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Why Medium Sucks (cdevn.com)
502 points by rylandgold on June 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 154 comments

I feel like we are beating a dead horse here. Everyone I talk to knows Medium sucks. I personally hate the modal that comes up every time if I'm not logged in and how much of my screen is take up by fixed bars.

Medium has a community though. Facebook sucks, but it has a community. Twitter sucks, but it has a community.

You are going to get more people to see your post if you put it on Medium. You are going to get more "friends" if you are on Facebook. You are going to interact with more people if you are on Twitter.

Creating your own blog will now result in you having to manage your own hosting and possibly even do some "development".

Using another solution may not reach the community you expect to reach.

I find the discussion of HOW to get communities onto better platforms to be a more interesting topic than why the current platform sucks, especially when that platform doesn't even seem to listen to the criticism.

I may be one of the folks not part of the Medium community. I only visit Medium via direct links (on HN, shared on Twitter or shared directly to me by friends). I can't remember the times I've been on Medium's home page or opened up their app to browse.

If those direct links sent me to somewhere else entirely tomorrow I wouldn't care.

If those direct links sent me somewhere else tomorrow I would care, because odds are the alternative would be better. Medium is seriously annoying with its sign-in nags and large amounts of the screen taken up with unnecessary bars.

I just want to read an article. Medium is a worse experience than average in that regard.

I use the Web Annoyances Ultralist[0]. Blocks basically everything except the header (non-sticky of course) and the text, which ends up as a nice centered column on a white background.


really cool thanks. the combination of uBO and NanoDefender is absolutely awesoome but I didn't have this Ultralist as part of my setup yet.

But what about claps? You can clap at the article.

And how about that highlight feature that often points out the corniest sentence in the whole article as the "top highlight".

But the ones who sent you those links would care. They want you to join the community, because of the network effects: having you there makes it more valuable to them. Each person there finds is more valuable because of the other people there, rather than just dropping by.

It's the same reason people have one Facebook page rather than thousands of small social networks. Even people who also participate in the smaller networks with a specific focus also have a Facebook page for their generic, lowest-common-denominator activity.

You may want to do nothing more with the Medium page than read it and leave, but they're going to keep pushing you do more than that. Despite the network effect there is still room for a few very broad social networks because they suit different communication styles. That's why Instagram exists. (It's also why Twitter exists; I can't figure out the merit there but its denizens seem to like it.)

Medium is one other such niche, for longer-form content. Or at least, they'd like it to be. It's not yet so big that the network effects are obvious, and that's why I don't have an account either. I was also very late to FB, and I still don't like it. But I'm there because the network effect of having all of my other friends there made it a thing I needed.

You can stay out of it forever, but you'll continue to get pressure to join until either it dies or you do.

> But the ones who sent you those links would care. They want you to join the community, because of the network effects: having you there makes it more valuable to them. Each person there finds is more valuable because of the other people there, rather than just dropping by.

I'm not sure your statement is 100% accurate. I know plenty of people who share a link just because it contains content worthy of reading. Sharing that content does not mean that you want others to join the community around it.

I am sure that other patterns of interaction happen on medium, but I know of no one for whom this isn’t their entire interaction with the service: it’s literally a hosting site that people are vaguely aware of because their modal has their name on it.

>I may be one of the folks not part of the Medium community.

The majority of people on earth are not part of the Medium community.

The problem is Medium still has a community of say a hundred million readers, and nothing else (which is a blogging aggregator) has a community just as large.

Same. Also, I’m less likely to see medium posts because I can’t subscribe via email or rss without making an account

Most comments I see about Medium tend to have this sentiment of "The service and tech suck, but the community and distribution are powerful."

In my very anecdotal experience, I've found that posting on Medium only gets me distribution if I choose to publish it on a popular publication; but does mostly nothing if only published on Medium. I have a Writer role on HackerNoon, which is one of the larger pubs on Medium. I also have about ~200 followers on Medium on my own account. I've found that when I post an article and publish on HackerNoon, I get a lot of reads and claps quickly. When I post one just under my own Medium account, it hardly gets anything. I'm not sure having someone "follow" you does much at all in surfacing your post. If my post is about a topic that is frequently searched (e.g. how to set up something on some Linux distro, etc.), eventually the SEO traffic starts flowing in and I get a clap every now and then. But that can be true of a blog hosted anywhere.

My experience as a publisher is the opposite. I feel like publication follows don't matter hardly at all. With 300k followers, we could still end up with an article that gets less than 1k views. However, an author's followers seem to matter a lot.

I think Medium barely has a community. I also think you're right when you say

> I find the discussion of HOW to get communities onto better platforms to be a more interesting topic than why the current platform sucks, especially when that platform doesn't even seem to listen to the criticism.

But you need to remember that's a very progressive position. Most friends I have are completely unaware that Medium has become a crap platform

>[Medium barely has a community]...

Define barely. With all due and sincere respect, have you ever tried to build an audience or community from zero without partners, a leverage point, or an ad budget?

Even getting a quality audience of thousands is non-trivial or costs money or needs a clever strategy.

It reminds me of when people say, "I have an idea for a startup but I'm worried about people stealing it."

I try to explain, look, unless you're John Carmack or are we'll known for certain expertise, or have a track record, likely you can post your idea publicly on your blog and no one will ever copy it, even if it's a decent concept.

It's a rough analogy, but the point is people just don't care about things as much as we might think, unless they have a good reason to (like it's Carmack's new startup).

Not the person you're replying to but...

> With all due and sincere respect, have you ever tried to build an audience or community from zero without partners, a leverage point, or an ad budget?


> Even getting a quality audience of thousands is non-trivial or costs money or needs a clever strategy.

That hasn't been my experience. I started with a blog. Then I wrote a book which I published online a chapter at a time. Now I'm on a second book.

I'm at the point now where I'm lucky enough to have many more people read what I write than I ever expected. My first book has sold many many more copies in print, EPUB, and Kindle than I ever dreamed.

I don't think I had a clever strategy. I just put a ton of effort into writing things that people find valuable. I think the real problem many people suffer from is that they aren't trying to do that. They have mostly selfish goals around growing their brand or their business, and actually satisfying readers is merely a means to that end.

I certainly personally benefit much more than I ever expected from mt writing, but if I ever felt like a I wrote a thing that wasn't worth the time a reader spends reading it, I'd delete it in a heartbeat.

> I try to explain, look, unless you're John Carmack or are we'll known for certain expertise, or have a track record, likely you can post your idea publicly on your blog and no one will ever copy it, even if it's a decent concept.

You say that like it's a bad thing. I don't believe you need to be a celebrity or a world-renowned expert. (I'm neither.) But you do need to have something that's worth the reader's time if you want to have a lot of readers. Otherwise, how are you making the world better?

That being said, it's also totally fine to not have a lot of readers. Everyone starts somewhere and writing not-too-great things for a small number of readers is the first step on the path towards writing better things for more people. The Beatles did not play their first show to a sold out arena, and that's great, because they weren't that good then either.

Your audience naturally grows with your skills. That's the system working as intended.

>> [getting a quality audience of thousands of people is non-trivial, costs money, or needs a clever strategy]

>That hasn't been my experience...

It's kind of begging to differ with...yourself? There are some contradictions here.

You say you did it in part by writing books, yet typically writing books is considered non-trivial. If these books are trivial to write that doesn't make them bad. However, it could give the impression that on average writing a book is easy. Special cases withstanding, it is not easy.

>I just put a ton of effort into writing things

Putting in "tons of effort" is also generally not considered trivial. I guess you meant it required trivial skills, rather than a trivial amount of time. Great. However it still conflicts with your thesis because it means some part of this approach is not trivial, and these clarifications matter when the phrase tons of effort is used.

My point is, it can be very hard to build communities from scratch. Many people just can't do it, or can do it only after building the skillset over years of practice. Most pros avoid starting from scratch whenever possible, many accelerate the process through investment.

It sounds like you've managed to overcome a lot of obstacles with gumption, hard work, and some good intuition about the process. That's a nice accomplishment.

However for the purposes of those considering taking on the task, it's worth noting I can't see how it refutes anything I've said. I'm glad you were successful, and it seems you may have a knack for it. For others, I think it's useful to take care to not underestimate it.

Sorry, I guess I glossed over the "non-trivial" part on first read.

I certainly have put a lot of effort into this, but all of that effort went into the thing itself that the audience was consuming. It's not like I wanted an audience for X and then had to put non-trivial effort into Y. By analogy, bands makes much of their money from selling T-shirts, which is effort unrelated to making the music that people want to listen to.

I didn't spend a lot of time making T-shirts. I just made the best music I could and it turned out in my case to be sufficient.

As a separate point it's great just to hear your music got some traction, somewhere, doing something, most people can only dream of that.

If you ever feel like sharing with a link here, or an email if you want to keep it one on one, it would be welcome.

I see criticism of Medium's community as the engagement feels shallow vs. something that's more robust like Reddit

> Define barely. With all due and sincere respect, have you ever tried to build an audience or community from zero without partners, a leverage point, or an ad budget?

The Internet has been building communities from its inception. Medium has nothing on the average fan forum, IRC channel or even subreddit. They grow organically and if moderated properly, can last decades on zero budget.

But it also seems like you're not talking about actual communities, but about potential sales targets (ad budget? partners?).

The Internet hasn't built any communities. It's provided a fertile environment for people to create and grow them.

HTTP hasn't built any web services, people do that. Of course it true it sure does seem to have be conducive to allowing them to flourish, but having good soil, and having a skilled gardener growing something in it are distinct things.

Yes, countless communities have grown organically without someone explicitly planning, defining objectives, and thinking of these communities as important pieces of some business strategy.

Indeed, it didn't happen at all in the early days, and happens more and more now as it's become more obvious how much influence it can have on the success of certain businesses.

Your comment is a bit cynical. Thinking about a community as part of a business plan does not automatically mean exploiting people as sales targets, being at odds with respect for privacy, or other nefarious things than sometimes happen.

In fact it can be just as important to leverage the power of a strong community for a non-profit with altruistic goals. It's just a powerful new dynamic that has to be reckoned with like any other new phenomenon in tech and can be used for good or evil depending on what you stand for, just like most new innovations, or in this case an emergent social construct property of the Internet.

> I personally hate the modal that comes up every time if I'm not logged in and how much of my screen is take up by fixed bars.

Regarding this, you can block these UI elements using content blockers. I have used uBlock Origin to block these on my Safari Mac and AdGuard to block them on iOS. I am sure similar equivalents exist for other browsers too which you might use.

I shared a few examples on how to do that on a reddit post before:


Here's one for Medium specifically: https://www.reddit.com/r/ios/comments/av3jlw/i_figured_out_a...

> Regarding this, you can block these UI elements using content blockers.

Oh, wow, this is kind of a revelation to me, I can block the overlay, the bottom fixed banner and the top fixed header and suddenly even medium is a decent reading experience. Thanks for the tip, I'll be using it on other sites too!

Yep, I have been using it to block many things on different sites. On Youtube, I have blocked the "recommended" videos section for example.

I remember hosted Wordpress also had a community but without the [current, new] problems of Medium. I realize Wordpress isnt as slick as Medium, but genuinely curious -- why don't people use hosted Wordpress as an alternative given their community?

I think you answered your own question: because it isn't pretty. People like shiny stuff.

I would browse with Lynx if it got me to meaningful content reliably.

"Web design" seems to me to be a game of "will this flashy new widget/layout/whatchamacallit draw more attention?"


Finding a "non-suck' Medium is similar to some classic startup problems.

Medium's tech complexity and operating costs are low (relative to web apps with similar scale).

Totally agree the real problem is not technical, its reestablishing a community of significant size and quality, never an easy thing.

For things like this, I wonder if the HN community has the characteristics to be a rallying point to build the momentum/awareness needed for initiatives with enough interest.

I have no doubt HN folks could inspire (indeed, have inspired) enough to catalyze formidable technical initiatives.

But that's a different problem, tech can be willed into existence if a handful of the right people get interested. Harder to predict when it's possible for sheer force of will to give rise to a quality community.

Write.as and its self-hosted WriteFreely seems to be making some progress. They added ActivityPub support, so you even get the network effects.

There are quality platforms that have communities - see micro.blog, see news.indieweb.org, see my own directory to the modern web at href.cool. These are smaller communities - but they are all outside of the login walls, so there is a lot of crosstalk. There is even a strong community of TiddlyWiki users who congregate around philosopher.life. There are fantastic options out there, if you are able to shift your gaze away from the clickstreams.

I was recently thinking about why I've made any posts on Medium. I'm also going to launch a product soon and have been kicking around whether to create our own blog, use Medium, or use some other option. I think there are two main reasons I'm interested in Medium:

1. It's easy. Any self-hosted solution will more be up-front work. 2. Because other companies use it as their blog platform, it should still allow us to seem like "a real company" with minimal effort.

I haven't thought too deeply about it but this is my current "pro" list for using Medium as a person that will actually be faced with the choice soon.

I am also interested in medium for similar reasons but i am hesitant for 2 reasons:

- No access to google analytics tools (search console and analytics) - emails capture is more difficult. You can still embed widget but user has to opt in.

For both of you, I think you should also factor in the previous companies you're seeing originally also got the benefit of the Medium network effect and you won't.

With the switch to paywall focused incentives that went away. The value exchange for free articles is pretty minimal: easy and simple web hosting in exchange for letting them run "read next" links which are essentially ads for their subscription service. That's a huge step down from the old value exchange which had them also sending you readers and subscribers in exchange for giving them the opportunity to burn their own cash. IMO, the step down in value is severe, but also fair.

To get the readers and subscribers, you'd have to publish within their paywall. I don't think that makes sense at all for your main company blog. Easy and simple is good though, so maybe Medium still makes sense. It's just not as good of an option as it used to be.

However, I do think you could make the case that engineering blogs or other recruiting oriented efforts would benefit from focusing on distribution through cross posting or guest posting. I know the pubs that are focusing on Medium's subscribers would happily put an article from one of your engineers in front of as many subscribers as they could.

No. Medium does not have a community. Medium does absolutely nothing for generating views for 99% of bloggers.

My blog had a few hundred thousand views on Medium. Almost all of them came from HN or Reddit.

Communities supporting products that the community dislikes are like restaurants with a good location getting away with crappy food.

The product is only as good as it needs to be to serve the community -- if the community's stuck with it, then the product has no gravity pulling it to get better. That said, I happen to think Medium is just fine. The complaints in the article seem (a) to apply only to some uses, really and (b) fall into the "if you dislike it so much, make your own damn mousetrap" camp?

It's not a dead horse! 99.999999% of all Flutter tutorial content is on Medium, it seems!

Medium is NOT our community info-repository, but rather the Facebook of blogging, centralizing content further.

Until such a point that the international programming community ceases to centralize ALL INFO EVER on Medium.com we should beat this non-dead horse for all it's worth!

> HOW to get communities onto better platforms

Well, we had a pretty good platform that had one big community and it was called the internet.

Unfortunately the discoverability isn't that great and mostly ruled by one company (Google).

With blogs using Wordpress there was this thing called trackbacks and blogrolls. And you know... hyperlinks (I know, sick, right?) in the content itself pointing to related content. Sometimes, someone makes a blog post recommending things they read. And sometimes you find a link on a forum. The better, old web.

SEO is definitely a big part of this problem

I think "for profit company controlling the SE you're Oing for and changing things as they see best benefits them" is the bigger part of the problem though.

Creating your own blog will now result in you having to manage your own hosting and possibly even do some "development".

Blogger.com is still a thing, until Google kills it, but if you have your own domain name it’s not that much of a risk. You don’t have to manage anything.

You can still post links to all of the other popular forums.

Is there a city that doesn't suck? Do the most amazing cities in the world still suck? Maybe it's not possible to have something that attracts and sustains so many people connected to each other without sucking. I'm not sure if I whole necessarily agree with this or not. It's just a thought.

I would love to see Medium profiles untethered from the actual medium site itself.

I love that you can post on your "personal" page, another publisher and not need to make a new account.

Are there any solutions out there that let you keep a consistent profile across multiple blogs?

Yeah this feels like second wave hate where people post about it for the clicks

All the comments are the same too

Perfect! What can we do to make an alternative such as https://reader.booxia.com/ better?

I'm not sure it's about community. But I am sure we are beating a dead horse with all this Medium sucks posts.

We all know why. Everyone does. If they chose to use it, it's because they still feel its better than the alternative. I'm not really sure what else there is to be said at this point

I don't use Medium. But honestly, why do I care if anyone else does? Could someone maybe explain the negative to the world at large? There are thousands of low friction options to publish content on the web. I'm not really too scared of Medium forcing anyone into something they do not want to do.

Some good points here.

The removal of custom domains is unfortunate.

I wish they'd put that back in.

> You are going to get more people to see your post if you put it on Medium. You are going to get more "friends" if you are on Facebook. You are going to interact with more people if you are on Twitter.

That's the whole point of the POSSE concept pushed by the IndieWeb people. By all means syndicate your shit on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, etc -- but post it on your own website first.

If you don't have your own website, you're nothing but a digital sharecropper. Ask right-wing YouTubers how that's working out for them and you'll find their answers instructive once you get past the butthurt.

I think Medium is great.

I pitched an article to an online magazine, about UBI. They said they ran one too recently, so I figured I'd self publish. I could have put it on my site, read by zero people, but I figured a medium.com URL would get farther wherever I submitted it.

I was right, but not only that, the Medium twitter account tweeted my article, and Medium asked if they could edit it and make an audio version.

Many interesting things came of this signal boosting. People started emailing me from weird places, like economics professors and government researchers, including one guy at the World Bank. I was invited into a secret slack that I'm still part of today (unfortunately most of the good internet is going the way of non-public places, but that's another topic). The net result of one article they boosted has been meeting a lot of people who are now my friends, two years on. Kind of amazing in retrospect. Medium's boosting also allowed me to gather enough Twitter followers to feel like its a useful platform, in a sense unlocking "my own" audience.

None of this would have happened if I self hosted. About these issues of canonical URL, why would I care? If I self hosted almost no one would have read it. I am more interested in reading and writing than I am in canonical URLs or a small bar on my screen. I suppose its unfortunate if it annoys 90% of my readers, but that's a lot better than no readers.

So thanks Medium.

(my only nit is that their editors changed some of my language to be more snarky, so I would not let them edit again)

That sounds like a great outcome, but it's predicated on having been hand selected by Medium to share your specific story. 99% of posts won't get that same treatment. Would your outcomes have been similar without that boost? That is, just by posting on Medium, would you have achieved a reasonable level of reach otherwise?

We cannot know of course, there is no Twin Earth where Taylor Swift is president, nobody likes pizza, and I or Medium had done things differently. I can only ponder the odds of my personal blog becoming popular vs a story on Medium becoming popular. Both may be very small, but it should be clear that the odds are still greater in the Medium route.

Tags allow visibility to people perusing topics on Medium, or getting emails about those topics. The SEO boost is clearly greater, and Medium is unlikely to go down if a flood of traffic arrives. And the possibility of "editors pick/best of" etc is obviously greater, since it exists at all. And besides, since I am not famous, leveraging a famous domain lends enough credibility for more people at the margins to read what I wish to say.

So my particular outcome aside, I think it good advice for any internet rando, including myself, to leverage the power of such a platform while the benefits seem nonzero. Though I understand people's reservations (such as this article!), they seem overstated or else to ignore completely the clear advantages, even if they are only potential advantages.

99% of posts don't deserve that treatment!

I'd love to read your article about UBI - what's the link?

Saving this. So many people follow the "happy path" when talking about UBI and never mention the what ifs or the hard decisions we'd have to make if it was implemented to prevent gaming (such as, "sorry you spent it all on drugs this month? You don't get any more, including money for food.").

Great article.

This is why I am a big fan of POSSE[0] which is an abbreviation for Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere, a content publishing model that starts with posting content on your own domain first, then syndicating out copies to 3rd party services with permashortlinks back to the original on your site.

[0] https://indieweb.org/POSSE

Also worth reading:



a.k.a. decentralization

a.k.a. the web, to be fair. Major siloes were a later development.

This is a very cool concept.

So like RSS?

You need look no further than Ev Williams' opinions on the future of the web to understand why it sucks:

"The idea won’t be to start a website. That will be dead. The individual website won’t matter. The Internet is not going to be about billions of people going to millions of websites. It will be about getting it from centralized websites."


This is pretty much what supermarkets did to the high street in the 20th century and I fully expect it to happen to the web in the 21st.

I have a votum separatum.

I think it is lovely that Medium charges people directly, instead of:

- selling data

- spamming with adverts

What else do you expect? (I'm flabbergasted that most people prefer shady ways to get revenue... and then criticize it as well. Even here. Let's PAY for social networks and services. And let's finally acknowledge that the "free" model is more than often tricky/shady or at least - not sustainable.)

I know SEO and visibility is high on Medium.

I'm still a bit amazed that so many people, many of them who aren't short on visibility, chose to host their content on that site.

Most of it i would have rather read on someone's personal site as IMO that adds a lot of character and context.

Every personal site I've ever seen looks worse than Medium. I don't want the "character" of a slightly different UI every time, I want the interface to get out of my way so that I can get on with reading the actual content. Medium does that (yes, subject to logging in, but you can do that once and forget about it).

Different strokes for different folks I suppose, but rarely have I seen a personal site with a UI as obnoxious as Medium, I won't even click medium links on HN unless the content looks tremendously interesting. Especially as on most personal blogs if I'm only reading the linked article I don't have to engage with any of the UI, whereas with medium I have to dismiss the annoying modal dialogs.

On a related note, this is why when I search for a person, film, or other thing, I'll take the Wikipedia result every time over IMDB or some top ranking site. With Wikipedia, I know how the information will be formatted so I can find what I need quickly.

Man and I've never found much to like with the layout of Medium. The text is nice and big and that's about it. It gets as messy as any personal blog IMO.

Firefox's reader mode does exactly what you looking for.

When it works. It's still an extra click even then.

Safari can defaut to reader mode for some sites. I would assume the same is possible with Firefox.

Still far far better than dealing with all of Medium's formatting and site practices.

Creating an account for a site that doesn't respect its users so that the nagging disappears?

Man the internet must suck for that sentence to exist.

> Most of it i would have rather read on someone's personal site as IMO that adds a lot of character and context.

And there are probably LOTS of people who don't care. Feels like folks on HN miss this important point.

Hosting content there is okay as long as you put your own domain on it. The migrating away from it won't cause too much problem if some trouble rises.

They are specifically making that process harder and harder. That's partly why HackerNoon left

And where are they now, HackerNoon? Growing a team and scamming investors?

The custom domain feature doesn't exist anymore.

I think its because of the ease of startup -- its essentially a good looking by default blog (as long as you ignore the paywalls, newsletter signups, "Join Medium" popups" etc) that is free and takes like a minute to get started with.

So people join, start publishing then realize its too much work to switch so they just continue using it.

It's true, Medium sucks. What is more pathetic is that we are even here with a Medium to complain about. What part of the 1995 World Wide Web tech is insufficient to deliver a page of legible text and possibly some images? Why on earth is there even a gatekeeper on such? Hosting costs for such are as low as it can get. We have digressed to a level of decadence Geocities could never even hope to achieve. This is MySpace 2.0 dumb. What the actual heck?

I don't think we need a centralised publishing platform like Medium ever again. Anyone can create a blog for free using Wordpress. RSS feeds are amazing and it can easily serve the job of subscribing to these blogs. Look at the podcasting community for example. It's built on top of RSS feeds and it is thriving. Nobody needs a Medium.com in Podcasting world. What we need in the blogging world are more platforms and apps that are built on top of RSS feeds. Better RSS readers. Platforms that makes it easier to easily find and subscribe to blogs using RSS. Platforms that brings audience to self hosted blogs.

Well decentralization is mostly a sham in its current state. You think people will care about Block.One's Voice app? Steemit more or less died. Hacker Noon got greedy. Wordpress blogs are dead.

Wordpress blogs are not dead. 30% of websites are WordPress.

Are you sure it's not your reading habits that have changed? For example, I wake up and check my RSS reader (feedbin) where I subscribe to hundreds of individual blogs (many powered by WordPress). Actually this article was in my feed because I subscribe to HN RSS with a "Blog" keyword filter!

I don't have numbers but my anecdotal experience is that more blog articles I read are on WP blogs than not. Ghost is probably the other major platform I see along with static site generators.

Since you mentioned you read 100s of individual blogs what do you think of https://diff.blog. Its a side project that I have been working for a while. Do you see yourselves using something like this?

Here's the Dev.to piece on the FCC section that the author is talking about. I wouldn't take FCC's public posturing uncritically as it appears they stole a lot of people's articles on the way off of Medium and ruined a lot of author's SEO in the process. https://dev.to/ben/i-m-concerned-with-the-move-that-freecode...

Must be a slow HN day if we've got another post about Medium

Yeah it's getting to be "a bit much" with the volume of such articles.

So I have been putting together a way for people to more easily make their own blogging platform. It would kind of mimic a blog or social media platform, but since everything is committed to a repository using the JAMstack it could easily be converted to a full website or in your case you could simply delete the repository or any number of your posts because they are just files in your repository. Any feedback would be wonderful. https://your-media.netlify.com/post/make-your-own-media/ Everything is owned by the end user. This is only providing a recipe for people to use. I will also mention that https://www.stackbit.com/ is doing basically the same thing but more from a “Make life easier for Website designers” perspective.

My theory is that the aggressive business practices and dark patterns are a sign of desperation in the face of a failing business model. Nobody wants the paywall, so authors don't put posts behind the paywall (most of them don't even blog to make money, they do it for publicity or for fun). You might sympathize with Medium here: they're hosting all this content for free and nobody wants to give them the money to pay their hosting costs!

But here's the thing: those hosting costs only become significant when they are centralized on a platform like Medium. If I want to go start my own blog site, I can set it up without any coding and host it for single-digit dollars a month. If most authors are blogging simply because they want to, they won't have a problem with paying that nominal fee, and suddenly huge server costs are spread out to the point that they become trivial. Medium is trying to solve a problem that didn't exist. That's why it's sinking.

Reasonable in theory, but in practice subscribers have gone up and that's evident in the payout to authors. Also, in the vacuum of HN & FCC leaving Medium, I had no problem launching a programming pub focused on the subscriber program, finding authors (212 in the first 40 days), and readers (now hitting 25k views/day).

What's sort of lost in all of this discussion is the point of the subscriber program. The point is to higher quality articles to people who care about quality. A programmer's hourly rate is well above three figures, why would you waste your time reading low quality articles? Because sometimes they're the best available. But it doesn't have to be that way.

I agree with the author: It sucks. But so does white font on a blue background, since we’re also talking about readability. At least they got that right!

Are you dissing Word Perfect and edit for DOS?

No, those are mostly fine, but a blog has different requirements than a text editor. I just find it a bit hard to read, because for example bright pictures really stand out, and I think he’s using different shades of white (or grey) for the font in different elements (like a paragraph or a quote).

I just discovered that it’s possible to switch to a light theme, which is much more readable. Still would’ve preferred a nice serif font, though.

Yep, it was a comment in jest.

I use the readability button and "Dark Background/Light text" on Firefox when things get a bit too wild and bright for me.


> Let's start with something simple, like syntax highlighting.

I built a syntax highlighter, Shiki, that allows you to use any theme from VS Code to color your code [0]. It works great with Node now as a static website generator plugin, but with some effort you can run it all in client side as well. TypeScript's new handbook is using Shiki [1].

I can't really believe how it's 2019 and Medium and Slack still can't syntax highlight code snippets.

[0]: http://shiki.matsu.io/

[1]: https://microsoft.github.io/TypeScript-New-Handbook/chapters...

Syntax highlighting add any information tho, without it it's easier to bring focus to elements that matter with emphasis.

“There are also a few Medium alternatives out there. I personally post my blog to Dev.to (which you might be reading this on right now) as they support the features I need to control my own content. As a product guy, there are definitely some UI changes I would make, but the overall experience is much better than Medium.”

Is Dev.to a developer focused medium? It looks really slick! Could it be a future Hugo and Medium replacement for developers personal websites/blogs?

Dev.to is great. It's part of why I don't understand the point of FCC and HN leaving Medium. Why try to be the go-to independent platform for programming articles when Dev.to is already doing it so well.

Medium publisher here (I run three pubs behind the paywall). I'd love for people to just start considering Medium a paid service like Netflix or the NYTimes. Medium and the NYT offer monthly samples and Netflix doesn't. That's why you end up hitting the modal so often for NYT/Medium.

I think there's a bigger point though which is just "Does Medium have articles yet that are worth $5/month?"

It would be totally reasonable to answer no. But every month they spend more money on authors. And, you don't see this, they are also ramping up spending on editors.

On programming topics, a lot of articles are finally getting a stricter editorial curation and even going through copy edit. Even though I'm involved in editing some of these programming articles, I don't think it'll be enough editorial in the end. I think programming articles should also go through a tech review where the code actually gets tested.

I'm hopeful, based on the growth of the programming publication that we'll be able to afford tech reviewers at least by the end of the year. So maybe if it's not worth $5 now, it'll be worth $5 later.

Can anyone explain how Medium got to be so big, despite its drawbacks?

I mean, it wasn't launched that long ago, and it's not like blogging platforms were rare then. Was it the curation/discovery aspect? Or something else?

When it started it wasn't annoying at all, and is even lower-friction for a blog than github pages. However, they don't have enough of a draw to justify the annoyances/pay wall, and larger blogs leaving will make their value proposition even worse. It isn't that hard/expensive to setup a blog with a static generator like Jekyll or Hugo, the hardest part is migrating off of medium. They do have good SEO, but with freecodecamp & hackernoon leaving I would imagine they will start dropping in rankings.

Edit: For folks who want WYSIWYG editing, even something like the tools namecheap provides or hosted WordPress are very viable options as well, since not everyone will be comfortable with a static site generator.

Also forestry.io is a pretty good free backend for a static site with WYSIWYG editing.

From what I remember it wasn't too bad at the beginning. It was a clean layout and easy to read. That has now been polluted with sign up modals and toolbars.

I assume from a content producing side it was easier to not deal with hosting, scaling, etc.

They spent quite a lot of money building it out - you can buy a lot with a ton of devs, designers, marketing, being at the centre of the zeitgeist helped by insider founders.

Any Googlers from the search team reading this:

Just downrank medium.com. This is the actual problem with Medium.

The content on medium is ok but does rarely match the search ranking it has.

It only there were some kind of system self hosted blogs could use... that you could use an app or site to subscribe to... Like a Really Simple Syndication or something like that. You could pop open your app, and get through all the new posts from everyone you follow really quickly.

Nah, Medium and google's fast republishing proxy thingy are so much better.

Medium actually works great if you just block all their cookies. This fixes most "news" and publishing sites.

For me it's about too many eye candies there, I really just want simple text with pictures only when it is absolutely necessary.

that probably explains why I like HN, simple and brief, it might not be the most impressive UI when you started to use it, but it works well for the long term.

Until such a time that I don't find ALL programming info on Medium.com or it's subsites I will continue to decry this increasing centralization of content.

The web is our tool for liberation and this is a subversion of the very principles that the web was founded upon.

What would be the easiest, most inexpensive way to host a blog with code support today?

Netlify (free) + and static site builder. My blog (the one this article is on) was built with Gridsome (uses Vue.js). I personally like it a lot.

Other options are, Jekyll, Gatsby, Hugo and many more. Netlify will make any of those free.

What do you mean by "with code support"?

Probably syntax highlighting, as discussed in the article

You can host on Github Pages for free using Jekyll, which supports Syntax Highlighting of code snippets. You can buy your own domain name and point it to your gh pages site.

Oh brother. An alternative take on that criticism is that FCC pulled off a huge copyright heist: https://dev.to/ben/i-m-concerned-with-the-move-that-freecode...

I'm pretty sure that what FCC calls extortion was actually just the end of a free ride. Based on what I know of the ecosystem and the offer that was made to me as a publisher, I think the content of the Medium's approach would have been along these lines:

"For the past several years, you've been getting a free ride where we gave free hosting, free traffic, free readers and created a situation where most programming authors on our platform looked to you as the first place to publish, i.e. you got free authors. That free ride is over. We think you have these options:

A) We have pivoted to a subscription business. Do you want to pivot with us and publish within our paywall? If so, we'll continue giving you readers and authors, along with an editorial budget and a page-view based performance bonus. Also we'll start paying your authors out of our end.

B) Stay on our free platform. You'll still get the benefit of the SEO traffic from the articles you've already published and you can continue to publish as much as you want. We won't algorithmically promote your articles though and that will probably mean that fewer authors will choose you as their publisher.

C) You can leave. The problem with leaving though is that you don't own the copyright to any of the articles in your publication or your subscribers. So you can ask your current readers and authors to move with you, but on the surface it looks like this will cost you quite a bit of traffic."

I'm not sure about FCC's actual numbers, but I imagine the option A would have paid $20-50k/month in "profit" after costs of editing, authors, etc. It also would have significantly improved the quality of the articles. Not that the articles were bad, but a bigger editorial budget would have made them even better.

What it looks like FCC actually did was option D. Copy all of the articles in their pub (clear copyright infringement), taking a few million views per month in SEO traffic and then basically dare Medium to sue them. But Medium doesn't have standing because they don't own these copyrights either, so Medium's not doing anything. Instead, it's up to about 1k FCC authors who each individually are having to decide whether to take legal action (usually a DMCA complaint to FCC's hosting provider) or jump through FCC's hoops. FCC didn't even auto-create accounts for the authors, so in order to reclaim control of their article authors are having to either get on the phone with FCC or go through Twitter DM. However, if the author does that work, it does appear that FCC is willing to delete the article and/or give control back to the author.

I see a lot of places where tech people call what Medium did above "pulling the rug" or "bait and switch." I'm always shocked to hear this from tech people.

We know how startups work. A pre-revenue company is by definition going to pivot to a business model or go bankrupt (or often both). I think it's a bad look to act entitled to that pre-revenue period lasting forever. And certainly, it's disingenuous to act surprised.

Then too, if you are an entrepreneur building a partnership with a pre-revenue company, you have to understand that that partnership is not stable. I'd consider it a first principle of business partnerships that both sides need to make money.

So, in the old days when Medium was hemorrhaging cash, that is by definition an unstable partnership. Of course it's going to change.

To me, for the first time ever, Medium is now a stable company to partner with because you basically know what their actual incentives are.

Does Medium support exporting publication? I can export my posts but does not appear the entire publication can be exported or has API support. If anyone have looked into it, appreciate the tips.

Relatively easy to crawl. I did HTML -> Turndown (.md) -> Ghost.

One thing that is really nice thou is the typography they have chosen to set on. Most blogs fail at this imo (to a lesser or ocasionally to a disastrous degree).

My only problem with Medium are rehosted "personal blog" junk domains. Otherwise uBlock would work without any additional effort.

As a reader, I find it slow and cluttered. It may have advantages for publishers, but I only open Medium links when strictly necessary.

Well, at least this one isn't hosted on Medium itself - like the previous one with the exact same title..

If you want to target Medium users, Medium is the best place to publish.

Anybody is still using WordPress? From the picture left on top of my head, WP is/was a good option.

I don't want to violate the Prime Directive, but quoting from $that_site: "The idea that someone could just rent space in a colocation facility, install a web server, and start posting information onto the internet is, sadly, one hundred percent impossible, and can never happen."

So we have to go to Medium to publish. Not even Wordpress.com. (gasps) Blogspot!

"That site" == n-gate.

There's an even major problem which the author hasn't mentioned. But I can understand if perhaps the author hasn't experienced it.

Medium embraces censorship. Medium has a content policy that's allows it to take sides. For example, Medium is very pro towards certain topics and anti against some. Eg. writing anything anti-feminism will get your account banned (even if presented with logical arguments, stats and facts). Medium will ban you for some dumb reason if you write anything pro-white people, Trump, Taiwan and sometimes Hongkong.

I know this because my friend wrote a stellar piece about a professor who openly expressed hatred towards males and who held a senior position in a university [1] and her account was banned the very next day.

To me, this seems like a strategy for Medium to become profitable by controlling/swaying people's opinions which is a much larger business than hosting blog content.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-cant-we-hate-men...

Medium is also blocked in China. Meaning 1.4B people can’t access your content.

Medium peaked a couple years ago, with many startups leveraging the audience and using it as a blog. I suppose their pivot into aggressive growth + monetization has lost them some really important publications. Arguably, hackernoon and freecodecamp were some of the most popular publications.

By removing the 'free' aspect of the content, medium effectively put itself in the same bucket as other platforms.

I also don't like medium's UX, especially the highlighting feature. It is really distracting.

It'd be cool to have a central store where users can publish content without worrying about uptime, paywalls or anything as such.

I think a lot of people fantasise about a better, more open Medium, and I'm surprised it doesn't exist.

Github does a fantastic job of hosting code and keeping people happy (generally). It's generous to individuals and has a good business model. It would be great to have a place to host my content which is as friendly as github.

I think cloning Medium wouldn't be horribly difficult. It might even be a good medium (hue hue) term project for a solo dev. Perhaps I'm grossly underestimating the work; perhaps it already exists; or perhaps I've just found something to keep me busy over the summer!

The author says paywalls are not the problem but as a reader I don't understand why the autors have to ask for those high prices. The articles you can find in Medium are well written but they aren't scientific articles, with a lot of resourses and time invested to find some data. And the way I find those articles are more like a coincidence than a specific search for economic purposes. I think internet is changing abruptly because of an unsustainable ambition, we are turning all interactions into transactions.

Jupyter Notebook based blog site?

I also think this this a great idea. I'm making https://epiphany.pub , a mixture of medium.com + Jupyter notebook.

I honestly haven't read more than three articles since most of their content went behind a paywall when I used to read one or two a day.

I wasn't aware that the publisher got to choose if they wanted to put up a paywall or not.

Just add it your site blocklist and life will be better.

I'm allergic to paywalls.

While I can't fault their capitalism, life is just too short. There isn't ANY lack of diversion elsewhere, for example, here.

I'ts all the white space.

Too much form over function surprisingly gets in the way.

I really like the whitespace. Very Donald Knuth.

Yes making $5,000 US when you live in Canada really sucks, I got to admit. Paywalls are everywhere now in Media, that's just the new reality. That any coding writer or personal essayist can make $ supports creators and real people.

What if the bro-culture of coders is an echo bubble that doesn't even understand what Medium has become?

So you guys are going to create your own paywalled walled garden for coding content? What's your solution even.


Are ads > paywalls?

When a platform let you choose between Scylla and Charybdis, avoid the platform.

It must be doing something right otherwise why spend the time writing a thousand words about how bad it is? If it were truly bad it would just fade into obscurity

People spilled gallons of ink about the Nationalist Socialist party. Something gets written about because it is relevant, not because it is good.

It seems to me that only a few people care. Most people would prefer to read articles without paywalls and ads. However, between reading an article for free(with ads, paywall) or paying a monthly subscription, it seems people prefer the first option.

I get your point but this is a really bad way to raise it.

The ethos behind Medium is one of openness and democracy—like the Internet itself. Evan Williams. https://medium.com/@ev/what-were-trying-to-do-with-medium-e2... He is chan/rging the world.

Evan did you downvote ?

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