Non-VC companies are a longer and less glamorous slog to get off the ground but also don't come under pressure to compromise on their morals.
Money is good, but not having everything dictated by it is good for the mission.
EDIT: Sure there's still a financial incentive there but it's framed more in the "we need to turn a profit so that we can afford to continue doing these things". We still have salespeople who still have commissions and we still have salaries to pay.
VC funding is required if you want to build something massive, but isn't a great idea if the founders just want to build a sustainable but small business.
Companies like MailChimp and Atlassian are great examples of bootstrapped companies that became very successful. There are more.
Money is great to have at any stage of a company, and bootstrapped companies prefer to trade stability and time for the freedom of not having money (and those who only focus on it) control decisions.
You can build a great company with and without investment, but you can fail with either just as well.
With the way things look right now for high-tech (or any software development) companies the margins are quite high. But of course, if you are a VC who invests in hundreds of businesses, and expect only a few of them to fly, then those few must fly pretty high to make it worth your while. Which means that being just very profitable is not enough - you need to be extremely profitable. And that comes with compromises (mostly for the workers at such startups).
With VCs who only care that the growth curve is exponential, they go for short term money every time, because yeah you might crash the company, but you've got a 5% chance of becoming a big evil corp.
If you start a platform around paying customers you make it one way, if you start it around getting as many users as you can and then monetize the popularity, then you are selling your users, and that's another way entirely.
And stock investors often aren't much better.
If people believe in your brand, you have something. If they don't believe in your brand, you have nothing.
Quora is nothing but spammers self marketing. There is no moderation whatsoever.
If you don't wanna read it, that's fine. I'm just saying that if you do, there's a way.
Yes, it is slightly annoying, but it is extremely easy to dismiss. Unlike the nag screens at many sites you don't have to find and click an 'x' in some weird location. It goes away if you click anywhere on the page outside the nag screen.
It also goes away if you hit ESC on the keyboard. (I don't know if other keys also dismiss it too. I've only tried ESC).
Furthermore, also unlike many other sites, it comes up right away rather than waiting for you to get into the article and then interrupting you. So it is click on a Medium link, get shown the nag screen immediately if it is going to be shown at all, and then hit ESC or click somewhere and it goes away.
And it's not immediate, there's time enough for your eyes to adjust to the content of interest before that modal pops up. It's as if it's designed for maximum obtrusiveness.
The experience is further degraded by a header and footer that not only take up significant screen real estate but also only seem to exist to also prompt me to sign up.
So that's three obtrusive prompts asking me to sign up - the modal, the header and the footer. This is unique in that the annoyance has a depth of redundancy.
I can't believe that I could get free cPanel/PHP/wordpress hosting when I was a teenager, and people will live with a fullscreen nag ad for their company blog 17 years later.
There's a lot more to say about such practices, but that's the gist of it.
Now it's a "modern" ExpertSexChange where "online marketing specialists" ask questions with one account and answer their own questions with another account.
"Disclaimer haha I work for Bullshit.ly as a growth ninja but here's my response..."
"In conclusion I'm not saying you should totally checkout our stuff ... but you totally should. just my 2 cents."
And they are getting more sophisticated so it's not always so easy to spot.
The look on their faces when I suggested they actually verify the site before firing whoever it was.....
I used to have an excite.com email.
Edit: I'm glad to see they're still up and working hard to service customers at: http://www.penisland.net (totally safe for work, trust me)
A: In most cases we can handle your wood.
I remember I used to have to log in to read content back in 2013ish, but I don't have to do so right now.
OK just give me a second..
The exception to that rule is Stack Exchange, because they have a business model that is unique to the space and impossible to replicate for a site like Quora (Genius, Answers.com, wikiHow, et al.).
Quora has to allow low quality content on their service in order to keep the volume up, to drive traffic & clicks, to drive ad potential, to avoid the dreaded down rounds and eventual drift toward forced sale. There's only so much legitimate high quality content for a site like Quora and it's nowhere near enough to validate a $2 billion valuation (much less higher).
Consider for a moment that Yelp - which is a real business in a highly monetizable segment, that is also profitable and will hit an annual billion dollars in sales soon - is worth $3 billion. So if you get a $2 billion valuation as Quora, where are you going from there? It's obvious.
Genius is facing the same exact fundamental problem that Quora is. Take a lot of money from VCs, get a big valuation, find it impossible to live up to it. Turns out normal people don't want to annotate everything and could mostly care less unless it's a more narrow passion segment (music).
There are only two paths for knowledge services. Stay small and very lean, aggressively limit costs, and use an ad model - that's wikiHow. Or go the Wikipedia route. Anything involving VCs will end in disaster and or forced sales. Knowledge services properly have to think very, very long-term (if they're actually trying to fulfill a knowledge mission and aren't just traffic fronts), they need a decade outlook or more. VCs think short-term, they look at ~5-10 year type exit outcomes. High quality, long-lived knowledge services are fundamentally opposed to a focus on exits in any manner, as they have a higher calling than looking for an exit for a VC - and any deviation from that must inherently destroy the community.
There's definitely value to be created, but the catch is focusing. Someone will pay for the best data on their problem. Very few people are interested in buying 100 dumpsters full of random text: I can't see general services like Quora ever being worth much.
Freebase had no business model and Metaweb took $57 million in VC. Then Google took the public service, which had been built up by a large community, and effectively buried it.
As with most of the other cases, their only possible path that involved sustainability and long-term knowledge value, was to not take VC, stay lean, and either API their system for a fee (not a huge business), or run an ad model. Either way, their business case was small, and they took a lot of VC. The end result, another dead, formerly promising, knowledge service in an increasingly long list.
How does flooding my feed with dozens of questions about what the probabilities of different subsets of the faces are when rolling a die (e.g. what's the probability of getting an even number or greater than 5 when rolling a die?) help drive traffic, clicks, and ad potential?
CS major in first year who has been interested in math and science as a kid? Probably not.
First year college in the USA is very broad. It’s not like university in Europe / UK where you specialize in one subject only for your bachelors.
I tried to argue against someone with this. I even tried scaling the problem down to being two balls drawn from a pool of four, and showing how if you buy multiple tickets, your chances of winning greatly increased. And they accepted what I was saying, but just insisted that the math "doesn't scale" and it doesn't work the same when it's 5 balls drawn from a pool of 69.
Even worse, she tried to say something like "You're really good at math. You should know this!"
This blows my mind, but at least it means they aren't wasting even more money on the lottery.
I guess the goal was to incentivize users to answer more questions.
But Quora was nice because you would find for almost each question an answer from a real expert in that specific question. And that's pretty unique by definition.
Result was that the best answers were often not the top 1 despite having way more upvotes -> bad user experience. True experts almost stopped answering because what was the point if it was going to be hard for users to find their answer, and certainly they wouldn't bother to start answering a bunch of questions on the site just to increase their ranking.
Low level/high volume content took over Quora.
Upvoting alone is enough to make me sign in to SO when I'm mysteriously logged out. SO saves me enough hours to justify that small curtesy.
People would immediately sign up for SO if it were tied to their productivity.
That is, unless answer providers have no interest in using the site for anything else. That's true in some cases.
It's basically a crapshoot as to whether the person is a blowhard or knows what they're talking about.
It wasn't clear if he was working for Quora or working for somebody who wanted to spam Quora, but the damage is done.
Don’t worry how this will monetize. We’ll figure this out later once we have the scale.
Github made it through the "We need to deliver 1000x gains for our investors" phase of their history, but all that means is they've moved into "We paid $7,500,000,000 for this, are we getting as much value as possible?"
A few years from now, some brilliant manager realizes they can "add value for customers" by helpfully including third party software offers with github release downloads, just like Sourceforge did. Who knows?
That's the pure growth first strategy. At first it's all roses. Completely free, even ad-free. So there's none of the friction that comes with monetization. But eventually it comes into the picture.
Either a service is monetized from the start or it comes later.
I don't write for Medium, but I think rather than trashing Medium, maybe we should help make it as a better platform for publishers. There is enough garbage out in the internet, maybe Medium can help clean it up.
I think we're eventually going to see a resurgence in open platforms where content creators better control their content. I don't think the discoverability of these content hubs is worth it, I personally do more discovery other ways and usually only end up on the site after a recommendation, etc...
The other day I was trying to find a Russian world-traveller photo blog I used to read but lost track of, and it was plain from the results that Google's 1) heavily penalizing low-traffic sites to the point of giving me top results that contain almost none of my keywords when there 100% for sure had to be sites that contained all of them, and 2) barely paying attention to text linking to a site anymore. I'm not even upset I couldn't find the site I wanted using my search terms so much as that part of their surrender to the spammers meant that most of the top results were "legitimate" content-mill spammers-by-another-name. I don't think I could have found anything like what I was looking for. Any similarly-obscure sites are just invisible now.
DDG wasn't much better. The spammers won and "web search" doesn't really search the whole web anymore, or even close to it.
I've been wondering what Google now thinks the word "must" means and why they're putting pages that don't include words that I've used above pages that do.
That's frustrating. Low-volume sites represent a significant portion of the web results I need.
I'm sitting here looking at it now and I still can't believe that's the function. It looks like a link to a search of just that term.
Of course, even when I click on it, I get ads for hotels that are missing "proton" and "transfer" first, then random word dictionaries, both well above perfectly valid results talking about chemists who played the balalaika or research done in the city of Balalaika.
Which means that it's a link to getting a different wrong set of results and it's there as a kind of fig leaf on the sin of distorting searches so heavily.
I quoted search terms yesterday, but still had to specify by clicking the link "must include" .. first result still didn't include one of the terms.
Come on Google, what is this?
I suppose that top hit earned them money; can't think why else they'd be deceptive about it.
No one posts actual quality content because stuff I want to read doesn't have a general appeal, its specialized to the things I am interested in. Facebook only allows for general appeal stuff so you end up with memes that everyone can understand.
The conversations on FB range from informative to toxic, and depend, like the internet forums of old, on the moderators. As FB does not actively moderate discussions, toxic conversations are the fault of the participants and the moderators, not on FB.
The curious thing is that often enough you can't even click through--they insist that it's "Medium Exclusive" content and you can only view 3 a month. (Browser Private mode helps, but is not a panacea) But... If I search the 'net for the title of the supposed Exclusive article, I can frequently find it elsewhere with no nagging or paywall.
I don't really believe Medium has the exclusive content that gives it an advantage over anything else, but it's useful as curated, indexed content that you can find elsewhere. This is probably not what they are going for, though.
Sure, but as those platforms grow, they will run into the same problem: having to pay for infrastructure. That shit ain’t cheap once you get past a certain size.
This affinity both for caping up for corporate entities who'd sell you for your component atoms were it feasible to do so, and then for doing free work for them, is so weird. They're the ones making the money. Why isn't it incumbent upon them to do so?
It feels like Medium is circling the drain.
Getting a large influx of funding forces a company to search for faster growth to justify the valuation and deliver projected future growth. In 2017, Medium laid-off 1/3 of their workforce because their advertising model wasn't working . The implication is that they hired a bunch of people to sell something that nobody wanted. A self-funded company, would have likely never hired those people in the first place. That company would be on firmer footing now, but would have gotten less HN/TechCrunch coverage in the process.
I would bet many of the investors were making a bet on Ev Williams as much as they were on Medium. Medium's business model has always felt a bit exploitative. If they truly are focusing on quality rather than quantity, maybe that will change.
Think of it more as forcing them to make a high variance bet.
The VC business model assumes that about 1/3 of the companies invested in will go to zero, and another 1/3 will make a below market return on investment. They need the Googles and Microsofts to pay for everyone else, so they just push all of their portfolio into trying to become billion dollar businesses.
The problem is this is what VC needs, and if your idea isn't one you're still stuck chasing that goalpost. So rather than be happy with your product you start making distortions to increase your mass appeal to help reach the unreasonably high (for your idea) goalposts set by VC funding.
Or maybe that's their mission and they should do that? I'm not sure why any of us as writer or readers should or could do this.
Companies should live or die by the market and if they piss customers off and lose marketshare, that's the market working for once.
It's been a great program for us. We write in the area of personal development and it's allowed us to pour a lot of money into getting authors who've actually tested their advice and then working with them to write very thorough tutorials that other people could follow.
In my biased opinion, what we used to compete with was trash simply because it didn't work. Content marketers were writing great headlines for productivity advice they'd never tested, the advice had huge gaps or mistakes, and then it would stop short of telling you what to do so that it could make some call-to-action sales pitch.
We've been getting much less competition for page views from these trash articles based on recent Medium changes. The biggest change was that they manually review all articles before allowing an article to get promoted by their algorithm.
As an example, I have an article I wrote that's just creeping up on 1M page views. That just wasn't possible before.
- they handle distribution and are better at it than us.
- they pay more than we'd make in ad rates or conversion to our own services.
- it lets us focus on what we love doing, which is the writing and editing, without managing the other side of a publishing business.
We have license to the copyright for most things we've done in the last 18 months, so it's not a full lock-in either.
One question though - what do you mean by distribution?
They used to have zero revenue and deep investor pockets. Now they have growing revenue and still have deep investor pockets. There's ways for them to disappear, but fewer than there used to be.
On a typical article, 80% of page views comes from within the Medium network through promotion by the Medium algorithm. Those page views (and even the followers of our publication) are readers that Medium sourced by publishing lots of other articles than ours. Their algorithm is much more reliable at driving 10k's or 100k's of readers than my other choices: mailing list, reddit, hackernews, SEO.
They aren't some scrappy startup anymore, they are the big dog in the space and doing those kinds of things doesn't exactly signal that all is well.
I answered this above too. Medium finds me readers, both a lot of readers and high quality readers.
They break out their stats by how many readers came directly from promotion throughout the Medium network. For a typical article, that can be in the 10k's of readers.
I didn't mention this above though, which is that Medium readers seem to be very high quality. They share posts out on social media, so they're good for helping get the word out, and a lot of them are people I end up meeting in other contexts.
I have one post from October that's creeping up on 1M readers. I never would have been able to get that many people to read it on my own.
I wasn't aware of that. Maybe I'll start clicking on Medium links again (on purpose). "Trash articles" is a good description of the most recent content I read on there before giving up on Medium.
This is amazing - this is the thing that people demand of Youtube, in order that the algorithm stops promoting anti-vaxxers and Holocaust deniers.
And therein you have found the crux.
Take away the massive human resource cost of moderating this they still run the risk of implying approval/endorsement of things they do not manually kill that the algo throws up.
Personally I think you could just consider that training for the AI.
They will have to so something eventually, I can’t see the EU whose member nations do have hate speech laws letting this rabbit hole continue for much longer.
I'm fortunate to have enough experience to tell the wheat from the chaff usually, but holy hell there's a lot of sifting to do. I'm currently studying Python for the first time and the amount of garbage writing on the language I find is frustrating.
However I am still a beginner in programming as well as deep learning so maybe I lack the the ability to distinguish between real and fake experts.
As someone learning programming this hurts so much. I've read so many medium articles that are sort of correct .... but also not and imply things that are straight wrong.
They clearly aren't that many steps beyond my ability and their writing implies they are ... but their work way not.
Really frustrating when you see an obvious template or pattern that is just a bit "off" used in medium post after after post and the code works, but is way not handy to use as you can't really build much off of it / alter it with ease.
1. Well-defined subject.
2. Some standard for quality.
3. Editors with a stake in the website who filter out things that do not fit 1 and 2 and deliberately cultivate the reader base and frequent writers. (I.e. not Wikipedia-style "editors".)
It doesn't have to involve money. It doesn't have to be closed for the public to submit content. It doesn't have to mimic old media in any fashion.
Websites like that used to exist in late 90s early 00s. Web 2.0 movement waged a war against all 3 bullet points above for the benefits of technocrats at the expense of everyone else. Now we're enjoying the consequences.
I'm all for opinions on current affairs (I have loads!) but it's not what I came here to read, nor is it what your title suggested.
Often feel like resume padding is the underlying motivator too.
I imagine that there's a whole slew of different causes and neuroses mixed in with feeling that pressure, including the ever-present and insidious imposter syndrome. It's very difficult to feel "good enough" when you're comparing yourself to those hugely popular open source developers. It's probably tied up in the same bundle as people with an Instagram account trying to compare themselves to the models with tens of millions of followers.
Not to mention that they don't advertise RSS feeds so you have to jump through hoops to use it for a feed reader.
That popup is a UX dark pattern, and for me puts them in the same category as LinkedIn with its various means of lulling you into actions you wouldn't consciously take.
Medium tried to act as if it were something a little bit better than the rest of the web and it quickly became something just a little bit worse.
If you are running a tiny service you can get together a community of people who are two or three standard deviations better than the mean.
If that service grows, it is going to tap a wider pool of lesser talent and the quality of the discussion will decay.
Hacker News has fought this, but Hacker News is not funded the same way as the firms that Y Co invests in.
I only recently got engaged in HackerNews. The UI isn't beautiful. There are minimal features. It's my favorite content aggregator right now. Obviously, HN isn't a blogging platform, but it accomplishes many of the things medium is trying to.
I wonder if many more partners will give up on medium? Hackernoon is moving away because of a change to medium's advertising policy.
I disagree. HN's UI is perfect.
With just a little bit of work HN's UI could be so much better.
For being a company that beats the inclusive and equality drum they seem to go out of their way to make it impossible for people who don't have incredible dexterity or eyesight to use this site.
I love the simple layout but make it accessible to everyone.
As far as aesthetics I actually like the current site. It serves its purpose well IMO. The real accessibility issues should be addressed per WCAG.
A much nicer mobile interface for consuming HN, but you'll have to go direct to the site to interact with it.
Sure it looks new and mobiley but all I really want (not OP btw) is the same site but with bigger buttons on mobile.
I have it set up on iOS to auto zoom and to raise the font size a couple clicks but the action buttons are still hard to click on and at least once a day I flag or downvote something I have to then undo.
Unless you have perfect eyesight and dexterity it’s a chore.
I might make what i seek actually. At least then I’ve scratched my own itch.
Maybe an extension?
Can that even be done with the current apis?
100% agree that HN's UI is great, but I'm not sure anyone would look at it and say, "oh that's gorgeous." Or at least I wouldn't
After all, the purpose of UI is not to be beautiful, but too many people still think it is
Markdown that drives people to use block quotes when it isn't needed and make reading quotes a nightmare on mobile.
Clicking the back button after replying doesn't show your post.
Low contrast difference between background and thread title.
The list goes on.
Most complaints seem to be focused on mobile. Eh, on mobile I only consume content, so I don't really care if it's hard to post a comment or vote on mobile. Desktop computing is my jam.
And any complaints about its appearance on desktop are easy to tune to user preferences using a userscript. I have a simple userscript that changes the color scheme to a dark theme I quickly concocted. (Part of why I don't even bother to contribute on mobile is because mobile platforms are so constrained that a quick and dirty userscript isn't particularly easy to use.)
I am totally not satisfied hackernews website design and UI.
If I want to leave I can re-house my content somewhere else and write a script to have the URLs match medium's article identifiers so I don't lose (much) Google-juice.
Not ideal, and not a perfect escape plan, but better than leaving all my eggs in one pretentious basket.
Didn't they block it? I read a post here about it some time back. I doubt medium would make you leave it easy.
There is nothing wrong with self-hosted blogs. If you still want to "blog" then go for it on your own domain, please don't feel like you have to publish through some random third party that exists to monetise your content.
Oh what does Medium have become...
Meanwhile it became the villain in the game. (The Batman quote would really place itself nicely here)
I was a paid Medium member for a good while, but discontinued my membership late last year for those reasons.
If they block that then I give up.
It's great for these situations.
Reader view doesn't always work though (at least in Firefox.) You can use the icon in the URL bar or CTRL + ALT + R to open reader view.
Firefox does some detective work to choose whether to show the reader view icon but using the keyboard shortcut used to work regardless. Recently it seems even the keyboard shortcut doesn't work unless the icon is visible - I think becausethe heuristic for showing the icon is more accurate these days.
And that's before you even get into the content, which is usually either:
1. Pointless bullshit from some 'influencer' no one cares about filled with silly buzzwords
2. Political panicking about Trump
3. Or generally uninteresting articles in general. Medium's long since gone through its Eternal September phase, so there's no real quality difference between the stuff there and the stuff anywhere else.
Shameless plug for warisboring.com. Go support my friend's work. If anyone at Medium sees this, just pay him already.
I don't want to trivialize how annoying the login popups are, but ultimately I put up with them for the sake of a more readable article on the other side.
What blog styles do you like reading?
I was reading some interesting articles the other idea, and it was a painful, torturous struggle to read all of the comments and their nested responses.
The entire text of a comment should not be a clickable link! And you shouldn't have to go to a new page to read comment replies...
Sorry, just venting, not directed at you.
I'm most annoyed by the entire comment being a clickable link that takes you off of the page (and the scroll position being lost when you click "back").
I've accidentally clicked on a comment numerous times. I then have to click the back button, scroll down to the comments section, click "show all comments", and then search for the comment I was reading, just to simply to get back to where I was. It is a quite bad user experience when it happens.
I suspect that Pocket and Medium have some kind of agreement; Medium may have stepped in to say "you can't make that text-only offline copy; that's our content" and Pocket, not wanting to get sued, went with the linked strategy instead.
Keep in mind that Medium is just YouTube, except with text-based content.
Since ˜1 year, I have no pleasure to use it and I tend to get away from it.
If you want, shoot me an email for free hosting, and I'll rig up builds.sr.ht to automate deployment for you, too: email@example.com
# Remove the stupid footer
footer = soup.find("footer").extract()
1. I want to write a draft, solicit comments to improve, edit, spell check, and run through tools like Hemingway
2. I want to publish to different platforms like LinkedIn, a blog (static site using markdown or Wordpress), an email tool like Drip, and Medium. Maybe missing some others.
3. Formatting the posts for each service is a PITA. Need images in different sizes and need to place them in the posts.
Ideally I'd like to be able to do all three using a single tool, connect my publishing platforms, click publish (maybe schedule them) and would have drafts in LinkedIn, Medium, Drip, etc.
This would save me so much time that I'd easily pay $50/m for this (and we're bootstrapped and cheap/"capital efficient"). Looks like write.as is heading somewhat in this direction but sadly doesn't hit the major platforms (yet?) Huge market, painful problem, selling to businesses, can build a great tool around content marketing workflow. Got the hallmarks of a great business.
But the consumer space is our sweet spot. I can genuinely talk about why I care about building a $6 / month blogging platform for consumers -- I wouldn't have that same passion building something I don't have much personal interest in (even if there was more money involved).
From a business perspective, this space is very under-served, as far as platforms that writers can rely on still being here in 10 years. And we have plenty of avenues to business customers, from support , to more API access, to larger community hosting . Mostly, I personally want everyday people to have a service they can depend on, where they aren't being mined for data, they get their digital freedom back, etc. That's not something many others can say or even have interest in.
> And we have plenty of avenues to business customers, from support , to more API access, to larger community hosting 
I think the fact that you mention both groups on your pricing page had my hopes up. In general if you're going to focus on consumers that's great, but you might not be doing yourself a favour from a marketing or resource-allocation perspective by talking about business customers.
Just my 2c!
Consumers are our focus, but we do need those few business customers to help get us to profitability quicker. That, and the fact that we solve some niche business needs, is why I still want to target them in some way. I have a few ideas in mind to do this (particularly around marketing) that I want to implement soon. Would you mind if I picked your brain on some of the changes I've been thinking of?
It's kind of nuts to think that these somewhat "edge" cases are so large as to be able to build a business around.
Can't recommend it enough. The developer is also super responsive on email which is great when figuring it out. Only thing to nitpick about is documentation could be a bit more clear. You can see the result here https://blog.jonasbengtson.se/
write your post from the comfort of your Emacs and automatically upload it to write.as or any other writefreely instance:
Our cheapest nonfree alternative cost $120 a month though, but perhaps that is close enough to be interesting? If not, there are many other companies in the PR tool market - perhaps one fit your needs.
"Medium cut off access so you have to go there directly to post. We've formatted your post for Medium - cut this and paste it to Medium here: [link_to_create_new_post_on_medium]."
Publishing to multiple platforms via a single click is nice, but the most painful part about publishing to multiple platforms is formatting the posts so they look good everywhere you post.