Notes to Self
Along the Ray  

..musings on old-school-web livelihoods & creative pursuits

Welcome to the { basecamp of my notes } where I share notes to myself on what I've learned & am learning. Curious? Read more

How Isaac Saul Built Tangle into a Million-Dollar Newsletter by inboxcollective.com →

I remember when Tangle was a one man shop where Issac would bang out neutral perspectives of all sides of whatever political topic was brewing at the time.

He’s done astonishingly well with it, growing to an over a million dollars a year in annual revenue. His team as grown as a result:

Isaac has since hired Magdalena Bokowa, head of ad operations and social media; Ari Weitzman, Tangle’s managing editor; Will Kaback, their editor and communications lead; and Jon Lall, executive producer for YouTube and podcasts.

Part of Tangle’s appeal is Issac’s personal hands-on approach:

Early on, I’d have ten emails, so I’d spend an hour a day or two hours a day writing 1,000-word emails to readers who were writing about my political views. We’d have these rich, robust exchanges. Now I’m writing back one-sentence responses, or I’m not replying at all, because there are a lot of new readers coming in to whom I want to give those responses. It’s just a time management thing, and I think that’s been hard — more for those people who had that relationship that’s gotten narrowed, but it also sucks for me because I wish I had more hours in the day to give people that kind of attention.

This part has become hauntingly familiar to me. My own business has grown from basically being a message board forum to a full blown media corporation with reporters, etc. with massive overhead.

We used to be tiny and agile, able to keep a step ahead of competition because our small size demanded that we be innovative and inexpensive at what we do. And we were good at staying in touch with our customers because we were a big family.

It was a whole lotta fun, too.

That’s changed. We’ve now become the competition: mainstream media.

And lost our roots as a result. It’s no longer my company in the sense I could do what I wanted and pivot on a dime and I know we’ve lost some customers due to our mainstream”ness.

The fun’s gone.

I’ve lost passion in the company so I’m wrestling what to do about it and bring that fire back.

Be careful of getting too big and losing your roots. I sense this beginning to happen with Issac’s Tangle newsletter (and others on similar paths to be the next big Hustle, etc.).

That personal touch falls away and everything becomes corporatized. All too often it’s the customers that lose out. Owners look back and think, sheet, we should have kept things simple and easy.”

Looking back on these things I ask why is there a need to keep growing and growing and making more and more $. When is it enough? What’s the end goal here — a superior product or to get rich (there’s nothing wrong with getting rich, the question is when is enough and why)?

Living Life Offline by jamierubin.net →

In writing about going as off-line as much as possible, Jamie shares how he handles emails:

The other decision I made is to only check my personal email on Sunday mornings. I’ve found that there is rarely an email message so urgent that it can’t wait a few days to be read and responded to. To that end, I’ve added an auto-responder to my personal email. It just lets folks know that I received their email, but that I only check and respond to email on Sundays, so there may be a delay in response.

I’ve been pondering how to handle this sort of thing since I am off-line often when out and about in the further reaches of civilization while living in my camper.

Jamie’s auto-responder is an elegant idea and gives him free agency to respond to emails on his own time. In this day and age of relentless instant-on communications and resulting expectations of instant replies, he’s reclaiming his space/time to do as he sees fit.

Wonderful and liberating idea.

Run Your Own Mail Server: A Book for Independence & Privacy by kickstarter.com →

Run Your Own Mail Server: A Book for Independence & PrivacyA book for the hard-core Unix sysadmin, by a fellow hard-core sysadmin with decades of experience running small mail servers.

A book about an obscure old school technology exceeds funding expectations. Goes to show. old school is still cool!

Excellent intro too — it dives into the philosophy of why you should run your own email server if you’re up for it:

Running your own mail server is not only an act of defiance against some of the largest exploitative companies in history. It is not a mere education in protocols. Email is essential to modern industrial society. By running your own email, you seize control of your communications. You can tune your email to fit your needs, rather than accepting the defaults imposed by a company that exploits you without a speck of consideration for any of your issues. You own it.

For those unawares, he’s talking about Google’s near monopoly of email via its Gmail service (see chart here).

Turning Raleigh Trees into Hyperlocal News Reporters by calishat.com →

How it works: when you ask a tree for local news, the program checks to find streets nearby. It then uses a news API to check WRAL, WTVD, and WNCN for mentions of those streets in the last 90 days. Finally, it bundles that information into a ChatGPT prompt and generates a summary (while links to the news articles used for the summary appear beneath.)

She will also be giving these trees the ability to give local restaurant recommendations and a heads up on nearby construction.

What wonderful and brilliant ideas. Great for local news websites.

Mosey on over to her site for other clever ideas and ways of massaging search engines and RSS tools.


Magazines We Love That Aren’t Our Own by Mountain Gazette →

A magazine at its best is a collection of ideas, carefully put together. It’s a mixtape of good people playing good music with words, photos, art, and opinion. Because it exists in a physical space, magazines can have an outsized influence on the world around us.

They are all proof of the Great Print Revival happening with magazines at the moment. They all make consistently great issues, have their own voices, and you should give them a try. 

It’s sooo good to see independent magazines making a comeback. There’s nothing like the tactile experience of feeling and smelling freshly printed issues in a bookstore (or the delight of seeing a magazine parchment sitting in the mailbox).

The folks over at Mountain Gazette, a once dormant magazine recently revived and doing well, share a list of other specialty/boutique print magazines they like.

Most publish a few times a year packed with coffee-table quality of the old days of yore. The stuff these folk put out is amazing, writing and design wise.

I’m a bit envious of them all because it’s something I used to do but gosh darn it’s a whole lotta hard work I wouldn’t have the patience for these days.

Anyway check out their list and why not subscribe to one or two that pique your interest?

Old school rocks, still.


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..musings on old-school-web livelihoods & creative pursuits

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