and creates both a syllogism and a template for happiness.

I can even share the blurbs that are on the back cover!

"Dieker writes with unrepentant honesty about the human condition." — BookLife

"The reader is pulled, relentlessly, through the story." —  David Lee Zweifler, author of "The Inevitablist" and other short fiction

"The longest consecutive quantity of lines that have required me to read them with full and focused attention." — Tara K. Shepersky, author of Tell the Turning

And now I will, once again, link to the pre-order page.

9:30: Outlining a bunch of LARKIN DAY MYSTERY stuff. Discovering why I’m having trouble getting started with MURDER ON THE NERD CRUISE, and learning what I need to learn first.

10:30: Piano practice. Difficult, because my mind is mostly on Larkin. I want to solve the NERD CRUISE problem, not any of the piano problems in front of me.

11:15: Oh dear, Substack is creating a Twitter:

We started Substack in 2017 because we wanted the internet to be better for writers and readers.


So we set about building a system that fosters deep connections and quality over shallow engagement and dopamine hacks.


In Notes, writers will be able to post short-form content and share ideas with each other and their readers.


Imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leaving a comment on Margaret Atwood’s note about trends in science fiction, or Alison Roman sharing a quote from an amazing recipe developed by a little-known food writer who then gets a flood of subscriptions. Think of your favorite Substack economists nerding out in a deep thread about the latest jobs report, or Joe Posnanski and Molly Knight going back and forth about Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.  


The ultimate goal on this platform is to convert casual readers into paying subscribers.




“We started as a way for writers to foster deep connections and quality over shallow engagement and dopamine hacks. Now we want you to watch other people go back and forth about baseball. We also want you to engage, as much as you can—even though it will by its very nature be more shallow than your previous engagement because you’ll be doing more of it—but if you don’t play the game, it’ll be someone else’s recipe that gets picked up by Alison Roman, and someone else will get the flood of new subscribers!”



Here is the deal.

I started Substacking to connect with people, and I started Substacking to share how a working writer does her work—but I really started Substacking to connect people to my books and to Shortwave Publishing. I specifically did this because I had just finished Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free and he says you have to.

In the past month, I have put hours into Substack and I have put dollars into Substack. I’ve increased my daily consumption of online stuff from three specific sites to, like, twelve Substacks and five non-Substack blogs? And of course I tried commenting, because that’s how you “connect” (aka “draw attention”), and that took time and it also takes dollars because most comments are paywalled, and now Substack is asking for more hours and more dollars (not to mention that whole investment scheme they were promoting last week), and I’m not sure whether any of this is helping anyone do their work or read my books.

I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to help me write my books.

I told Alan I would ride this Substack train until it crashed, and I think it just did.

11:45: Lunch.

12:15: Chess.

12:45: Dishes.

1:00: Completing a 700-word freelance assignment.

1:45: Inbox Zero! Good news from Alan: my OBSOLESCENCE short story was mentioned in a Goodreads review, and ODE TO MURDER is in the top 10 of Ingram cozy indies!

2:00: Writing this. Pulling out the part about the zine and putting it into a separate post.

2:30: WALK OH YEAH WALK. Taking a quick photo of myself, because Larry has been saying all day that I look like a cutie patootie, and because I guess I gotta take a picture of something today.

I keep thinking, as I walk—

Substack is becoming a casino.

Substack is becoming a casino.

Substack is telling people that if they just play the game, then Alison Roman will restack their post and they'll get a bunch of new subscribers.

Substack is telling people that if they donate ("invest") money now, they could receive a return on their investment if/when Substack sells itself.

I am getting out of Substack as soon as I get back home.

4:00: Switching to Ghost. "Always go open-source," Larry says, when I tell him about it later. "Always go indie," I might add.

4:15: Canceling all of my Substack subscriptions. (Sorry, writers. It's an artificial world, which is to say it is constructed on artifice, and I will neither play nor pay.)

4:30: Building out Ghost, turning it into NicoleDieker.com, etc. etc. etc.

5:15: The next question is whether I want to keep writing daily logs. I know it is getting in the way of my drafting mystery novels, and writing philosophy zines, and playing the piano, and practicing chess, and all the rest of it. I also suspect it is a bit overwhelming, for all of you, to get 1,500 extra words from me every day. I would not want to read 1,500 extra words, every day, even from my favorite writers. I'd rather read a book. I think I'd rather write one.

Which means—

Which can only mean—

We'll end this experiment here.

The next time you hear from me, I'll have something new to share about a book or a zine or a class or a review.

But it won't be tomorrow.