What write.as got right
And what didn't work for me
Before using Substack exclusively I had been hopping between self-hosted WordPress and Write.as. The posts I did on the WordPress blog were more professional or essay length bits like I write here. The editor and effort to create a content rich post sort of made me feel like whatever I wrote needed to be as professional as possible - the opposite of the type of casual idea vomit we all do on Twitter or other short form site. So I used Write.as for basically long-form tweets.
Write.as is so slimmed down that you can bang out 300 words about being in line at the grocery store and it still be totally acceptable. WriteFreely is the open source version of the software which you can self-host your own instance but most of us just made accounts on their paid option which is Write.as. (They offer a free version but if you want to see stats on your posts or use a custom URL you’ll want to pay them that hosting fee.)
Anyway, because Write.as uses markdown for formatting you basically are given a blank page in which you can do whatever you want. It’s designed to be text only but if you wanted you could host images elsewhere and link them in the body. Hence, most posts by people don’t have images or embedded nonsense or bloat when reading.
It’s mostly text based blogging, but the posts are also federated. If you’ve recently moved from Twitter to a Mastodon instance you know what this means. There is a subdomain called read.write.as where you can scroll through every public post by anyone on Write.as That makes it easy to discover new writers and such but the content, much like here in Substack land, can be a bit off the rails.
So what did I like about it? What I liked were the things I missed doing on it. I missed opening up a page and typing for ten minutes before hitting send and it not matter. Those posts went to the five remaining people in the world who still use RSS feeds outside of podcasts. Perhaps it was the fact that it was 2020/2021 when I used it the most I was writing nonsense for other people who were stuck at home also writing nonsense.
But aside from the causal nature of the posts and lack of having to “retain subscribers” or else, there were aspects of it that really made it nice to use. For one thing, and probably still its best feature, there are no comments. NO. COMMENTS. If someone has beef with what you wrote they have to say it to your face in an email. The worst part about Tumblr(2012) was some stranger could search for a keyword, find your post, and retweet it to their followers claiming you committed crimes against humanity for not liking mustard.
Just like here in Substack, at Write.as you coudln’t search for keywords or phrases in order to pull up someones public post and scream at them. As much as I’d like to search for posts based on topics and not entire Substacks based on topics I know it keeps things civil.
What had me slide away from the platform eventually was the lack of image hosting. I don’t get comments anywhere as it is but I do like being able to quickly add a picture of something to a post. Wordpress let’s you do this with too many variables - galleries, gallery plugins, carousels, thumbnail themes, you name it. Write.as meant I had to open another tab, upload an image to something that would let me hotlink it, copy/paste, and add it between parentheses after putting the text between brackets. Not ideal when working on an ipad or phone.
Shoutout to Substack for letting me search unsplash for wild images and add the attribution in the captions automatically:
I bring all this up because normally around this time of year I have to renew all my custom domains and pay for hosting and I rethink my platform for the hundredth time. So don’t worry, I’m not moving from Substack for a while. The URL might change (again) but I’m sticking to this place for the time being.
Also, with Twitter being a shambles at the moment, I might just start typing all my tweets into a notepad and posting them here at the end of the day instead, who knows…
If you used to or still use Write.as let me know what you liked about it or had issues with.