i’ve been thinking about buttondown’s future a lot lately, trying to work out how to turn it from “growing and largely unmapped” into “sustainable and legible”. 1

i think it would be useful to enumerate some things i never want to build into the product. this is helpful on two fronts:

  1. to have an artifact to point to folks who ask if i will add these things, the number of whom seems to grow steadily. 2
  2. to consciously limit the surface area of where the tool will grow, and to act as a map for a direction forward

Social networking

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social networks are great 3. there are a whole host of social-network-y things that folks have asked for Buttondown to provide:

  • social-graph-esque stuff, like having a dossier of all of your Buttondown newsletters
  • leaderboards / unified feed of all newsletters
  • “suggested newsletters”
  • reactions

none of these will happen! i don’t like anything that perpetuates or strengthens the idea of buttondown as an “ecosystem” or a “platform”.

Automation

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email automation is really powerful. it is stuff like:

  • send a new subscriber a precise sequence of seven emails over three weeks
  • send a subscriber that looked at but did not purchase a specific product a given email
  • branching logic to send a given subscriber a given email depending on if they clicked a link in a previous email

there are really powerful tools that do things like this, and whenever someone asks if buttondown will support this I point them to those tools.

a lot of this is about laziness, frankly: automation is a pandora’s box, and as soon as i start trying to build it out i will inevitably fall into a rabbit hole of arcana.

but also… email automation isn’t for newsletters. newsletters are a pretty specific thing, and i think as soon as you start getting into optimizing your email sequencing for e-commerce or whatever you’re not a newsletter. not that that’s a moral judgment — it’s just not the thing i’m trying to build.

Advertising

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i have no great moral outrage against advertising; I think there are a lot of completely valid business models that rely on advertising, and i think it works particularly well in industries like email and podcasts where there isn’t the terrifying obelisk of infrastructure and analytics.

rather, i don’t want Buttondown to mess around with advertising stuff too much because it’s a lot of effort and it muddies how i provide (and extract) value. building out relationships with advertisers and publishers is difficult, onerous, and requires a lot of tooling and knowledge.

buttondown is a tool; the goal is to do a very specific thing as best as possible, and it’s helpful for me to remember that whenever i browse my comically large list of (331, at the time of writing) github issues.

  1. i’ve been rereading seeing like a state, so legible might not be the best choice of words here, but i digress 

  2. which i don’t mind! the best things i’ve added to buttondown in the past six months have come from user suggestions 

  3. citation needed 

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