Alert: Breaking Smart Billing Problem

Your subscription may have expired without you intending it to

A couple of weeks ago, I began receiving a flood of “subscription expired” notifications for this newsletter, and the paid-subscriber graph began plummeting. Over just 3 weeks, 529 Breaking Smart paid subscriptions fell to 450 (not counting comps)! Wtf? A year’s worth of subscriber gains erased in weeks?? Was there a secret conspiracy afoot to cancel me???

Fortunately a few readers alerted me that their subscriptions seemed to be mysteriously expiring without them canceling, so I smelled a bug, which I have now worked with Substack support to resolve.

Turns out it it was a billing bug, and if you think you’re a paid subscriber (this email is going out to the full list), it may have affected you, and you may need to resubscribe. Here’s what happened.

Basically, a bug in the Substack “pause billing” feature resulted in all active subscriptions being marked for expiration rather than for resumption of billing when I took my 6-week break in October last year (was I the first Substack newsletter writer ever to give myself an unpaid vacation?? Wow those other guys are committed!) As a result, once I unpaused, when the next credit-card billing date came up, the subscription simply expired instead of being renewed.

This led to 100 subscriptions lapsing before we finally figured it out (the holiday break led to it taking more time to resolve). Yikes!

So if you were a paid Breaking Smart subscriber, and want to remain one, check your subscription status on your account page. If it has expired and you didn’t intend it to, you can simply resubscribe. Some of you have already done so.

Of course, if you intentionally unsubscribed, this doesn’t apply to you. Also if you were already intending to unsubscribe and this bug has saved you the hassle of doing so, consider the unsubscription my New Year’s gift :)

I’m actually curious to see how many of the 100 lost subscribers I gain back. It’s a good test of re-opt-in, and will give me an interesting data point about what percent of subscribers are just allowing autopilot billing to lazily continue as opposed to actually wanting to pay for this newsletter. The recovery graph will be interesting to track in the next few weeks. Lemonade from lemons ftw! I’m kinda glad this happened to me first, rather than to a more financially precarious writer, more dependent on newsletter income, for whom this might have been a serious crisis.

Substack support has fixed the bug going forward, so billing will resume as normal for those who hadn’t yet been affected.

I’ll be sending out a regular newsletter tomorrow as usual, to the paid subscriber list, so if you expect to receive it and don’t, you’ve likely been affected by the expiration bug.

This issue affected my other newsletter, Art of Gig as well, so I’ll be sending out a near-identical alert on that list, so if you’re on both, you will receive an alert there too.

Complete 2020 Roundup


Well, I guess 2020 is a wrap. I’m going to do a quick round-up of everything I published on Breaking Smart this year, and try to tease out the larger themes, but obviously no look back at the year can begin without acknowledging the 800lb virus in the room.

To quote J. Peterman on Seinfeld, in the episode where he takes back the reins of his company from Elaine after she mismanages it during his absence, kudos to all of us on a job…done. It’s a reference I’ve used before, in my 2018 annual roundup, but this time, I am really feeling it.

Whatever our personal successes or failures, as a species, the highlight of our collective performance is probably that we made it through the year without either sliding into apocalypse or going insane.

Well, most of us. As of this writing, 1.75m people are dead from Covid, and will not be seeing 2021. Against that backdrop, the best thing I can say about my writing and podcasting is that I continued doing it all, and that you guys continued to pay some attention.

On to the roundup.

It looks like we’re finishing the year pretty strong on this list, with just over 10,000 subscribers, and just over 500 paying subscribers.

I published 10 podcast episodes (free, with accompanying transcripts), 8 one-off essays, and 11 chapters or essays across 3 serialized projects. Let’s take a look.

Podcast Episodes (free)

  1. Beyond Optimism and Pessimism

  2. Defaults and Defaults

  3. How, What, and Where to Build

  4. The Medieval Future of Management

  5. From Story to Setting

  6. Big Moods, Little Moods

  7. The Next Experiments in Elitism

  8. The State of Business Play

  9. Fifth-Generation Management

  10. Involvement Capitalism

One-off Essays (paywalled)

  1. Life Go Brr

  2. Reimagining Publics

  3. Post-Covid Circularity

  4. A Bad Prequel

  5. Tunnelhead

  6. Notes on Textual Capital

  7. In the Wake of the Eighties

  8. Darker Things

The Great Weirding (paywalled)

After Westphalia (subscribers only)

The Clockless Clock (paywalled)

This would count as a productive year if it were any other year besides 2020, but obviously, against the backdrop of everything going on, it feels marginal at best.

Still, thank you all for reading and listening, and here’s to the light at the end of the tunnel that we will hopefully emerge into sometime next year. I’m not going to wish you Happy Holidays or Happy New Year, since I personally find it kinda unseemly to even attempt to be festive this year, but I do wish you some productive introspection and contemplation, and perhaps a brief personal break from the bleakness.

I’ll see you again in January 2021. Have a good week.

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