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Medium is a poor choice for blogging (medium.com/nikitonsky)
909 points by rlv-dan on Nov 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 374 comments

It's funny, because some years ago when Medium blogs were starting to be posted left and right, people were praising the interface, and nobody listened to the few who objected. Now, we need all kinds of tricks, add-ons and blocks to just read five-minute posts during our commute.

It's 2018, and there are a gazillion ways to get yourself in control of your stuff. The next free framework that comes, which promises a clean, non-distracting view, will also (most probably) eventually add advertisements, because, well, corporations need money.

In my humble opinion, just write your Markdown files, and use one of the bajillion Static Sites Generators to create/host them, or fork a framework that already does this such as [1], copy-paste them in, and you're set.

[1] https://github.com/barryclark/jekyll-now

I am as sad as anyone that medium sold out an began to intentionally mistreat their users for "engagement" (read: money).

But in their early days, their praise was well earned. I was a designer with a focus on typography at the time, and medium's defaults were an order of magnitude better than any other non-custom publishing platform at the time.

Big, readable serifs, intentionally constrained column widths (and corresponding line length), and lots of attention to the details and best practices that ease the pain of reading things on the web. They're cluttered now, but they were intentionally uncluttered then, which isn't exactly typographic but is worth a lot in terms of cognitive burden.

To the extent that this is table-stakes now, and no longer a differentiating factor, medium is mostly to blame IMO. They showed that doing web type the way typographers told you to got slam dunk results. Everyone copied their style and the web is vastly more readable for it.

So while they lived long enough to become the villain, there's some gratefulness due to their former selves as well.


I personally do things the way you've described (markdown > jekyll > GH pages), but I think medium's value prop now is ease of distribution. You get bolted onto the homepage and other people's articles as part of a graph of other people's work, and writers find that valuable.

>It's 2018, and there are a gazillion ways to get yourself in control of your stuff.

But zero ways to get people to read it. I only read his post because it's on HN. And I read Medium stuff regularly on Medium.

The chances of most people discovering some random blog? Not so much. Whereas Medium has concentrated eyeballs and knows their preferences to serve them stuff that's close to their tastes...

> I only read his post because it's on HN. And I read Medium stuff regularly on Medium.

I totally get where you're coming from, but I'm not convinced that Medium helps at all. I mean, this article was posted to Medium. Medium didn't put it in front of you. So how is Medium helping?

I used to cross-post everything I wrote to Medium, because I thought it was a good reader acquisition strategy. But posting on Medium doesn't automatically get you readership -- you still have to go find readers and rely on them sharing stuff on traditional sites like HN/Reddit/Twitter/Facebook. And none of that sharing process requires your content to be on Medium.

For all of the effort I put into formatting articles well, and making sure that I matched popular writing styles, and adapting things, a post I put on Medium will get <20 readers over the course of a week.

In contrast, I had one good post get traction on HN, and on average my self-hosted blog now gets more visitors than that per day. So now I don't even bother cross-posting, because I don't see how Medium helps me get content picked up on other social sites.

> I mean, this article was posted to Medium. Medium didn't put it in front of you. So how is Medium helping?

Medium has a ton of recirc features that drive page views within the ecosystem. That is the entire reason why Ev started Medium, it wasn't about giving people better typography or whatever.

The reason the product is kind of messed up is because they made some financing decisions that may have not been correct in retrospect, so now they've had to go back and try to retroactively design the product to match their capital structure. But it's not like they wouldn't have had tons of other problems if they were bootstrapped, the reality is there just aren't any good financing options for consumer web startups right now.

> and making sure that I matched popular writing styles

Maybe this is the problem. I'm sure as a professional writer you need to keep up with reader interests (rather than setting up to do the blog equivalent of Finnegan's Wake), but you don't want to be too interchangeable either.

It's like you had to decide each month from each cake you want to eat (there's an infinite row of cakes) and you vie for the huge ones -- together with countless other people, so you get really small crumbs. Go for a smaller cake and you may get actual slices with frosting and all.

+1 for the apt cake analogy

>I totally get where you're coming from, but I'm not convinced that Medium helps at all. I mean, this article was posted to Medium. Medium didn't put it in front of you. So how is Medium helping?

Medium put it in fronts of tons of other people though -- someone of which posted it here.

And I discover posts on Medium alone every day.

Plus, Medium posts don't feel like a wasteland -- they have a healthy number of comments.

Yeah, Medium isn't great if you're an up and coming writer, or don't have a following on other social media sites. If you need more proof of that, well go and look at the digest emails they send, or the articles featured on the home page.

About 80-90% are from users with a large following on Medium.com, and many of those are also 'online influencers' with decent sized Twitter/YouTube/LinkedIn/whatever fanbases as well.

Oh, and forget it if your story isn't a paid story. About 90+% of Medium's promoted stories are members only stories now, with the home page I got just now literally having every single story outside of the 'popular on Medium' column being a paid one.

If you're not charging for the story and don't have a pre existing fanbase, at best you've got the end of article suggestions and latest stories link to rely on and the latter has about twenty pages of mediocre stories for every good one.

Like on many platforms now, it seems the popular just get more popular, and the rest battle for the scraps or the off chance they'll break out.

> Medium didn't put it in front of you.

It does through emails and their homepage, which is one major reason people publish on Medium despite the downsides

Again, I get it, and you're not wrong. In theory.

But in practice, is Medium currently helping people build audiences in a significant way? My experience suggests no. It was easier for me to do that with a self-hosted site.

I'm not sure exactly why this is -- maybe it's that Medium's discovery algorithms take into account correlations between existing readers, so if you don't already have a bunch of readers you'll never get picked up. Maybe Medium is just super crowded, so the odds of you getting recommended over someone who's already popular are low.

All I know is that my readers are return viewers (which self hosting helps a lot with) and people coming from Hackernews, Reddit, Facebook, or curated link aggregators. I don't personally see any data that suggests Medium is driving any traffic to my content. And at this point, universally across the board, my self hosted blog performs better than my Medium blog.

I'm sure that varies from publisher to publisher, but I think it's simplistic to say that Medium by default drives traffic. I suspect that for small sites it's a lot more complicated.

> But in practice, is Medium currently helping people build audiences in a significant way?

I actually don't think Medium ever helped people build audiences in a significant way, with relatively few exceptions: Medium has always been structured to build an audience first for Medium and second for "publications" hosted on Medium. But it's never been particularly good at building audiences for individual authors.

While I'm aware this is anecdotal, there appears to be very little correlation between the number of followers one has and the number of views any given article gets: you can have several hundred followers and have some articles that get thousands of views (usually because they were included in someone else's publication or linked from somewhere else on the web), and others that get maybe a couple dozen views.

> I don't personally see any data that suggests Medium is driving any traffic to my content.

It is not. Readers that start on Medium by and large stay on Medium.

> maybe it's that Medium's discovery algorithms take into account correlations between existing readers,

Yes, Medium takes into account who you follow and what subjects you've liked, which is one reason Medium article collections like HackerNoon exist.

I feel Medium is for writers who don't take the time and effort necessary to self market their own content, which is not easy for many people. The platform is just like everything else in life. Are you willing to make concessions for its benefits? I don't see anything wrong with it as long as people are aware of the price of the Faustian deals they make in exchange for a little magic. The same applies to Alexa, Facebook, Waze, etc...

> I only read his post because it's on HN.

Well, yeah, but a post on a self-hosted blog can be posted to HN just as easily as a post on Medium can. And it's not like having "(medium.com)" next to the submission is going to drive upvotes any more than having "(yourdomain.xyz)" would. (For me it actually has the opposite effect; there's so much empty "thought-leader" drivel posted at Medium that seeing that domain next to an HN submission makes me less likely to click through.)

So I guess the question becomes: does Medium function well enough as an aggregator of its own content to make posting there worth the tradeoffs? Does it drive enough traffic from other Medium readers to your own Medium posts to justify giving up everything you have to give up to use the platform? (That's the theory behind Medium, of course, but what I'm wondering is how well it actually works in practice.)

> there's so much empty "thought-leader" drivel posted at Medium

I observe, Medium posts are now the equivalent of most TED talks.

Most are useless but the rare good ones make it hard to write the platform off as a self-promotional junk delivery mechanism.

>> Most are useless but the rare good ones make it hard to write the platform off

Exactly, the platform isn't an indicator of quality. In the long term, how could such a platform be?

Do many people browse Medium like this? I read a decent number of posts there, but only because someone sends me a link or shared it on another platform.

The "See also" links at the end of Medium posts, and the weekly "interesting for you" mail list were rather relevant to me, that is, often had links I was willing to click, and under those, sometimes were articles I was willing to read.

I stopped doing both, though: you can't read too much for free, but more than half of the content was not worth reading (for me), except maybe for quick skimming. There definitely are articles on Medium that are gems (again, from my POV), but I hope them to be brought to me by social networks anyway.

For authors, though, Medium must be pretty valuable, bringing relevant readers, and maybe some ad revenue. It does have a discovery feature which may be not brilliantly great, but is still quite OK, especially if you have time to spend on lighter reading.

What is the limit for free reading? I've heard this a few times now from a few different sources, but I've never run into it myself.

Three or four articles a day, I can't remember.

Not very high if you browse, but adequate if you get a link or two from other sources.

I wish they adopted the bandcamp model: quite a number of tracks for free per day, but you can instantly pay for the one you liked, the amount you like (above a certain minimum). This way, the articles I personally find valuable would be both easier for me to find, and paid by me higher than the slice of the common subscription funds they receive now.

Fairly late, but I must read eight or more Medium articles on a heavy day. The only thing I ever get is a modal prompting me to "make it official" and create an account.

I think the main avenue for exploration in Medium are the article recommendations at the bottom of the page, above the comments.

I personally rarely click on them, but I can imagine some titles can be hard to resist. That make interaction-driven recommendations, which are becoming the dominant way of content exploration, a bit of a dark pattern.

Perhaps we're only an inch away from 'article autoplay'.

> Perhaps we're only an inch away from 'article autoplay'.

Have you ever seen news sites that let you seamlessly scroll to the next article, by dynamically appending it at the bottom of the one you're reading, and updating your URL as you enter it? The ones where it's ridiculously easy to get lost, because scroll space keeps expanding (sometimes both ways) and the URL keeps changing?

Someone's gonna figure out soon that the code for loading those articles could use a recommendation engine.

Yeah but maybe (cannot be sure on this) other people are sharing the links because they browse Medium

Good point, that would be tough to measure.

All publicity is good publicity, I just typed in "medium.com" in my browser.

tbh, often when I get interrupted by the "sorry to interrupt you" I just close the tab. and if I'm on mobile and link says "medium" I don't even bother to click. but that's me.

You are not alone. I read Medium articles only when they are posted on HN or someone I follow closely shares a link.

Otherwise I just ignore Medium articles. Maybe it is me but most of the Medium articles I stumble upon are pure garbage.

> Maybe it is me but most of the Medium articles I stumble upon are pure garbage.

It's not just you, a lot of them are.

Look at how many are just "python deep learning tutorial" recycled for the millionth time, but with some fundamental misunderstanding or shortcut, or they're just lifted almost verbatim from the starter example or the documentation with nothing actually meaningful added. Often there's lots of "here's how to do x in y" that somehow manages to not understand good practices at all.

If I'm on my mobile and it's something I want to read I save it to my Pocket account, where articles are formatted for a clean reading experience.

Our data doesn't support that.

Most of our traffic comes from hackernews, reddit and similar. However because our blog is too niche?


You’re discounting the security/authority that “medium.com” brings over a random domain name. You might get less traffic from HN and Reddit if you weren’t on Medium.

Edit: just because a few people (myself included) have a negative reaction to a Medium link doesn’t change the fact that many Medium links are upvoted on HN.

At least for me and some other people, medium.com is a negative signal of quality. Medium is full of low-quality and marketing articles, I'll associate your links with that, and me only seeing "medium.com" on e.g. HN means you don't have a chance of establishing a "brand" I trust by recognizing your domain as "good" after a few articles.

EDIT: adressing your edit, do you have any evidence they wouldn't be if they weren't on medium.com?

I think it goes for any topic. I’ll use food as an example. I’ve been on a lot of food blogs, I end there from DuckDuckGo or google, mostly google.

I only remember a handful of them, one in particular that is now a regular bookmark of mine (it’s https://www.valdemarsro.dk and in Danish so likely uninteresting to most), and the one thing that the ones I remember have in common is that they are their own things.

I don’t think there is anything beneficial to being a medium blog for this exact reason. I may read your article, I may even really like it, but it takes more than one article to get me to stick around, and because every medium article looks the same I can easily end up reading more than one without noticing it.

Having a unique domain helps as much as having a unique look.

Doubtful. I for one am less likely to click medium links because I know they'll be more bloated on average than the average person's self-hosted blog.

For real? For me, the Medium domain signals a high likelihood that the piece is poorly written and entirely unedited.

Don't forget that it also prominently features a large distracting photo that was just ripped from a royalty-free photo site and has nothing to do with the content.

It worked. Then someone wrote about it, and everyone did it. Then it became a negative signal. There seems to be a 5-10 year trend lag time on stuff like that where the least self-aware self-promoters don't realize it doesn't work. Eventually a new trend falls to their level, and the cycle begins anew.

A big reason everyone has the big, irrelevant image on top is that medium was designed to work best with that assumption. If you actually blog there, your index won't look good unless you have a header photo for each post.

Yes, but I'm happy to see a ".github.io" domain which hosts a static blog site just fine and tells me the site is fully static.

I doubt that has any value. People blindly click things mostly based on the headline and the fact that it has been upvoted.

good point!

That’s actually a great question — does Medium truly gives you that many readers that it makes sense to live in the closed ecosystem? I have its app installed and subscribed to a bunch of people but I still only go there via the links on the web and I feel like a lot of people do just like me.

As some anecdotal evidence, I get about half of my Medium views from people browsing the Medium app/feed. That's definitely been the number one reason I've stayed on the platform.

Perhaps someone should develop a platform that creates the same discoverability, but while allowing people to retain control of the content?

Everything old is new again: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webring

No. I started my own site around this time last year with a CSS / HTML template I modified and I did everything myself. I even wrote the static site compiler. This is really not hard.

I have somewhere between seven and nine[0] articles out and my work has been translated into French, Portuguese (twice), Russian, and Uzbek.

Medium isn't a source of traffic unless you're one of the very few writers they intentionally push. People share high quality work or new ideas, and audience engagement helps too, so link to your Twitter and share your email.

[0] Since starting the site I've started writing for other publications and the audience flows back and forth between the sites, so it depends on what you think counts as an article.

Two years ago, I used to spend a lot of my free time browsing Medium, reading articles I otherwise would’ve never discovered. Now? Not so much the case—maybe it’s the degradation in quality or the number of badly written articles.

Maybe what we need for blogs isn’t a platform, where authors come on and content is hosted centrally; but an aggregator, where each author self hosts but content is still discoverable by a wider audience.

A good example of this would be Apple news.

Yeah I'd say the main thing medium offers is easier exposure.

You could always post on medium and on your own blog though, and post your own blog here, for example.

If you write about tech, you can cross-post your article on dev.to and set a canonical link for SEO. I don't know if Medium offers this kind of option. So you have people reading your content while you keep your personal blog.

Medium has this option as well.

You can post self-hosted articles on HN, reddit, etc. I doubt that "You might like this..." clicks on Medium would add significant eyeballs to an independent author's articles.

HN, Reddit, social media. You read this post because someone posted it here.

Getting other people to read your post is as difficult as getting other people to read other people's content - you post it where you frequent, and if people like it, they'll reshare it. Building a larger audience requires work, and any attempt at cheating that is unsustainable at scale.

It's easy to fall into the trap of seeking scale, because we're surrounded by it: best selling authors, viral content, etc. But I'd rather have a small number of readers who really appreciate my writing versus a large number of randoms gathered from feed promotions who won't even finish reading.

> But zero ways to get people to read it. I only read his post because it's on HN. And I read Medium stuff regularly on Medium.

I actively avoid links to Medium, even on HN.

Nothing prevents you from hosting your content on your domain and publish it also on medium, blogger and all other kind of platforms.

No they don't. If you want your Medium post to get read you have to promote it on HN, reddit, facebook, twitter, etc exactly as you would with a self-hosted post.

Isn't that what search engines used to be for?

Medium also gets you really good seo

through what features?

Depending on how simple you want it, you could just use MarkDeep, TexMe or MdMe plus something like NeoCities or a Github repo. You'd miss out on some benefits of a full generator, like automatically creating an archive page and RSS feeds and stuff like that, but you'd gain that 90's simplicity.

[0] https://casual-effects.com/markdeep/

[1] https://github.com/susam/texme

[2] https://github.com/susam/mdme

[3] https://neocities.org/

Man, I remember finding markdeep a while ago and I've been looking for it. Thanks for the link

Addendum: actually, github has an RSS feed for the releases page of a repo, so all you have to do is "release" each blog entry

FYI: Instead of the "old / out-dated" Jekyll Now setup by Barry Clark (before packaged themes arrived on GitHub Pages) - you can use the Minima theme (default) and get started in 60 seconds. See Hello, Minima! Theme - Get Started in 60 Seconds @ https://github.com/henrythemes/hello-minima-theme as a ready-to-fork (live) example.

PS: For more ready-to-fork (open source) themes for GitHub pages, see the Dr Jekyll Themes directory / listing (200+ and counting) @ http://drjekyllthemes.github.io

I agree with the static hosting side of things. However that often requires more technical know-how such as the command-line, Git, and potentially other advanced topics.

Instead I recommend people buy a domain, create a DigitalOcean account, have DigitalOcean manage it for them, and then create a single $10/month Droplet with their one-click deployment of Ghost. Now you have your markdown files and a self-hosted, beautiful blog.

That being said I am a "power user", so I use Hugo and Netlify, but there are deeper requirements to make that work. I would love to see a one-click deployment of a Netlify based blog.

I use Jekyll and Forestry.io for my site but I’m also realistic and know that solution is a little too complicated for a lot of WordPress and Tumblr folks. The uptake in these tools are because of their simplicity, which honestly the design patterns haven’t changed in almost 20 years.

> It's funny, because some years ago when Medium blogs were starting to be posted left and right, people were praising the interface, and nobody listened to the few who objected.

Your memory is very, very different from mine. I remember Medium being heavily criticized by (sorry, lack of a better term) "tech nerds" for stuff like the article brings up when it first came out. People complained about it not working when Javascript was disabled and bloat for a text website, load times, etc., all sorts of stuff. People said they refused to visit Medium. In fact, it was so negative I'm a bit surprised it got as popular as it did with tech blogs.

>Now, we need all kinds of tricks, add-ons and blocks to just read five-minute posts during our commute.

Only "tech nerds" care about those sorts of things. Joe User reads Medium just fine without any tricks, add-ons and blocks.

Oh, and since everybody seems to post their personal blogs for critique, shameless plug in adding a link to my own, which I think gets the minimalism aesthetic sooomewhat right.

It still needs some more slimming down, and small aesthetic changes would be welcome, but here it goes.

[1] https://tpaschalis.github.io/

Love your post about what good software is.

Currently trawling your archive

Thanks for the good words, stranger!

I'm a terrible writer, but, there's only one way to get better! I really, really like your own blog, too :)

>Now, we need all kinds of tricks, add-ons and blocks to just read five-minute posts during our commute.

Is this only a thing for phones? I never use my phone for web browsing, but I use my web browser. All I have on that is uBlock Origin and I have always found Medium pages completely clean and pleasant to look at with no clutter or ads.

Netlify maintains a handy list of the bajillion Static Site Generators: https://www.staticgen.com

> It's 2018, and there are a gazillion ways to get yourself in control of your stuff.

It's 2018 and there's still no standardized format for a blog's complete content (text, images, comments/credentials for comment provider) that we could use to move quickly from one site/setup to another. It would be nice to just get all Tweets even into Hyde or whatever.

Could be done with XML easily. But someone needs to do it ;-) and even more would need to accept it.

I am building my own Static Site Generator [1] similar to Jekyll for fun. It's so great to do this in 2018, compared to the first time I tried to manually build something similar around 2014. Now things are amazing, the npm libraries just seem to merge together nicely to build the whole thing.

I just need RSS and a decent data parser for the blog entries list and it'll be all set. Not recommended for you to use it, just build one, it's fun! And easy, and you'll learn a lot.

[1] https://github.com/franciscop/create-static-web

Noone reads my blog anyway, but I also import my posts into Medium so people can read it there if they choose. Medium sets the canonical URL to the hosted version on my own site so SEO shouldn't take a hit.

if you just need to publish something quick, and don't need the rest of the blogging features.


Except I want to spend 0 seconds setting up some kind of blog system. I don't care about it whatsoever. So I use a hosted platform.

I've been using octopress for years. Too simple to consider changing it out for anything else.

> people were praising the interface, and nobody listened to the few who objected.

Or maybe objecting had the same effect it had back then as it does now: absolutely nothing.

It's like me saying "the government is corrupt!" and, any time something happens or some time has passed, "shoulda listened! ;)" -- Seems a bit masturbatory at best.

> It's funny, because some years ago when Medium blogs were starting to be posted left and right, people were praising the interface, and nobody listened to the few who objected.

It's the same with OSX, often praised but at some point the UX got so bad that you'd have to install system updates through their music player iTunes.

I've been using macOS X since Snow Leopard, and at no point were software updates delivered through iTunes. In fact, I have the (probably bad) habit of running sudo rm -rf /Applications/iTunes.app on all my new machines (alongside a lot of other default apps).

I'm amazed at how many people here say that people should simply use a static site generator instead of wordpress or medium.

Does anyone else understand that probably 99% of Medium traffic (both reader and writer) don't even understand those words and would have no idea even where to begin? Most of them probably had trouble just signing up on Medium and already forgot their passwords.

This is where Medium wins. It looks ok, makes posts look professional, and doesn't give any choices. You don't have to choose a theme, or setup anything. Signup (or even, login with twitter/facebook) and just write. Done.

You can't possibly hope that any writer on Medium is ready or interested in a static site generator.

It's not surprising that people on a fairly technical site recommend solutions for fairly technical users - that doesn't mean they mean that everyone should go there. There's tons of other hosted blogging platforms out there for people who don't want to take care of hosting, and which offer basic features Medium doesn't, e.g. the ability to use your own domain.

I cannot upvote this enough. "Just write your posts in Markdown and publish to your site using Jekyll and Git!" is utter gibberish to the vast majority of people.

Medium also liberates writers from social stuff. It has claps, comments, etc, but also when you share a Medium article on Twitter or Facebook you have all the meta-tags to make it look good.

Also, no infrastructure headaches either.

Medium comments are up there with the worst comment implementation I've ever seen

UX wise I agree. But, I think those are better than having comments on your own blog.

Maybe a middle ground that could work is Ghost? I use their hosted service and it works well.

$29+ a month is steep for a personal blog. They make it clear personal bloggers aren't their target audience on the pricing page by listing how many staff members you can have. It's B2B.

Well said. I started a Wordpress blog on a whim, years ago, on Wordpress.com, and I think many people underestimate how whimsical many blog starts are.

For the average person (including me), going to www.staticsite.com, entering an email and password, and then starting is the way it happens. If that is not a quick, painless, and obvious process, then the vast majority of people won't do it.

Medium got going because it was like that (I think—maybe it is still like that).

Medium started with great writers. Few, but good niche writers producing great content that was hard to find elsewhere. Hardly any junk, just great content, well presented.

Ease of publishing, I imagine, attracted more general purpose writers spewing out more general purpose content. More writers (general purpose or niche regardless) is good for Medium.

However, to a sensitive niche reader (like me), this looks like a marked decline in quality and Medium is not a great choice to get my content anymore.

This is probably good for Medium in the short run. I think its fast headed towards becoming a platform for pseudo intellectual, shallow content that attracts wannabe readers and writers. I am sure there are more of this kind than readers/writers who know their sh*t and value their time.

Medium made a choice, and so have I.

> I'm amazed at how many people here say that people should simply use a static site generator instead of wordpress or medium.

I don't think the author (or the people writing those comments) are claiming that medium is going to go bankrupt vs static sites.

Most people commenting here probably could set up a static site if they wanted, and the author simply hopes people use something else.

Of course medium is gonna continue to thrive on people who think it's the best option, but this is a plea for people who can and know how to do better.

Wozniak vs Jobs.

I am/was pretty technical--wrote a programming book, was building and maintaining high traffic websites back in '03--and I still managed to screw up hosting a Wordpress site to the point of my blog going down on it's own, going down under load, going down because I missed a message about my credit card expiring. The difference between my technical ability when that's my job and when it's my hobby is huge. And so I'm a huge fan of not having to worry about any of the hosting, i.e. Medium looked great to me from day one.

Sometimes I read articles like this and think I'm past it. It's like the whole web has turned in to this pool of mud and no-one realises what it was like before.

A blog is a text file on a screen. There's really no need to do it on a proprietary system, you can literally upload a text file to your own host, but if you can't be bothered, somewhere like GitHub Pages.

You want an image? Here's a tag: <img>

If the idea is that it doesn't look pretty enough - well, a Medium blog doesn't look like anything at all because I've closed it after closing the first three popups.

Here is a link to my own personal blog: https://files.esotericnonsense.com/public/blog.txt

You're reading this comment right now on a site that gets it right.

> It's like the whole web has turned in to this pool of mud and no-one realises what it was like before.

Every website is trying to reinvent the wheel. Foolish! I hate the grid/huge amount of white space layout that is so pervasive now. Websites that have their information in a nice and clean, condensed list view are unicorns now. Condensed lists are literally the best layout to convey information in a given space, take a look at how outlook or apple mail gives you the exact same information in their super condensed list views as they do in the 'mobile friendly' expanded view, except they give you much more information at a time without having to endlessly scroll. It would be acceptable if I was literally using my elbow to tap on a touchscreen, but I'm using a mouse and keyboard and I can comfortably click on something 10 pixels wide.

Take a look at any of the half dozen or so food delivery service websites. On my 13" screen on grubhub, I can see 5 search results at a time. 5! Each result takes up 1 full inch of screen real estate when it could be one single line of text. If it was single spaced, that would be 40 lines and therefore 40 results I could view at a time. But because the modern web is designed to be accommodating for a 500lb gorilla to poke at a touchscreen, I have to deal with only being able to see 1/8 the information that I could potentially see.

> except they give you much more information at a time without having to endlessly scroll.

I think getting people to scroll isn't an accident, they want you to have to scroll.

Scrolling a website makes you physically interact with it, and I bet that has some psychological effects that work out in favour of the content creators.

Whenever I am in a place where you have to wait a lot, like at a bus station, nearly everyone is swiping at their phone.

They all look like crack addicts scratching for rocks in an alleyway.

> They all look like crack addicts scratching for rocks in an alleyway.

Here's a relevant comic:


But who tf wants to wait for a bus? And its hella awkward talking to strangers.

That's why they are scrolling on a phone or tablet.

Yes, this a thousand times. One example, Dan Luu [1] gets this absolutely right. His blog would probably look similar on Lynx, or any text-only browser, yet is better than 99.99% of stuff "out there".

[1] https://danluu.com/

He took it way too far. Long lines are unreadable and 50 more bytes of CSS would fix it.

I humbly submit my own blog as being pretty darn readable without bloat. It’s responsive and simple. https://alanhogan.com

Edit: Here’s a relevant article: The problem with new blogging platforms https://alanhogan.com/the-problem-with-new-blog-platforms

I mostly like your design, a nice clean look, but I have a couple of comments and a suggestion that you are free to ignore completely.

Firstly, I hate sites that use such a narrow column on the screen. The wall of text from the previous post is obviously too much and is far too difficult to read and keep track of where you are, but using only a third of the screen seem far too little. I'm sure you could double the width of your text without affecting readability.

Secondly, I have really good distance vision but need reading glasses. I find the text on your site a bit small. From a distance it just a bit too small to read comfortably and from close with my reading glasses I feel like I need to get too close. Yes, I can increase the font size easily, but how about...

My suggestion: decrease the size of your borders by about 50% on each side and then increase the font size by 1 or 2 points. The increased column size will give more text on screen, but the increased font size will make sure it is not too much.

> Firstly, I hate sites that use such a narrow column on the screen.

FWIW most professional typographers recommend a column width of 30-40em. Much more than that seriously increases the distance the eye has to travel from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, and makes it harder to keep track of where you are.

The max-width of this blog's main column is... 40em.

And now you know why so many sites do this thing you hate.

(An em, if you are not familiar with it, is a typographical measurement equal to "the width of an M in this font".)

I am familiar with em thanks. I am a software developer and have done some web development in the past.

Far be it from me to argue with professional typographers, but do you hear anyone saying "oh, the line lengths on paperbacks are far too long, I can't scan them"?

Maybe it's just me but I'm a little tired of always having to cater the the very lowest common denominator. That narrow width seems almost ludicrously too narrow to me, it's like a childrens book.

There has been research that suggests that most people don't finish articles, so it seems to me that maybe making columns so narrow is catering to the audience most likely to have such a short attention span that they probably won't finish your article anyway.

Or maybe I'm just a moany old git :-)

You’re exactly right. I have heard typographers express the maximum readable width as "two and a half alphabets," which is roughly 40em. A max-width of 40em is extremely responsive, making the most of your screen (on mobile) without overextending and compromising reading comfort (on desktop).

Disagree slightly on the width. Perhaps a little wider, but I don't hate it. On the font size: Home page gets it, actual posts the font size is far too small IMO

I actually agree and want to increase my main body font size. It’s also probably time to go serif, as sans-serifs are best suited for low resolutions (like for body text on all computers and mobile phones up to ~8 years ago) and serifs shine in high resolution (like on the printed page); today high-density screens are more common. Even “1x” monitors are wide enough that the increased font size they make possible increases the number of pixels available per rendered character. In the mean time, browser zoom will work well!

The right place to fix the long line issue is on the browser side, with user in control of what makes the line "long" - since it's inherently a subjective metric.

If most websites were like this one, I could write a simple one-page CSS that formatted them the way I want - including fonts, colors, lines etc. As originally intended by this whole HTML thing.

I can't use the Reader Mode in Chrome or Safari on your website? If you added that in, I would agree with you. Otherwise, it's an "OK" experience.

Hmm, just on the home page, or on actual articles? I don’t know why it wouldn't work on articles. (Edit: Actual articles are compatible with Safari’s reader mode. I don’t think you will find index pages are generally compatible, on any site)

No, you're right. I thought I had checked an article but I must not have. It is working in Safari. And it also turns out "reader mode" in Chrome isn't a think (that's on by default), which I wasn't aware of.

Cheers, Alan.

If you want feedback, the header is distracting and takes focus from the content.

On my regular browser size this looks something like this [1], which is borderline unreadable due to the width alone. Sure I can resize the browser at least, but even then I am finding the posts hard to read due to the font-size, letter spacing and line-height. The browser default styles did work perfectly in the 90's, but they didn't evolve when the devices use to browse the pages did. And yes, you can always use Lynx, adjust the styles myself or use a CRT display, but I most likely won't bother.

That said I am not defending current state of Medium.

[1]: https://i.imgur.com/VXestU1.png

> On my regular browser size this looks something like this [1], which is borderline unreadable due to the width alone.

Just resize your browser window: it's not the site's job to guess how you want content displayed.

I loved browsing the web in the 90s: I had a half-width browser window on one side of my screen, an editor window in the upper quadrant of the other side and a console window the the lower quadrant. It was great! Then suddenly every website decided that I must have a full-width browser window, and was ludicrously narrow with a half-width browser. And they all stopped using and started abusing CSS. And then they all started using & abusing (but I repeat myself) JavaScript.

All I really want from the Web in 2018 is the experience I had in the 90s, and I can't get it any longer.

Here's the thing: your browser has a handy tool to increase/decrease font size. Usually it will also scale the images in sensible ways. And it's available via keyboard shortcuts, so it's easy to zoom in/out.

Also this format works great with the browser's "Reader" function.

Here's the thing: It's not better zoomed in. Insanely huge lettering isn't any better just because it's suddenly 85 characters wide on your screen, or whatever the goal these days is.

At a certain point you have to recognize that even little CSS (max-width, font-size) can actually be a good thing, and when a site lacks this it doesn't make it somehow inherently better, it just makes it harder to read and I am nearly as inclined to simply hit the back button as I am on Medium articles. It's two ends to a horseshoe. The best place to be is somewhere closer to the middle.

> Here's the thing: your browser has a handy tool to increase/decrease font size.

Here's the thing: I don't want the font or the images to be bigger, I want columns to not be this absurdly long. The only way for the user to achieve it is to resize the browser window.

There is a "max-width" CSS property for that. No framework or JS required, just a modicum of care.

> Also this format works great with the browser's "Reader" function.

It still would using max-width.

It's funny that it still has tracking and is painful to read on the desktop because of full-width lines of text.

On the latter point, just resize the browser window.

Pow, you have a choice about how wide the lines are.

I know people keep saying this, but resizing the browser is not really a viable solution with today's messed up web. Sure, I can resize the browser for this blog using full width lines but then I have to resize my browser again for another website because the other website chooses to waste half of the horizontal real estate with meaningless stuff. As a user, I can't keep resizing the browser for every site I visit.


I have a 40in monitor, a 13in monitor, and a 7in monitor.

It's impossible for a site developer to know how much space to allocate to their page.

On the 40in screen it would be asinine for me to maximise it, for example.

It's completely unsurprising to me that I can resize the window into a state where the website becomes silly. I just don't do that.

Resizing a window is trivial, it's not that you can't, it's that you won't.

edit: Obviously I know what responsive design is. I'm on Hacker News. The author hasn't done it (probably because they have better things to do), you have a trivial option to work around it.

The contrast to be drawn is with a site like Medium that deliberately goes out of its' way to be annoying and harder to use for some vague profitability goal.

Or the website could just set a width on the text column. Why are we pretending this website is some paragon of design? Simple is good but there are still basic readability standards that are important and can be achieved with one or two lines of css.

> It's impossible for a site developer to know how much space to allocate to their page.


This concept is popular for more than 10 years now. Many websites do it with something as simple as

  article { max-width: 60em }
> It's completely unsurprising to me that I can resize the window into a state where the website becomes silly. I just don't do that.

Take Twitter for web. Reduce the browser to something like 60% or 70% of the screen width. The <div><p>...</p></div> elements containing the tweets are chopped off on the right side. It disrupts my reading experience due to minor resizing. This is most of the web today.

> Resizing a window is trivial, it's not that you can't, it's that you won't.

That's true. I don't want to be resizing my browser up and down for every good and bad website.

It's impossible for a site developer to know how much space to allocate to their page.

   max-width:  a bunch of ems;

Okay, so on my screen that means 80% of the window is whitespace and it burns my eyes. background-color: black, I guess?

Responsive design is a thing, yes, but ultimately on a desktop computer you're always going to be able to choose a browser size that breaks a site.

> Okay, so on my screen that means 80% of the window is whitespace and it burns my eyes. background-color: black, I guess?

Apart from calibrating the room lighting and monitor brightness, one can still have a dark background for the body but not for the wrapper that has max-size on it.

E.g. http://camendesign.com/ here you would have white that burns your eyes if it was done without max-size, as is it's much better. [edit: just noticed that blog actually doesn't use max-size, it doesn't shrink; but it easily could]

> Responsive design is a thing, yes, but ultimately on a desktop computer you're always going to be able to choose a browser size that breaks a site.

Only if you make it too small.

On my laptop that site has a microscopic font size.

It's interesting though because I hit Ctrl-+ before I even realised I was doing it.

I guess I just don't see this stuff as being a big deal. It feels like a normal manual adjustment, like if I was pouring coffee and I have to make sure I aim to not spill it over the edge of the cup, or something.

Oh well. I guess we agree to disagree.

Just have your narrow width as your second browser size. One double click on the tab bar in firefox and you are there. I have a big monitor too but I kinda hate full screen browser windows just because no website is really made for it. Either the line width gets out of control, or it just wraps anyway and I have two huge swaths of blank space on each side of the content.

> Hey, I like this chair, but it's too small, do you have one that is bigger?

> Just get a smaller house.


> Hey, we are going to launch our product in a country that doesn't speak English but we don't have i18n ready.

> Just ask the users to use Google translate.

And you wonder why we can't have nice things.

Also, obligatory link: https://thebestmotherfucking.website

I literally cannot do this on a mobile device.

Dan Luu's blog is almost there, but personally I'd prefer if there was just a tiny bit of CSS that capped the width of the text. With full width paragraphs, it's not the most pleasant to read.

Stylus (not Stylish) can make sites like this readable enough if you visit them often enough to be worth a couple minutes to fix them. Here's a tiny bit of CSS:

    body {
        font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
        line-height: 1.45;
        background-color: #ededed;
        margin: auto;
        padding: 0.5rem;
        max-width: 80ch;
    .pd {
        padding-bottom: initial;
One point in favor of ultra-minimalism is that it's easier to add a few styles than to undo layer upon layer of Bootstrap. (Only undid one declaration here and that wasn't strictly necessary.)

This is an interesting point, actually.

Should publication platforms be giving us two choices: their design and implementation; or raw text (HTML) we can style ourselves?

MySpace pages?

A little used browser feature is alternate style sheets. (View -> Page Style in Firefox.) This lets a site ship multiple CSS styles to the end user with some default. Example: https://developer.mozilla.org/samples/cssref/altstyles/index...

I think it's too late to get publishers to agree on any kind of sensible conventions within the wild wild web ecosystem. It would require a massive user exodus to an entirely different application for producing, sharing, discovering, consuming and commenting on content with no scripting and leaving presentation/theming up to the user. Just a simple document-oriented markup language, e.g. maybe a subset of DocBook. Ideally it would have no HTML/CSS/JS legacy baggage weighing it down so we can have our RAM back.

Not to mention the fact that by saying, "Just give us HTML and we'll do the rest", you're taking away their ability to push adverts and track you for that juicy, monetizable(?) tracking data.

I think this is why RSS did and is dying, although it also seems to be making a comeback.

The total lack of styling makes it almost unreadable. Even if you resize the window to get a sane page width the lack of margins makes it uncomfortable to read.

The question you should be asking is, why is the default CSS in your browser making unstyled websites uncomfortable to read? The browser could provide sane defaults for margins etc. It just chooses not to - probably because everything it renders is going to be styled anyway, so why bother?

Ironically, the "reading mode" thing that is becoming popular is essentially that - stripping the page of most of its custom styling, and then applying some sensible default style. It's like we went full circle, all the way back to pre-CSS times.

Oh come on, that is not easy to read. There's no reason to go back to the 1990s, minimal styling and good typography with reasonable margins and spacing are absolutely worth it for readability.

There's also Pocket that'll happily keep a nice formatted copy of the article from that site, regardless of the current ugliness, making the reading experience on mobile quite pleasant.

It's funny how something as old fashioned as this blog feels like a breath of fresh air.

That's how Google design used to be but is not anymore.

"A blog is a text file on a screen. There's really no need to do it on a proprietary system, you can literally upload a text file to your own host, but if you can't be bothered, somewhere like GitHub Pages.

You want an image? Here's a tag: <img>"

Don't be surprised if someone has this "idea" soon and makes a killing with it. A lot of people seem to get tired with the current stream of "innovation" that makes the web slower and more complex.

> Don't be surprised if someone has this "idea" soon and makes a killing with it.

Let's change the world. You can find my contact details in my bio[1, 2, 3].

[1] please note that by e-mailing me you are agreeing to my privacy policy which states that all e-mails may be read by me

[2] your IP address will be logged and tracked by both your ISP and Hacker News when you click the link to my bio

[3] [modal] this isn't actually anything, I just wanted to put something in your face [ yes ] [ yes ]

[4] alert('ha! gotcha! there's another one!')

edit: [5] would you like to sign up to my newsletter? [ no ] (there isn't one)

Already happened. ~ clubs.

15 years ago there were plenty of people paying $5 a month for shared hosting FTPing hand made HTML over. Now it is way easier and even tech people aren't hosting their own in general which is bad. Right now there are great JAM stacks out there. You could have your markdown formatted content in Git, rendered by Hugo, and then pushed to Cloudfront backed S3 for literally pennies a month and CDN'ed all around the world but hardly anyone does it. As tech people I think we are the most to blame posting to Medium because it is technologically easier than ever before to self host, yet most are too lazy.

FTPing HTML was infinitely easier than Git+Hugo+S3+Cloudfront.

And even if you can somehow cut through all the complexity of modern hosting — you still have to make those HTMLs. Only now they have to be responsive, look no worse than whatever is out there, look nice when posted on Facebook or Twitter, render well in various read later apps, and generally work with a wide ecosystem. And then you have to continue to make your site work with all the new stuff, preferably without breaking older pages.

You can indeed be simpler than most websites out there, and not lose anything important. But don’t kid yourself — the web is much more complex than it used to be.

You are correct it isn't trivial but I'd argue some stuff is even easier than in the past. Like the whole responsive design (or a design at all) is already accomplished by using any one of many themes offered for Hugo. Then you don't even have to know HTML, you can have a one page Markdown reference to do almost everything. I might want to work on something like this to make it more accessible to others, but my main argument is that for tech people this is trivial and here they are still using Medium.

https://habd.as/zero-to-http-2-aws-hugo/ Is an example of how to do this. It has some steps but is not that hard. I think it can be even easier by scripting most of this out for less technical people.

Good luck getting your non-technical friend to ever use this workflow, much less set it up.

I tried to do it right: https://christine.website/blog

The only javascript on any page is for the service worker that allows offline loading of pages.

My workplace blocks your site because it has not yet been categorized. Medium on the other hand works just fine.

I'm not saying that's right, but it is something to consider!

>>A blog is a text file on a screen.

A blog used to be a text file on a screen. Like most words in the English language however, its meaning has changed overtime, as people's expectations have changed.

I personally like Medium because of its highlights feature and its unobtrusive comment system. In fact, I often scroll down to the comments first to see what people are saying, much like I (and many others) check the comments on HN submissions first before deciding whether to bother with the actual submission.

Don't get me wrong, medium has a lot of annoying issues. But this whole "let's go back to the stone ages" crap with regards to tech needs to stop.

This topic comes up fairly often. I think about it a lot - as a Medium user and as a person who has managed multiple wordpress blogs.

##Here's my thoughts on why Medium is so popular:

1. It's easy. We are all techies here. We often underestimate the weight of this.

2. It looks better than your average blog theme. (With 0 effort)

3. It promises the opportunity to access a larger audience. (Even if it does not deliver on that promise)

4. It provides an endorphin rush though likes/claps and the analytics/view counts.

##What the average blogger doesn't care about:

1. Effort Overhead. Managing a web server, buying a domain, configuring a wordpress blog, updating wordpress, choosing a theme, deleting spam comments etc.

2. Content ownership. Most people don't think about it that much.

3. RSS feeds. I'm willing to bet >80% of bloggers have no idea that people still use RSS (or even what it is at this stage)


I don't think Medium is perfect, but I also don't think any of the alternatives are good enough either.

A small note on that very last one: RSS falls in the "you probably don't know about this, so let us tell you that you can reach more people with it" category. Any platform that doesn't offer it, or offers it "tucked away" is doing so intentionally, to keep traffic siloed, and keeping the posts from reaching external audiences. Not knowing what RSS is as a user is completely fine, and really:to be expected. But that's true for all technology: pick any tech you value and the majority of the world won't be familiar with it (case in point: I didn't know hackernews existed until my stuff got posted to it and people started yelling at me about it) so it's not a matter of "do people know about it" but "should there be a reasonable expectation that people are told about it when they start doing a thing that would greatly benefit from it".

Not offering RSS, when you're an online syndication platform, is a pretty clear sign that Medium made Medium to serve Medium first. Not to be the best experiences for readers and writers of blog posts and long reads. Which includes not informing people about things they could have had if Medium was a little less self-serving and actually cared about getting people's voices heard out there.

So why the hell did you use it to write this article, then?

I wrote a tool which converts your Medium blog into a Jekyll blog, for publishers hoping to migrate:


> So why the hell did you use it to write this article, then?


But seriously, my guess is that the author wants you to see the things that he's talking about on the page. Like you read that the banner sucks and you can look up and see the banner and understand immediately what he's talking about without having to take his word or trust that supplied images aren't photoshopped to hell.

Because it's not just a platform, it's an audience. If you want to reach the audience, you have to use the platform. And the audience most in need of this message are definitely the people publishing on Medium.

Are you referring to platform generated content? The thing is, Medium doesn't do very well at that either.

I have a medium blog. I've had a few posts got >10k reads within a month. Almost none of those reads came from Medium itself, but rather from the various outlets that have linked to my post, and Google.

The only reason I currently use Medium is that people are more likely to open a Medium url when it shows up in link aggregators. People trust the familiar url far more than www.mypersonalblog.me - and it'll never get blacklisted / shadowbanned on reddit.

Oh, and claps. I like the claps.

> people are more likely to open a Medium url when it shows up in link aggregators. People trust the familiar url far more than www.mypersonalblog.me

I know this is just anecdotal, but I assume anything coming from Medium is usually less worthwhile. First, the author isn't important on a Medium article. Medium is the brand, the other is someone that doesn't matter. Secondly, it's not easy to follow the author, so even if I did read the author bio at the bottom, following the author is a pain. Finally, everything the above article mentioned. Medium articles are all about playing SEO games and "Growth hacking" before good content (literally). I'll ready Medium articles, but personal blogs are far more credible every day of the week in my book.

That being said, I would be interested in how you reached the conclusion that people are more trusting of medium articles?

>That being said, I would be interested in how you reached the conclusion that people are more trusting of medium articles?

Really just from my own experience. I've been writing and posting content for a few years and usually I get more clicks and comments when using the medium domain. (not always but noticeably more often)

Do medium posts show up more often as a search engine result? This has to be the same sort of reason some SEO "optimizers" use amazonaws.com domain to put their spammy blogs because the domain itself has some weight that is crucial for search discoverability.

I am not. I'm just saying it's a platform for publishing in the same way HN is. If I want to reach Medium users, I'd post on medium. If I want to reach HN users, I post here.

Ah ok. Fair enough. I don't think medium works for that.

You don't think Medium is a good place to publish to reach people on Medium? What site would you recommend instead?

I don't know. But medium do a terrible job at sharing their own content between users.

in my experience, myname.com domains I encounter in the wild are less likely to have the kind of low-quality/marketing content medium often has. And if one posts good content, I might actually recognize their domain again (and probably follow their feeds, if they have them), whereas in Medium they'll stay stuck in the association with Medium. And Medium took the option for custom domains away again, so no chance of fixing that while still using it.

>the audience most in need of this message are definitely the people publishing on Medium

That's a good point.

I like that it's written on Medium. That allows us to point out other issues, like performance.

Here's what Google's lighthouse sees: https://imgur.com/a/wDCIrpP

"Time to Interactive: 10+ seconds" is particularly terrible.

As an ironic living example of how it's a poor choice I guess

reminds me of all the snarky/satrical comments along the lines of

    iphone is the worst phone ever!

    -sent from my iPhone

from a decade ago

Is anyone aware that using code formatting for non-code is extremely annoying because, on mobile, it’s almost impossible to read because of the necessity to side scroll.

That's a HN CSS problem, not a problem of code formatting.

They should fix it.

Meanwhile, on mobile one can use one of the 10s of HN client apps.

The point of the “code” formatting is so that the text doesn’t wrap.

That doesn't mean the code styled div should also not be scrollable in mobile devices or be beyond the edge.

> using code formatting for non-code is extremely annoying

Even for code it is annoying because of the wide margins. The margins take up about 50% of the width of the screen (!)

Yes, everyone's aware. It's mentioned every time it's used. No one cares. Making a frictionless mobile site lowers the barrier to entry.

To whom is this article addressed? Medium users.

Where do you find the most Medium users? Medium.

That tool looks interesting, how does it get the data? Does it scrap a user profile? Can it deal with users having a large number of posts (I think the rss and json API only return a limited number of posts).

I'm glad the author mentioned the thing that I dislike most about Medium: the "share" tooltip that appears any time you highlight anything in the article. I realize that they consider this a value prop (and it certainly hasn't hurt their ability to grow) but for those of us who highlight text as we read, it's incredibly annoying.

It's very annoying, but thankfully reader mode in every browser gets rid of it and every other annoyance medium has, including popups.

Reader mode is definitely a very important part of the modern web experience. A rather sad truth.

I recently also found a Firefox extension [1] I'd been looking for a some time: a way to automatically enter reader mode on some URLs, such as medium.com. This makes browsing Medium much nicer.

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/automatic-rea...

a way to automatically enter reader mode on some URLs, such as medium.com

Safari has this built-in.

Enter reader mode on a web page, then right-click on the reader icon and you can set every page in the domain to automatically display in reader mode.

Safari isn't usually the first with new features, so it might be available in other browsers, as well.

Damn’ thanks ! Awesome ! I just discovered it’s also working on iOS with a long press on the reader button

Same here, highlighting the text helps me keep track of the paragraph i'm reading and I was annoyed by this feature as well. On a related note, I've been looking for a plugin that highlights lines/paragraphs of text and is controlled by the cursor keys up/down (for desktop viewing only) but haven't been able to find such a thing yet. I keep on hoping that one day somebody would come up with such a thing.

I think Vimium [0] would allow you to highlight lines with hjkl keys. They have a "Visual Select" mode that'll highlight lines as if it were in VI [1].

[0] Google Chrome Extension: https://github.com/philc/vimium

[1] https://github.com/philc/vimium/wiki/Visual-Mode

Tangentially related: Evernote Premium does this when you highlight-as-you-read on PDFs. They assume you want to annotate all the time. I would rather press a toolbar button or keyboard shortcut to bring up an annotation, like the way it works on Preview.app.

Pretty convincing. I didn't notice how bad medium was since I'm always logged in and have an ad-blocker. I also don't think they do much in terms of discovery. My blog [0] has about 370 followers and my posts only get about 10 - 20 views unless I put them on social media. Then they'll get between 100 and 10k+.

Does anyone have experience with an alternative platform? Preferably free and hosted.

[0] https://medium.com/ml-everything

Reach and engagement are problems these days. Many social platforms promote things they can inject ads on. E.g. a Facebook post will get a wider audience than simply posting a link to your FB feed. Same on linkedin. Same on twitter. They are optimized for keeping traffic inside their platform. They'll run your content but not necessarily bubble it up in other people's feeds.

Medium is not a great platform for distribution compared to that (poor reach and it never really emerged as a destination) but not worse than other external/self hosted blogs. A good strategy if you are hungry for clicks is to target all of them with content appropriate to the platform and a link to your blog for reading more. By appropriate I mean optimized for the attention span of the reader. So short tweet on twitter, executive summary on Linkedin for those poor people with essentially no attention spans and an aunty friendly version for Facebook. Reddit post and HN link if you feel brave ;-). I've also been targeting dev.to.

There is a freemium service called Write.as [0]. It might not be the exactly same kind of thing as Medium, but, personally, I appreciate its ultra-simplicity. Since I have never went as far as starting my own blog, I occasionally host text content there that I want to share.

[0] www.write.as

According to the creator's blog, he intends to complete a whole suite of products that all work together.

As of now, normal people will have difficulty understanding how Read.as, Write.as, Snap.as all work together.

Looking forward to when I can get a full Facebook replacement for like $3/month subscription.

The underlying engine just got open sourced: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18432327

Github Pages + something like disqus if you need comments? Add in a simple enough theme like http://bettermotherfuckingwebsite.com/, and that'll probably do the job. The main downside is having to use social media for discovery, but in that regard it doesn't sound too much worse than medium by your reckoning. You can even use your own domain.

Myself, I'm using a VPS (5€ a month, but 10€ a year goes to the OpenBSD foundation) to host some static html (generated from markdown), and have done away with comments entirely. (The VPS isn't just for that blog. I'm serving multiple domains from it and hosting my own fossil repos there as well)

It's obviously not for everyone, but maybe it'd suit you.

Disqus is really bad in terms of privacy of users [0] (that article was from 2014, now I guess it's on par with most other sites).

I'm not really sure what the answer is as if it's going to work on a static site, the comments need some sort of backend. Most people aren't going to host it themselves, so that leads to these issues, as nobody will pay for a commenting system.

[0] https://chrislema.com/killed-disqus-commenting/

> nobody will pay for a commenting system

What if it costs $0 per year, if one gets < 10 comments and < 10 000 page views? And otherwise $10 per year? Or something like that. What do you think about that?

(I'm developing a no-tracking and no-ads commenting system, + open source, SaaS hosting, link in my profile.)

I recently started a blog built with Hugo and published using Netlify by way of a private git repo on Gitlab.com.

I would have used Gitlab pages but there is not support for automated SSL certs for custom domains. You have to upload your own manually which doesn't play nice with letsencrypt's 90-day expiry.

Or use a Cloudflare certificate (valid 15 years iirc).

I'll be launching Qards very soon. No servers, no databases, free, fast and modern.


More and more, I find myself relying on "follow the damn money" to understand how increasingly weird the Internet is and how to unweird it.

If you're a writer and you want your words to get in front of people, those words need to be on a server somewhere. Someone's gotta pay for the electricity and maintainance on that server. If you don't know who pays for that and what their motivation for doing so is, you don't have a clear understanding of how your words get to your audience.

So many web horror stories these days — privacy violations, shady business practices, broken user trust, companies "losing their morals", etc. — stem from the fact that the users deriving value from some product weren't paying for it and were unpleasantly surprised to discover that the people who are paying for it expect something in return, whether freely given or not. Even many startups that begin with their hearts in the right place eventually go wrong once those early "angel" (an ironic term if there ever was one) investors want to recoup their investments, somehow, anyhow.

Fortunately, there is a solution. It's not in wide use yet on the Internet (it is a long-established mechanism in other industries like food and consumer goods), but I have some hope that adoption will grow. I call it, "pay for shit". ("Macropatronage", "c-to-b", or "crypto-free currency network" might be better terms for the HN zeitgeist.) The way it works is like this: If you want some product or service, you give a company some of your own money and then they give you the thing in return.

This system is not without its flaws. Every time you use it, your total wealth goes down by a measurable amount. Companies often end up incentivized to give you the minimum value in return for maximum money. But it least somewhat aligns the interests of the companies you do business with because you are, well, actually doing business with them.

When you buy sausage from the sausage factory, you may not be exactly sure of what you get. But it's still probably better than being the sausage.

I agree with you in general.

However, it feels there should be a "fair" amount to pay.

What is the fair amount to pay for blog hosting? Free is too cheap and surely subsidized by something else. $20/month seems like too much for a blog.

The odd thing is that the marginal cost goes down with the popularity of the site.

Something like $5 feels right (svbtle is at $6). I think if you hit scale you might be profitable at $3 or $4.

I am not talking about the value I get, but about the cost + profit threshold for the provider.

I think $5/year feels about right for a low-traffic personal blog.

I also think free makes sense, if the business model is to get people using the tool for personal projects, hoping they will recommend it at work.

I think medium has some cool features like the "claps", comment boxes and story analytics. There's a lot of stuff that that just works out of the box

However I really dislike syndicating my blog to it because the formatting is so limited. You cannot do bullet point lists for example, which makes it a huge pain having to tinker with your existing post to reformat it for medium.

Nowadays I just syndicate an introduction to the post and a "click here to continue reading" hyperlink to my actual blog. Which is a rubbish experience for Medium users.

I'm wondering if there's a decentralised version of a blogging network, where users host their blog themselves, with the social features like claps/comments wrapped around it, plus a bit of a 'recommendation' system for other posts in the network to get that network of writers feel.

I know disqus exists but it's not quite the same

You actually can do bullet points if you type '*' or '-' and then a space. For some reason, they have a few markdown-like formatting features that aren't shown in the popup editing bar.

Also, about the recommendation system for self-hosted content, I've seen a few sites that link to HN or Reddit for comments. Upvotes can stand in for "claps", and posting on HN or Reddit makes your article discoverable.

Sorry, you are right, I misremembered, I think I meant further indentation of bullet point lists is not supported, so only 1 level of indentation is supported.

I think linking to HN/reddit is fine but that means leaving the original site where you were consuming the content. I was more thinking along the lines of the social features would be embedded in your blog, and would act as part of a bigger network.

Yes they have this claps feature. Isn't it weird, like, cheating, that one can clap 50 times for the same story?

I'm wondering if Medium in this way fools people into thinking their / others stories are more popular, than what they actually are? And in that way Medium thinks Medium will get more traction? Or why allow that many claps and not show # clappers?

I clapped 50 times for this story "Medium is a poor choice for blogging".

No site has perfect UX, but some of these complaints don't seem true, e.g.:

> No, those do not go away as you scroll. They literally (yes, literally) take up 25% of your vertical space

On my computer the bars do go away the instant I scroll down (Chrome on a Mac, and logged-in, not sure if those matter), and 25% is a made-up exaggerated number for a window the author has made much shorter than any reasonable person would be browsing with, even on a small laptop.

Yes, Medium strongly nudges you to have an account and be logged-in, and if you do a lot of the other complaints go away. Because it's inherently a social blogging platform, not a static blogging platform. And the social aspect helps spread your audience and build engagement... that doesn't make it a "poor choice". To the contrary, it's a great choice to have.

Here's what I get opening the post with a landscape iphone: https://imgur.com/a/ywJtaCn (that's after I dismissed the cookie warning popover)

Neither bar disappears when I scroll down. You can test this with Chrome dev tools and see the same thing.

In any case, it is stupid to give one platform all the power (see YouTube). Internet should be decentralized.

There are some benefits to centralization. For example, if I want to watch a movie or TV show, I have to look for it on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, HBO, and my cable box. I wish I could subscribe to a single mega-service that just covered everything.

I wonder if it would be possible to create a service (or if one already exist) where you could select which streaming sites you are subscribed to, and the service could search all those sites for the movie you want to watch, then redirect you to that site. Because it's hard to remember or to know which site has which movies/TV shows.

Roku tries to do that, but it isn't super reliable and doesn't have access to everything (especially iTunes and YouTube).

There are sites that you can enter a title and it will tell you all the places it's available for streaming. I do use that once in a while, but it's still too much friction (IMHO).

Android TV has a unified search if you have multiple apps installed. It works very well - and on my SHIELD, highlights shows from multiple apps on the home screen with proper thumbnails etc.

I bought a Sony TV at the start of this year and it has Android TV. The Android TV stuff is slow and will throw out error messages that don't mean anything to me. Stuff lik "Huey module has stopped". Or it complains about a Samba issue. We ended up buying a Roku box and use that instead of the Android stuff.

The only thing we use Android TV for is the MLB app. I'd like to figure out some way to delete everything but that one app because I always have to search for it.

Apple TV’s TV app does that.

Yup. These days most people have fast connections. Hosting your personal website from your home should be the default. Huge amount of storage, no changing terms of service, no perverse profit incentives, no third party doctorine problems, no deplatforming problems, and it cuts the gordian knot of deciding what is allowed and what isn't. Then people can associate however they want.

> Hosting your personal website from your home should be the default.

Very few ISPs will hand you a static IP necessary for this to work.

You don't need a static IP. I've been doing it for 20 years without one. It's very simple to use a ddns service, or, just set it manually every couple months to a year when it changes. It's certainly no reason to not host servers from home.

Disabling JavaScript and cookies for medium.com domain, and a bunch of uBlock rules [1] should do the job

[1] Here's mine:




medium.com##.js-postActionsFooter .buttonSet


There are also dedicated extensions for this [0]

[0]: https://makemediumreadable.com

Thank you for this.

As I was reading I noticed that none of the complaints appear for me. uBlock Origin and uMatrix block all of it.

Firefox's Reader view works brilliantly on Medium FWIW.

Wow, this is great. Thanks for sharing!

This is an on-point rant, but what alternatives are there that combine clean, useful publishing tools with the ability to reach a wide audience? Sure I can host my own blog, but what good is it if I have no reader engagement. If there is a decent replacement, I'm all ears.

What does Medium do for engagement that ye olde static site doesn't do? Is this something that can be done outside Medium?

Users actually discover/browse Medium, and will hit content that isn't directly searched through their explore features/algorithms. Hosting your own site means relying on cross-posting/SEO/etc.

This is a thing that people actually do? Who are these people, and what other interesting things do they do?

I have never gone to medium.com directly, I have only ever wound up there through an article being crossposted on this site, Twitter, FB, or the rare case that one of my email newsletters links to something on there.

Even if that were the only way people got to medium posts, when you finish a post, you see recommendations for other related medium posts/articles. Writing posts/articles on Medium means that a lot more people could still find their way to your article when they didn't intentionally go to medium specifically for your article.

You know what..when you put it like that you make a lot of sense. I too get most of my reading done this way. Through cross-posting on HN or /r/ or mastodon.

1- Host your blog.

2- Write post.

3- Post to multiple aggregators (HN, reddit, etc)

It can even be made (semi)automatic.

Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere


Thanks! This is what I had in mind.

Ha! I've tried that. Write an article and post to HN, then watch it fall off the New page in 20 minutes without a single vote. I'm sure one day I'll crack the code, but for me, engagement is hard. For all its faults, Medium provides an instant audience with feedback/commenting mechanisms.

I have found Reddit to be a very hostile place to post content. You post your blog post. Regardless of how much hard work you put into your content, the first few comments on Reddit are going to be a snarky one that attacks some trivial point and adds nothing to the discussion. I don't know why people do that.

HN, on the other hand, feels like a more matured community. Any other such matured communities where one can feel comfortable about posting their blog posts?

Worse, for Reddit: there is no sustained discussion. I've been thinking and working a lot on discussion (first law: conversation scales poorly), and what sites do and don't work.

G+, for its many, many, many flaws, could keep a discussion going on those rare instances where it started in the first place. In ways few other sites do.

The fact that all members of a conversation (up to a point) are informed of new posts, helps. That's a two-edged sword: low-value comments, if left standing, merely annoy others, and tend to cause them to mute out of the discussion.

But it's a dynamic few other sites match.

I've also been using Reddit as a blogging platform (not simply syndicating content) for several years. I'd already been in the process of moving that elsewhere when the G+ shutdown announcement hit -- I've been somewhat engaged in that over the past month or so. I do plan to continue syndication, though I moderate strongly for quality.

I have seen a couple of good discussions on Lobste.rs The number of users is not very big- they're invite only. I know that some HN regulars are posting there so maybe you could ask for invite here or head over to their IRC and then try it out. I don't use it myself, HN is big enough time sink as it is.

Outline.com strips away all the distraction.

Although in this case it duplicates all the images somehow: https://outline.com/uZc4XF

Thanks for posting, I'm going to give outline a test drive. It seems to be doing what I want. The redundant images are less intrusive than the bells and whistles on medium.

Counterpoint: Medium brings you readers and that's the most valuable feature

I've been running my own company since 2001 and been on Twitter since 2006 and I still don't have a readership that is anywhere near what I can get through the Medium algorithm.

I write to think. But I publish to get that thinking read. There really is no other feature that comes close to mattering more to me than Medium's network effects. I published something the other day that has 269K views with an additional 1k coming every day through the Medium network.

Medium's stats say they were directly responsible for 170k of those views.

Then when I look at the external views, I mostly see that those were driven by Medium as well. For example, 10k views came from Twitter, but those were Medium readers retweeting. I looked at my own promotion: Reddit, HN, newsletter, Twitter and can only count up about 10k views that I was directly responsible for.

I stopped using Medium when they removed the ability to see a list of just your articles, mixing your comments into the list (as though every comment you write at the bottom of an article is just as significant as an article you wrote, what a stupid idea though it looks like they've realized that and reverted back). Also I never liked how they don't let you nest bullet points.

Moved to markdown and and self-hosting and haven't looked back since. Much prefer the freedom of owning my own files and not being married to any platform.

However I do miss the convenience of just being able to post online without needing to compile everything on my laptop with a static file generator and pushing to GitHub, so maybe I'll switch to Wordpress or something later if I take writing more seriously.

Not sure the issue is Medium being a poor tool compared to other ways of blogging...

The issue I see is one of ownership:

You think you "use" Medium to publish your content, you call that blogging. But Medium own the domain and the tools: you'll never exploit the owner using the tools they offered you. In the end, it's medium that really exploits you (ie. the content you freely gave). And they'll use your content in the way they want.

Your content is just a hook they'll use to attract readers and push them to those obnoxious pop-ups, banners, buttons, etc. Well you read the article.

Personally I own my domain. I use open source tools (ghost & custom made web apps). It serves me well. I own my place and have the freedom to grow it as I'd like.

Thanks for reading, take care :)

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