Venkatesh Rao has a new subscribers only post out through his Substack, and it’s one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a while. The core idea is the importance of the studio organizational form to the post-COVID reboot, and in particular the “maker studio” where platform technology and other innovation enables a single person to get busy building and creating.
The Instapot is just a slightly fancy pressure cooker with some electronics and automation for safety. Pressure cookers are over a century old, but fell out of favor in the West because they were perceived as dangerous. They continued to be used in the developing world where consumers are both more comfortable with risk, and the upside for quicker cooking of common foods (beans and lentils) is high enough to make it worthwhile. But the small increase in safety and convenience through the integration of electronic smart controls has suddenly made pressure cooking attractive again at developed world levels of consumer risk tolerance. A clear indicator — my American-bred wife has always been too scared to use my low-tech Indian pressure cooker, and used to outsource things like cooking beans to me. But once we bought the Instapot, she was willing to do pressure cooking on her own.
The situation is the same in text media. If you do your accounting right (and this is a big, ongoing debate), a subscriber-based indie publishing activity built around Substack is about a tenth of the cost in time/money/skills acquisition/relationship management as one built around WordPress.
You can go from publication idea to functioning publication in about 20 minutes with no human contact. It’s an Instapot type effect. A small and relatively trivial expansion of the feature set creates a large increase in consumer-grade production capability, primarily via elimination of dependence on 1:1 human relationships.