I'm taking it easy because sitting too long this past week now means laying down hurts. Whoops.
My open rate on *everything* has plummeted in the last few weeks, so maybe it's not just you? (Meaning, I have zero time for non-work email at the moment.)
The length is good for me.
Morning Stephen, Brad here... thanks for putting the question out there. I had not thought about it, so as a reader with a high open rate on your stuff, I will just share my perspective and riff a moment, see if that helps you:
I chose to subscribe to your writing because the value prop *blink* was “cool, this guy seems bright and is grooving on McKenna’s whackiness with a critical eye on his ontology, and also, Stephen seems like he is broadly heterodox in his thinking; this is all rare, it aligns with me broadly (gestalt hand wave) so I will pay for the read and support this adventure of his.
Your best writing here is when you take the time to bring de novo Stephen insights to the table. You know when you’re doing it. I would rather see fewer pieces with more brilliant ruthlessly honest Stephen brain showing up rather than seeing you feel like you need to meet some inbox quota. We’re not buddies, I don’t need to hear from you often, you’re MY WRITER, so give me the stuff you’re proud of on your tempo.
**Yes, better titles might help people who are sensitive to that style of browsing. I open based on trusted authority, but some probably do on titles.
**who are you? Share more about who the hell you are.
**what are some other big questions you wrestle with that you can situate in a larger frame? What’s the Stephen provisional philosophy of what’s going on? I know you groove on crit (of thinkers with last names starting with ‘Mc’) and there are commonalities in their views or reality, I know what you’re orbiting... would love to see a piece like one of those Edge.org questions you answer “4 things I suspect might be true but cannot prove” or “4 mental models that I keep coming back to.”
I hope this helps tease out my sentiments: let’s go to the next level together as writer and readers.
Keep it up, you rock.
Just hopped on to say, you definitely do not bore. I try and open them on the day of, but sometimes I forget or have other things going on. I’m shocked you’ve dropped to that low of an open rate, tbh. I don’t comment often, but thought this was a good time to let you know you should absolutely keep doing what you’re doing.
The length is perfect. A weekend “digest” would be pretty great; I’m the type to always get my unread emails down to zero whether I read them or not, so if the newsletter shows up when I don’t have time to read, it’ll often just get ignored, so a second-chance email would rock.
(Speaking of emails that I open but never read…) I guess I missed the Terrence email from earlier this week because the holographic brain stuff is actually pretty cool. So I’m glad you brought it up again. I just read Neal Stephenson’s Anathem for the first time a few months back and it covers some of the same ground—the ways our brains can construct entire universes of cause and effect just to verify basic information about reality and how that implies some sort of information storage/processing beyond what seems possible. Stephenson has a knack for building science-based narratives on ideas that in a different context come off as pretty woo (see also: Sumerian language viruses in Snow Crash, STD drum circle computing in Diamond Age). Not sure if that means I should give Terrence’s work another go or if I just need an intermediary between me and his ideas. 😅
Hey Stephen, Rebecca here - long time reader first time substack user.
Turns out you and me have lots of overlappy interests which has made me want to read all the things you've been getting into. I really love the insights and watching someone else pick up some of those threads I put down years ago for other pursuits, it's been vicariously rewarding.
I personally love the newsletter format but wonder if you're missing out on people who came
over from facebook (like me) and are used to interacting with people in that world. I just had to dig a little to see that I could come into substack and leave you a nice message here and interact with other humans about your writing. Which was exactly what I have been looking for but was a bit too lazy to figure out until today. So expect more from me here in future.
Two feedback things because you asked - maybe a few better placed encouraging links "Hey come and leave your comments on my substack and see what other people have to say" kind of vibes in your emails; and I don't think that a shameless plug from time to one on your well attended FB pages would hurt either to help bring interested people into these discussions. No harm in a little light self promotion - your ideas are worth it.
I agree with Brad, while I'm jazzed about WHAT your write I would rather have quality over quantity - it's nice to hear from you but if you're just writing to tell me that you're not feeling it today and that I can expect more and better tomorrow we can probably just skip that bit and I absolve you from all guilty feelings you have about not writing to me today. UNLESS this is something that's important for you in the way that you write and the way that your brain works - I don't mind them, and I don't feel spammed by any means, but don't feel like you're obligated for some reason. It's cool either way.
A couple of bloggers whose approaches/communities I really dig are Tim Urban over at Wait But Why? and CGP Grey - they both have good things going with people who are engaged in a positive way around the ideas they're spinning. And Tim definitely has long periods of thinking and not writing .. he's gone a little more into the space techbro cult these days than I'm interested in but I think you could glean some useful points from his approach.
So, in summary. Please keep up the good work.. tell more people about it.. and don't feel like you absolutely have to send me something every day.
I've just been crazy busy since purchasing a home. I have a long commute and I often don't get a chance to check this inbox during the week cuz It's only on my laptop. I would probably check it daily on my lunch break if it was going to my gmail so maybe I'll have it forwarded.
As far as the topic is concerned, I feel actively engaged and I want to know more. I just have to catch up on the weekends. But I clear the inbox and I have all the unreads still in my inbox.
Hii, so I'm a little late for a party, but you wanted feedback so here we go.
First, last week was really hard for me. I opened some of your mails, but read them a little less and didn't think much about it. It could be my current mental state or something with emails, I'm not sure.
Secondly, there were some boring titles last week, particularly 8, 9 and 10.06. I'm not here for biographies of McLuhan or McKenna, I'm here for new ideas. So you could start with some ideas about the world and then about how it is tied to these people. To have some hook, so I open new email right here right now.
And again, if one day you don't have anything interesting to write about main topics, don't force yourself. Write about something interesting, even if not connected at all. It's better than forcing it just to send something andaalso way better than nothing.
I'm only just now slowly catching up on this past year's newsletters, and none of it has been boring. Far from it; I only wanted to have some time set aside to dive down the many rabbit holes I fully imagined you would bring to my attention, and in that regard, I haven't been disappointed in the least