The Rings of Power

A paid tier for Spyglass: 'The Inner Ring'

On January 22, 2024, exactly one quarter ago, I launched Spyglass. Over that span, I've sent 12 newsletters – only missing one week due to travel – and have written just over 150 posts. The latter may surprise many of you because beyond the newsletters, I've actually only sent eight – yes, eight – of the other posts via email. I know this was mildly confusing, as I've heard from a number of you, but it was also quite intentional. I was simply gearing up to launch the paid tier of Spyglass. Which I'm doing today.

The Inner Ring

As stated from the get-go, Spyglass aims to be three products in one:

  1. A superb new link blog
  2. A fantastic new column
  3. A fun new newsletter

The first and third have been fully operational since that initial week. The second item, the column, I've just been testing here and there, but that's what I'm launching today with the paid tier of Spyglass. This tier, called 'The Inner Ring' – more on this in a minute – costs $10/month or $100/year. It will enable access to the aforementioned columns via email and on the site. The aim is to send two to three of these a week.

The first one will be sent tomorrow.

These columns will feature thoughts and analysis by me, mainly about technology, but I reserve the right to flex outside of that wheelhouse on occasion. I aim for them to be smart and insightful, obviously – but hopefully they'll be fairly fun as well. For all the writing I've done on the internet over the years, I've never had a column where I've been paid directly to produce for subscribers. I take your time and support very seriously and love the notion of where I can take this beyond simply writing into the ether of the broader internet. This truly will be a journey we're on together.

At first, I know I'll just be writing for a few people. Just like the early days of blogging. Hopefully that readership grows over time, but I also know I'll have to earn that right to write. It's terrifying, liberating, and exhilarating all at once.

I hope you sign up here:

The Inner Ring

$10/month or $100/year


The Outer Ring

Of course, if you don't subscribe to 'The Inner Ring' at first, that's perfectly fine too. Again, I know I have to work for this privilege to be in your inbox and wallet. The free tier of Spyglass, henceforth known as 'The Outer Ring', will continue to exist, of course. This tier, which everyone who has signed up for Spyglass to date is already a part of, gets you the 'From Afar' newsletter. This is the weekly newsletter with some thoughts on topics of the week, link roundups, and other hopefully useful bits. It will be sent on Friday, just as it has been. Free subscribers will continue to receive this newsletter (as will paid subscribers, of course).

One More Ring

The link blog is the vast majority of those aforementioned 150+ posts to date. They're links to elsewhere with commentary from me. They reside on the website, and I haven't sent them out via email. Again, this was on purpose because there are a lot of them – one, two, or three a day, sometimes four – and I actually would like to do more, I just have to learn how to write less within each one πŸ˜„.

I get a lot out of these posts. Namely, they help me to clarify my own thoughts on various topics. I've found that in the past three months, I've had much clearer opinions when asked about such things. This is what I've always loved about writing and I'm so happy to be back in a place where I can do this regularly.

As the cliche goes, I'd do this for free. And so I'm doing this aspect of the site for free. The goal here beyond my own clarity is to hopefully drive traffic elsewhere. Like the good old days of link blogs.

Over these past few months, I've gotten a surprising number of emails from folks noting that they'd actually like every post – meaning, all the link blog items – sent via email as well. I had set up Threads and Xitter feeds for this content (on top of RSS, for those who still celebrate that older piece of technology). But I now acknowledge that some people just want to consume everything via email – the horror, the horror – and so I've set up a way to do that.

To be clear, this will not be on by default for anyone, but if you wish to enable it, you can simply go to your account page here and toggle 'One More Ring'.1 This will enable you to get an email for every link blog post I publish, when I publish. (You'll still want to have 'The Inner Ring' and 'The Outer Ring' toggled to get the columns – if you're a paid subscriber – and newsletter emails respectively, and these are on by default for anyone who signs up.)

One Ring to Rule Them All

As for Spyglass' new paid tier name, 'The Inner Ring',2 it's taken from a famous essay (which was actually at first a lecture) by C.S. Lewis. It's a warning to future generations about the way things actually work in the world. Often not by transparent and straightforward means, but instead by nebulous and secret structures. The Inner Ring, in Lewis' telling is something you'll aspire to, but absolutely should not.

To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of β€œinsides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no β€œinside” that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction.

This may seem like a weird name for the Spyglass membership tier, but I think it's quite perfect; as I believe an underlying theme I'll be exploring in the column will be related to such inner rings, and the demystification of them. Said in English: the notion that while much of tech, and the people driving it forward in various ways, seem all-knowing and all-powerful these days, it's often a group of folks who are just as flawed and clueless as everyone else. Or, as Steve Jobs once said:

Life can be so much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call 'life' was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it.

1 Yes, it's a clever name. And how's that working out for me? Being clever? Great, I'll keep it up then.

2 It also, of course, is drawn from the Spyglass logo, which features three rings: an outer (the newsletter), a middle (the linkblog), an inner (the column).