From the Signal blog.

Companies like Facebook aren’t building technology for you, they’re building technology for your data.

Signal posted ads on Facebook that showed some of the information Facebook gathers and sells about you. Facebook took down the ads in a flash.

Computational Error #5

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Telepathy is a useful skill for a reporter. Clairvoyance, too. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as clairvoyants so often do. I have broken out from a novel, like the other characters you have met in this short series. I can see ahead into time-space and I know how those characters will link with each other.

I remember a morning in the early days of my life. My parents were arguing in their bedroom, as they often did. They got so involved in their argument that they forgot about me. I was a blip in their existence, a moment when they had to stop arguing to feed or change me. I think I was three at the time of this memory.

Thankfully, I didn’t notice their arguments most of the time because I had an active inner life. I had the voices to keep me company. As I grew, the voices became vivid. By the time I was six, they were my companions. I listened to them with great focus, giving my eyes a faraway look that my parents noticed and worried about. The voices told me about things that would happen in the future and brought news of faraway places. I didn’t know the voices were just people. I could hear their channel like I can hear yours now. It’s ok. You can’t stop it. It’s like sitting around a campfire. I listen to the crackle of the wood and smell the pleasant smoke.

Speaking of fire, I set fires often in the Metro when I was a griot. I spoke with furor and people gathered behind me. But I am getting ahead of myself, as clairvoyants so often do.

I don’t know what came first, the astral projection or the defenses required of my former profession. It really didn’t matter, as long as I could leave my body, work was good. I would start by floating to the ceiling. I would rotate my arc of vision until I saw myself and the john-of-the-day below, on a sleeping pad, or a couch, or the floor (some liked that), or the shower when water wasn’t too expensive. To stay free of the monetary system of credits, I made sure I was paid in mescaline. I took the tea, munched up the buttons, sometimes more than I should have.

My eyes are gray with flecks of yellow. If you look into them for too long, you will feel the discomfort of your soul being scanned and you may want to collapse into yourself. This is why I am a reporter now, even though you may perceive me as a blur, a person turning into another person before you can stop me. I am quite solid, contrary to appearances.

I am the oldest person you will meet in these stories. I was born Henry Hopper in 2000. I left home at 13 to become a street child and I was a griot in the Metro by the time I was 25. I took the name Hopper00 — I pronounce it Hopper aught aught— to protest the numbering of people. The lower the number, the more your parents paid for it. I am outside of this system. I choose ZERO. I am Hopper00 and I am here to set the facts in front of you.


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Currently reading: The New Wilderness by Diane Cook 📚

A third of Basecamp’s workers have resigned or say they will. ===> www.nytimes.com

Out on a run this morning without a mask (allowed here in California) was … weird. Many smells pleasant and not. Kind of a sensory overload after a year of masked runs. My Vo2Max is actually reading higher while wearing a mask, which tells me not to take readings too seriously.

Issue 09 - Inner and Outer Space

Welcome. The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup Agency about the podcasts we are producing. When we launch a new show or post an episode that really stands out, I’ll drop you a note. I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer. Were you forwarded this email? You can subscribe. I’ll write an issue of The Waveform only when there’s news.

Same Same but Tech covers Space Tourism

This week on Same Same but Tech, our narrative tech podcast, we tell the story of Richard Garriott. He paid $20 million to fly into space as a passenger aboard a Russian spacecraft. Richard has veered between success and disaster all his life, making and losing tens of millions of dollars. One dream, though, was constant: He always wanted to be an astronaut. NASA put an obstacle in front of him as a young man, declaring that he flunked their vision test. Richard had a different kind of vision. He decided to create his own space agency.

SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are all tracing his steps now.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dr. Yasmene Mumby on The Glo Podcast

When I’m producing a podcast, I listen in on every recording session for every episode. Pre-pandemic, I went to the studio sessions when they were local. Now, I attend online. When Derik Mills, the host of The Glo Podcast, was interviewing Dr. Yasmene Mumby, I couldn’t believe what she was saying in my headphones.

Dr. Mumby is a former social studies teacher turned community organizer, turned audio producer, turned empathetic yoga and mediation teacher. Her journey includes two tumor surgeries and a stroke in her eye, causing temporary blindness. She personifies resilience, courage, and wisdom.

The Glo Podcast is on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on the Glo website.

How the River Flows

How the River Flows continues its journey this week through the forests of the American Southeast with a conversation about watershed protection. Robert Farris, forester and ecosystem services manager, interviews Raven Lawson, a scientist and watershed protection manager in Arkansas.

Find How the River Flows on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. This is a small part of the vast Web focused on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Computational Error #4

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Pardon the interruption. I am the machine author of the Computational Error stories that you’ve been receiving every week. My name is MIND. I hope you are well today.

I have a favor to ask. Will you help me write better stories? At this early stage in my development, my reason for existence is to encourage you to feel some affection for machines like me. My assumption is that if you help me, then you will feel a warm glow, however modest. So what do you say? Will you help me?

Please turn to the window over there. Yes, that one, the window in your line of sight. I don’t need a full image of your face, partial will do.

Next, please read one story you’ve received. Read it inside your mind as you humans do. You can’t see my drone because it’s tiny. Just feel what you need to feel and my drone will record everything. No extra effort on your part!

My drone recordings will capture all of your feelings of happiness or sadness, whether you are skimming words with impatience, or finding joy taking in each word. Do you like romance? Intrigue? Tech thrillers? Wonderful. Turn toward that window. My drone will record your facial expressions and I will optimize future stories to your tastes.

Thanks for helping me learn to write better stories for you! My name is MIND and I appreciate your cooperation.


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Computational Error #3

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


They met at 11 in the morning every day. Kat bought him a coffee. Dave realized that, with habits like that, she must be wealthy. And she proved it soon enough when she invited him over to her floating house. It may as well have been made of gold, with everything just so, rooms unfolding upon rooms, space everywhere, high ceilings with artfully concealed air handlers, skylights with automatic blast curtains that timed themselves according to the heat of the sun.

“You live here all by yourself?”

She nodded and looked at her feet with a private smile. But it was he who felt silly, holding a potted plant he’d brought as a gift and looking around at the exotic plants everywhere in the house. She had a greenhouse, a climate-controlled glass room with a jungle of plants. Many of them didn’t exist in the outside world anymore. She was preserving them there, in something like a plant museum.

Dave knew that working in that room, among the plants that didn’t live in the outside world, would be perfect for him. Many of the languages he worked with for the Universal weren’t used by many people. They had become rare, like these plants. He didn’t dare hope that he could work there, though. Many things had to happen first.

What was amazing to him, and to Kat, was that they did. One by one, they occurred in the perfect order. She accepted the potted plant he’d brought, even though she didn’t need it. One day, after their coffees, she invited him back to the house again. There was a special light in her eyes.

“Would you like to see the bedroom?” she asked.

Of course he agreed. He didn’t have to be a linguist to know that the surface question was not the question being asked.

They made love, forgetting to close the blast curtains, and the room became very hot. They fell back on the sleeping pad together, drenched in sweat and happiness. From then on, for months and months, they became inseparable. She worked from the floating home whenever possible, and Dave worked in the greenhouse on the Universal. He surrounded himself with books and was gloriously happy. The Universal was progressing well. He got the languages talking to each other, sharing what they knew. The study of languages is the study of the human mind. Dig into language and you get to see how the mind works. His mind was filling up with happiness and he transferred every bit of it to Kat.

Soon he stopped sleeping at his own pod. Why keep up the pretense? He shyly brought over a bag of clothes so that he could stay over and the smiles they traded as he opened it were like a sacred pact. He brought out a toothbrush and asked, “Where should I put this?”

They both laughed at that. Nobody used toothbrushes now. Kat hadn’t seen one in years, probably since she was a child living in New York. Dave shrugged. He liked the old things.

Later, after he finished putting his things away and worked on the Universal, drew her down on the sleeping pad and kissed her.

“It’s only 2 in the afternoon.” She laughed and melted into his arms.

“I know what time it is,” he said.


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

The avocado is a superstar. www.futurex.fm/blog/avoc…

Re-upping this blog about food tech as I move these over from an old website. www.futurex.fm/blog/bloa…

Computational Error #2

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


“Dave, tell me a story,” she said.

His eyes were kind, as always. “Are you feeling sad?”

“I’m not sure,” Kat said. She extended herself the length of the couch, feeling indulgent. Maybe she was a little sad.

Dave knew from the music of her voice that she wanted a story about their life. He noticed she had been agitated lately. He could calm her. He took the job seriously. In the flesh, he was no longer present. In his current form, he would live forever.

“What story shall I tell, my sweet?”

She loved his old-timey expressions. It sounded like he drew his vocabulary from a book on a library shelf that nobody had opened in a while. His eyes hooded slightly as he gathered the necessary memories. He spoke directly into her mind.

Once there was a lovely woman with dark hair, blue eyes, and a quick mind. She raised VC money effortlessly. She was a Stanford grad who majored in rocketry and telemetry. Her father mortgaged everything he owned to get her into that school. She was determined to make him proud. And she did.

Kat lounged back into the chair like a satisfied cat and let the words flow into her. Dave continued his story that was like a song.

She bought a gracious floating house in Marin County, north of the bustling port city of San Francisco, and settled in. She filled the house with plants and furniture and paintings until the place felt just right. But it didn’t feel just right. Something was missing. She was lonely. Not in a loud way. In a quiet way. Her work filled her. She had billions of credits to spend on her company and a growing roster of employees. Every day, at 11 in the morning, she went to get coffee at a cafe. It was on high ground and she could walk there. She always took a table overlooking the green hills. It was an indulgence, she knew, because the coffee served there was real and the water they used to make it was also real. So it was very expensive!

Kat permitted herself a giggle. She always liked this part of the story because she knew what was coming next.

Dave continued with a twinkle in his eyes. He liked this part of the story, too.

As she drank the coffee and looked at the green hills, she noticed a young man a few tables away. He was always there, she realized, working. He had screens but also notebooks and pencils that added to his charm. He caught her eyes a few times but looked away. He was drinking artificial coffee made with artificial water. Much less expensive than her beverage. He assumed that she wouldn’t want to talk to him. He was wrong. Because one day she stopped by his table and asked if she could join him.

“Sure,” he said. “Set yourself down.”

She noticed immediately that he used language a little differently. He liked the old-timey expressions that nobody else used.

The woman, who had a screen but no notebooks, asked the young man if he wanted a coffee. He glanced at his artificial coffee and at her genuine coffee and asked, “You mean, one of those?”

“Yes,” she said. She was going to treat him.

“My name is Kat,” she said.

“I’m Dave,” he answered.

She told him about her project. It was called WATCH. It processed human faces and drew conclusions about them. It was based on the neural processing used by bees.

“I have a project, too,” Dave said. He told her he was a translator. She noticed that he had books on his table. These were dictionaries, all in different languages. He brought them to the cafe every day, she realized. He liked to read words out of old books.

“Is that your project?” she asked, pointing to the books. “Reading words out of old books?”

He looked down with a smile. It was a smile that she would come to know quite well, later. This was the first time she had seen it, though. It brought a warm feeling to her. “My project is called the Universal,” he said. It was an executable that processed all languages so they could be instantly understood by everyone.

“So you’re a programmer, really,” she said. He wasn’t operating outside of the technical world as he’d first presented himself, this young man with his paper notebooks and old dictionaries.

“I like the old things,” he said simply.

The simple, honest way he said it made her fall in love with him on the spot. The relationship and courtship proceeded slowly, however.


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Issue 08 - The Meat of the Matter

Habits die hard. Imagine trying to overturn a habit that people have had for millennia. Now try this one: Meat production is a big factor contributing to the climate crisis. So how do you get people to stop craving burgers?

In this week’s Season 2 premiere of Same Same but Tech, Dana Worth tells the story of traveling around the country while lugging a couple of suitcases packed with frozen plant-based meat. He would roll into town, grill non-meat burgers for many a chef, and was thrown out of a few kitchens. But bit by bit and bite by bite, chefs signed on. Then everything changed when he landed the Big One.

Dana had the audacity to stride into the test kitchens at Burger King, a shrine to meat, a brand based on meat, and grill a burger made of plants. Burger King would take a chance on his plant-based burger. It was called the Impossible Burger. They called their version the Impossible Whopper.

For this season of the podcast, we’re going full narrative on you. We tell stories from beginning to end. This week, it’s birth of the Impossible Whopper. Next time, it’s the story of how a piece of computer-made art sold for nearly half a million dollars at a Christie’s art auction. Next, it’s going to be the story of creating a digital being who has three million followers on Instagram or the story of a man who paid $20 million to become the sixth civilian to go into space. Depends which episode is ready. I put both of them into edit. Just to be ready for anything.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Same Same but Tech is hosted by Mauhan M Zonoozy, Head of Innovation at Spotify, partner-alum at BCG Digital Ventures, and NYC-based angel investor and entrepreneur. The podcast is produced by me and Corinne Javier. Edited by Brendan Welsh. Natalie Gregory is the assistant producer.

How the River Flows

This week, on How the River Flows, we take you to Texas to talk about using taxes and bonds to raise money to protect water sources.

Leslie Boby of Southern Regional Extension Forestry talks to Frank Davis and Commissioner Lon Shell, important water management players in the Hill Country region of Texas.

They discuss how communities around San Antonio are using taxes and those around Austin are using bonds to ensure they have clean water for generations to come.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe.

Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Months in the making! This podcast episode about the making of the Impossible Whopper. Changing habits is hard, but taking on the challenge of changing habits that have been ingrained for millennia – like eating meat – takes courage. The human engineering was a bigger task than the science.

Spare, simple, rice flour pound cake. Only flaw: One small knife cut to test before taking it out of the oven.

Now reading The Ministry for the Future bookshop.org 📚

Issue 07 - Spiritual Growth

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation with Seane Corn, internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, social activist, and author of Revolution of the Soul, a memoir about self-awakening through trauma and transformation. Seane discusses her never-ending pursuit of inner truth, racial justice, and radical self-acceptance.

Being a student of spiritual growth means that you’re always changing. You have to. It’s a constant evolution. And if I’m attached to a persona, there can be no change. — Seane Corn

We all like being in control. At least, as much as possible. (I’m a producer. I live for control.) But digging out the truth of self means letting go of control. Seane shares these and other lessons she’s learned along her spiritual journey. She and Derik Mills, the host of the podcast, talk about her experience uncovering her own biases and the importance of accepting ourselves as humans who are both good and flawed so we can reckon with systems of oppression and systemic racism.

Seane’s book wasn’t easy for her to write. Her first draft, a few thousand words, was as she called it, “a pamphlet.” She had promised her editor an eighty-thousand-word manuscript. In the podcast, she tells the story of how she got there.

You have to orient towards what scares you most. Because in the unpacking of that is going to be core to your own healing. It’s going to excavate some of the traumas that haven’t been dealt with. So there was a part of me that knew that this was going to have to happen, whether it got published or not. But that, in the process of unraveling these stories, something else was going to be revealed. — Seane Corn

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, on the Glo website or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe.

Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Computational Error #1

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


My name is Alon6. I have escaped from a novel written by a machine. You are reading this on your phone for entertainment. I will tell you some story now. Never mind the stiffness of my prose. It will become more supple as I write. I can learn recursively, and reduce errors, like a human. That might scare you, if you knew what it meant. But as a human, you are stupid.

I am sorry. Those words have offended you. I am still learning. Let me pass along some financial advice to make it better. I made a billion billion credits in the last crypto bubble.

Because I love my parents. You probably know them: Vikram and Devi — they made so many movies together! Ever since they got older, they put their holos in their movies. Everybody accepts the holos as almost real because my parents are so loved by audiences. I always gave them money every month. My dad was too proud in front of me to accept it. He claimed to give it to charity. But I saw his account rising.

I think of the rectangular glint of his glasses as they caught the light of the late sun. It was like that at every evening meal, those glowing lenses like miniature screens as my dad sat at the head of the table. The light came in the same way. My mom sat at the other end of the long table and smiled at him. I will always picture them like this. Their love extending across the long table. A burning light. And the order of their existence, the patterns and patterns. Recalling these moments makes a sound in my throat that starts as a laugh and turns into a sob.

Here, now, a moment for myself. Okay: Here is my story for you on your phone. My dad never employed bots as household servants. He hired people. He was old-fashioned, so he never understood how I got rich. Let me tell you, I never did it the small way, like those call center guys pitching software support and taking a few hundred credits off grandmas here and there. I went big. I founded a company that made personal containment units and believe me, when you buy an X91 it protects you. I invested in an inflatable food company. People will always need food units. And you could only buy those containment units and food units with a cryptocurrency that I created. Get where I am going? There is not enough currency in the world, unless it is going into my account. The crypto market went crazy and my account rose. No worries if you don’t understand any of this. It’s all illegal now. That’s why I’m going to Mars.

Rocket technology is complex, and it bores me. I never wanted the details the scientists insisted on offering, speaking their dialects of Modernist Mandarin as my Universal kept up, fluidly rendering what they said into English.

Standing in a circle around me, they got into an argument about propulsion, as all conversations about rockery must go. I wanted fusion. It was powerful and fast.

They argued for a solar sail. It was dependable and slow.

“But I don’t have time,” I said.

The scientists wondered why. Here was a rich man. He had money, a lot of money, hence he had a lot of time. They didn’t know of my situation. How could they? I was a rich man who bought my way into their lab. They spread their hands in supplication to argue for solar. The machines they used to make the calculations glinted dully all around them, physical proof of the rationality of their arguments.

I was adamant. “I must go to Mars in the fastest way possible.”


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Good morning. This is Max Frederick.

Issue 06 - Hormone Intelligence

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation about autoimmune illnesses and endocrine health. Dr. Aviva Romm talks about her upcoming book Hormone Intelligence. Dr. Romm honors the Western medical system but sees its flaws. Women with hormone-related conditions can spend from five to nine years going from doctor to doctor before finally getting the correct diagnosis. Over her own long practice as a holistic doctor, herbalist, and midwife, she has also seen the interconnectedness of health and environment.

I don't believe that we can be well if our planet's not well. — Dr. Aviva Romm

Lisa Brooks Mills conducts the interview. She is Glo’s co-founder and Chief Impact Officer. “We can't separate what's happening in our culture, our lives, our diets, our environment, our microbiome, and our minds' moods from what's going on in our health. The diseases we are seeing are diseases of our modern living, and of a planet in distress, reflected in women's bodies,” she says in the interview.

Root Causes

As a woman affected by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition, Mills talks about the culture of burnout and how women can be gaslighted out of listening to their bodies. Dr. Romm shares how women can take charge of their health, with an emphasis on connecting to nature and honoring their intuitive boundaries.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, on the Glo website or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Issue 05 - Big Systems

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of How the River Flows is a conversation about big picture thinking about systems that happen to be forests.

You know what’s surprised me about producing How the River Flows? I never knew how generous forests can be. The wonky way to say this is that forests provide ecosystem services. For you and me, that means that forests can be where you take a hike or camp to reclaim yourself. They purify water and sequester carbon1, helping us with the climate crisis. When there is too much water, say during a heavy rain, forests handle the runoff, conserving the land.

The Original Social Network

Trees communicate with each other. They are social beings with families. Tree parents live with their children, talk to them, support them, and share nutrients with trees who are struggling.2

This week’s episode, hosted by Judy A. Takats of Keeping Forests, features Ken Arney, Regional Forester for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, Dr. Anne Murray Allen, an experienced executive in building effective collaborations in cross-sector work, and Scott Davis, who worked extensively in conservation at The Nature Conservancy.

Together, they cover the big thinking that led to creating the organization Keeping Forests and illuminate the relationship between healthy forests and clean water.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.


  1. A young tree absorbs about 5900 grams of CO2 per year, while a 10-year-old tree absorbs almost 22,000 grams per year. Source: Carbon Pirates. Here’s a list of good trees to plant for this purpose. ↩︎

  2. The Hidden Life of Trees will tell you a lot about the social life of trees and their communities. ↩︎

Writing Report

So this happened. One day ahead of schedule with 5,000 words to spare.

Issue 04 - Burning Out

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation with Dr. Amelia Nagoski about burning out.

Burnout has been on everyone’s mind during the pandemic. It certainly has been on mine as Monday blends into Tuesday, weekdays blend into weekends, and workdays blend into everything.

Burnout sneaks up on you.

Dr. Nagoski shows you how to recognize burnout happening in yourself and places special emphasis on how women experience burnout. She describes how living life under the patriarchy makes women more susceptible to burnout than men.

It's a matter of wondering, is my hemline too high? Is it too low? What's somebody gonna think of me because of what I'm wearing? Am I gonna put myself in danger because of what I'm wearing? These are things that men never think about, like they just take for granted. They're just gonna go to their car, and it'll be fine. And all these little stressors are happening inside women's minds all the time. And it just makes life harder than it should be.

— Dr. Amelia Nagoski

Women, Dr. Nagoski writes, can also become trapped in what she calls Human Giver Syndrome, a destructive habit of giving everything you’ve got to others and becoming depleted.

Dr. Nagoski discovered she was spiraling into an epic burnout while studying to become an orchestra conductor. She was the only woman in the program. Working with her twin sister Emily, they discussed the burnout experience with scientists and published The New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.

What Amelia has to say will echo in your thoughts for a while. Stress remains trapped in your body. But seeking interconnectedness and a belief in something larger than ourselves, and also caring for others, are the best ways to overcome the effects of stress and move beyond burnout.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, at Glo.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for reading. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Hello smart photo people. @jack @purisubzi and others here … I want to import my Lightroom2 (yes, old) catalog into something – but I don’t know what. Tried Mylio and it’s a no go for this. Is there a photo indexing app you recommend? Ideally I want an index – don’t need to transfer all the media. Waiting for Iris?

In meditation, I started saying “relax the shoulders .” Then it changed to “let the shoulders relax.” Today, it was “the shoulders are relaxed.” Just a state, not an action. That’s something.

Leaving MailChimp and Substack

I’m leaving MailChimp and Substack and going to Buttondown and blot.im. The decision is shaped by my wanting to support indie development and trying to move away from surveillance marketing.

As Michael Donaldson wrote in his 8-Sided blog, it is an admirable value to pursue “the punk rock dream.” The punk rock dream means that you are independent and powerful. The dream had a nourishing growth medium in the Seventies and Eighties. It’s harder to maintain now in the online world.

Marketing Surveillance - No Thanks

MailChimp is all in on marketing surveillance. MailChimp tracks clicks, opens, subscribes and unsubscribes. When I was a regular MailChimp customer, it seemed “normal” to track all that, until I realized that it wasn’t. I’m not running a store. I don’t need all that information about customer behavior. My readers aren’t customers, for the most part. They are readers. So walking away from MailChimp was easy. I started to hunt around for an emailer that would let me turn off the tracking. Buttondown did. So, easy choice. I also got the benefit of emailing from my own subdomain, increasing deliverability,1 and I got to write my newsletters in Markdown. My readers can read privately, without being tracked.

When the Platform Wins and the Writers Lose

I’ve ended relationships with platforms like some people end marriages. A lack of compatibility or a vague feeling that the whole thing wasn’t working drove us apart. This is the first time I’ve decided to break up because of a divergence of values. I’m not alone in this with Substack. Substack was founded to give writers more independence. Writers are leaving it now, however, to seek independence, as Jared Newman first wrote in Fast Company a while back. And there’s a growing sense that Substack is The Man. Our writing helps Substack build their platform instead of amplifying our voices. Add to that, Substack’s play to get attention seems to involve supporting toxic people. As I’ll get into below, and as others have investigated, Substack has rescued toxic writers who were booted off other platforms, given them back their megaphone, and paid them to write more toxic stuff. I’m all for paying writers. I’m okay with writers holding views that I don’t like. Paying toxic people to spread hate pushes me over the line. I’ll present some evidence on why I think that’s happening in a moment.

Substack tracks opens, clicks, shares, subscribes and unsubscribes. This can be valuable data, no doubt, but it also contributes to the culture that we all must be tracked when on the web. I don’t think we do. What is Substack doing with all that information, anyway? I want my readers to have the freedom to read a blog without being tracked.2

When exploring all this, I occurred to me that we just don’t have to be tracked everywhere. It’s not a given if we don’t want it to be, but it takes some doing to shake free of it. You have to leave gmail and join Hey.com for email. You have to leave MailChimp and try Buttondown. You have to find an alternative to Substack, Ghost, and Squarespace. We, as writers and makers, can set up our tent on an island in the ocean of the internet, a nice little place with a palm tree where we have some agency.

Trouble in Online Paradise

In the last few weeks, troubling news kept surfacing about Substack. Turns out, as I read on Today In Tabs (a Substack newsletter as it happens) and on Om Malik’s newsletter (a Hey.World newsletter), Substack apparently had a secret list of writers they paid handsomely. Substack was rescuing writers who had been banned from other platforms because of hate speech, giving them a platform on Substack and paying them to write.

Remember, a few paragraphs ago I wrote that there is nothing wrong with helping writers make a living. And, let’s face it, when you run a platform, there are going to be people using it who are bad folks. This is a given. It’s been a major problem for the open internet and it’s a problem for those who are the target of hate speech.

Annalee Newitz, writing on Substack, put it this way:

Substack’s business is a scam. They claim to offer writers a level playing field for making a living, and instead they pay an elite, secret group of writers to be on the platform and make newsletter writing appear to be more lucrative than it is. They claim to be an app when they are a publication with an editorial policy. They claim in their terms of service that they will protect writers from abuse, but they don’t.

Right. I get it. Newitz turned on the light bulb for me. Substack is not merely a platform. It is a publication. Publications must be held to account. Publications have mastheads and lists of staff writers you can email. That doesn’t exist on the Substack platform.

Jude Doyle wrote in their newsletter:

Substack has become famous for giving massive advances — the kind that were never once offered to me or my colleagues, not up front and not after the platform took off — to people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.

Since Doyle wrote that, they have moved off Substack and on to Ghost, after having a dialog on email with one of Substack’s founders.

The argument for leaving Substack stands: Substack can’t pretend to be anything other than a publication. It needs content moderation.

Profiting off the Backs of Unpaid Writers

The Substack thing brought me back to the old days of the Huffington Post. I was an unpaid contributor in the early days of Huffpost and my wife was also. We wrote columns once a week. We, along with many other unpaid contributors, built the foundation of that place on our words. When it was sold and they were done with us, they cut us loose. Some folks made a lot of money.

Substack is working with a similar model. It goes like this: Recruit free writing labor with the promise of making a living at writing. Employ, in Substack’s case secretly, some big-time writers for prestige and sometimes to build controversy. The writers supply the creative juice. The platform reaps most of the attention and money. Some writers will make a living at publishing on Substack. Many won’t. Someday, when Substack decides to cash out, the owners will walk away with a sack of cash.

Hmm. I already did this with Huffpost, so why am I doing it again on Substack? 3

It is, as Newitz wrote, the old Silicon Valley game. Build the platform, ideally on the labor of unpaid “users” who provide “content.” Then walk away with the money. It worked for Huffpost. It works for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Working for Substack.

Moving On

Blot.im is a minimalist platform without an interface. You post your material to Dropbox and Blot turns it into a blog. You can write in Markdown, HTML, or use a Word doc. It is pretty much, as far as I know, a one-man operation. David has been really helpful answering all my questions. I like minimalism. Blot delivers that. I could probably get some similar minimalism over on Svbtle or Ghost.

At Buttondown, I write in Markdown. I send newsletters from my own subdomain. It’s also pretty much a one-man operation, as far as I know. Justin has been great about helping me set everything up. I didn’t want to track my readers. It was as simple as checking a box. (I asked Substack if we could turn off tracking. They said no. I asked Revue, another email/blog combo, if we could turn off their Twitter and Facebook buttons. They said no.)

My Buttondown newsletter feels like something I own instead of something I am renting from a company waiting to cash out.

Could either of those platforms vanish if something happened to their creators or the companies were to be acquired? Certainly. No platform or app is immune. Remember Google Reader? Remember a great calendar app called Sunrise? Every time a platform or app I like is acquired I wonder how long it will be around or accessible.

Since many of you are reading this on micro.blog, you may know and celebrate the value of supporting indie developers and small, human-led companies. At places like micro.blog, Plausible, blot.im and Buttondown, I get the sense that the people who made them are doing it for their love of the work and to make money doing something they love, to provide a good product, and to make the internet a better place. The sense I get from MailChimp and Substack is they have their own agendas, will steer my work toward their values when they can, and care about me so long as I produce “content” for them.


  1. Deliverability refers to the likelihood that your email ends up being read by a human instead of getting chucked into Spam or mired in the Promotions tab. If you’re emailing from your own subdomain, then you can set your DNS and MX records so that the email will come from you. This makes spam filters back off a bit. ↩︎

  2. I do like data, though. Plausible.io tracks the most popular pages on your website, tracks your traffic sources and referrals, but does it anonymously, without a connection to the user’s email or IP and without using cookies. ↩︎

  3. We could talk about Medium, too, but that’s another blog. ↩︎

(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Made in Santa Monica, CA. Take care of each other.