I don't like the direction where the Web is currently heading. Shutting down open APIs, forcing users to use the one and only official app (Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Reddit's starting to do so more and more), ubiquitous tracking, aggressive ad targeting and so on.
How can we - users, programmers, hackers - fight this?
This won't work for individuals, in general, because writing good software is hard. Even if you rely heavily on 3rd party libraries like Jekyll, you still have to know how to pick those libraries, and how to use them, how to deploy them.
Personally, I think it's cool that Capital is willing to get into the fray, even though it so often ends badly. Often it does contribute something, even if it dies. People get mad at Google for axing projects, like Reader, but why? Consider all the market validation they did, for you, for me, for free. Consider all the product design work they did, for all of us, for free.
I don't even think it's bad that devs at Medium are, almost by definition, currently working on nothing but anti-features. It's just part of the Capital-driven software lifecycle, and they are feeding their families, and learning a lot. I can't even hate the managers who made unethical product decisions, because it was always going to be that way, and better to participate in the Capital driven software lifecycle and contribute something then to never have participated at all.
There are amazing, sustainable, ethical, Capital-driven software ideas still waiting to be done, and that couldn't be done without Capital's involvement, but clearly that's not Medium and its ilk. But as Medium declines and eventually dies, remember that this is the fate that waits for every project, no matter how successful, and they leave behind valuable information for us.
Right now, the VCs behind Medium are doing the world an amazing service. They're going to see almost no return on investment, but why would any of us "normal people" care about that? Its their money they're wasting. They're paying employees, probably a great wage. Probably providing a ton of benefits to attract talent, including lots of options, great insurance, snacks in the office, unlimited PTO. They're producing a product that is actively teaching competitors like write.as and ghost what Not To Do. I'd bet even most of their employees hate the direction they're going, which means they're learning as well.
I have a feeling that their intent wasn't to do it for free. What happened is that they couldn't gather enough information about their users to turn a profit. Yes, that's what capital does, but the end result was not free for any of its users - they gave up personal data to use it.
Leaving information so far :
Not sure, but self-hosting was ( is ) the only way for me to sleep safe.
This statement makes me so angry with Medium's corporate communications. It makes total sense to me that you'd think this, but I also think it's dead wrong.
The problem is that Medium is not clear that they've just straight up changed. So it's not that they are the big free open platform they used to be with an annoying "upgrade to pro" ad model on top of that.
Rather, Medium is primarily a subscription service. Even though they aren't saying this, it's best to think of them as an open-platform version of Netflix where anyone could post an episode or show and get paid for it.
That switch came with a switch in their incentive structure. The incentives for posting on Medium used to be that Medium will bring in a lot of traffic from their network. But they now limit that to articles that are published inside their subscription service. So there's not really any reason to post outside of their subscription service.
This is what I think you're experiencing: the free, non-paywalled portions of Medium are dying because the incentives for publishing went away and the aggressiveness at advertising their actual product (subscribe for, they hope, great content) has become more aggressive.
Meanwhile, while the experience that ElementaryOS was using Medium for is dying, there's a new experience that's quite good and I think plays a nice balancing role in the overall Internet ecosystem. Medium is making a place that rewards quality writing, tries to eliminate writing for the purpose of marketing, and is pouring money into authors and editors so that they can invest more quality into their articles.
Can you explain this a little? I don't see much evidence that Medium rewards quality - unless you consider popularity to be a proxy for quality, which we've all learned, painfully, is false. Certainly Medium doesn't offer traditional publisher-style quality improvement services like copy-editing, editing, etc. So I'm curious what you mean.
It's also not clear to me how they dissuade "writing for the purpose of marketing" - plenty of people seem to use Medium as a straight-up content marketing platform, e.g. consultants with newsletters driving people into their funnel, and they want a URL to park their content, for bookmarks, and a place for shared responses.
If Medium actually did these two things, I'd say that they were indeed doing valuable service. But it feels a little like the difference between ideal and real value proposition that the Google Play Store and Apples App Store have: theoretically those walled gardens can enforce higher quality, safer software for end users, and lower friction to revenue for devs, but in reality, devs pay a straight 30% of revenue for that low purchase friction, and whatever illusion of value the platform can plant in users minds with good marketing and PR.
Maybe you are saying that Medium can, rather than improve actual quality, build a reputation for focusing on quality. Then writers can enjoy a similar halo effect as devs on the App Store? It's probably worth trying, from Capital's perspective, but not from mine, because I care more about innovative product design (which Medium has, in abundance) than rehashing a well-worn, slightly devious, business strategy.
Here's what I can see them doing.
1. You can't get distributed by their algorithm if your article has blatant sales or a call to action.
This removes the incentives for a lot of content marketers. Medium literally has a human read and filter every article behind their paywall. That's thousands of articles every day. It's not very sophisticated, but it's good enough to push back on most of the marketing pieces.
2. Medium's promotion algorithm relies heavily on their Topic feature and topics are all manually curated by editors.
Topics, i.e. Programming, Data Science, etc, trigger most of Medium's distribution paths. They get an article promoted to people in the app and they get the article in the mix to be promoted over email.
3. Medium's Owned & Operated pubs (their term for their internally run ones) do very heavy story edits.
A copy edit is when you do light grammar and spelling and occasionally wording changes. But a story edit goes much deeper often taking several hours. Many of these articles are original commissioned pieces, but I know Medium often "elevates" (their term) an article from the general platform. Here's an example of how deeply an elevated article gets edited:
4. Medium is increasingly paying for copy editing
I run two publications that do copy edits. They are my copy editors, but are paid for by Medium. These pubs are community aggregators, i.e. they publish a lot. I think there's some value in this even though I know the highest quality articles require a lot more time and editing. Anyway, we copy edit about 500 articles a month.
5. Medium is experimenting with paying for external story editors.
I think my original pub, Better Humans, is the only partner publication they have that gets paid to do a story editor. We have someone with subject matter expertise spend 4-5 hours on each piece reading each sentence for "is this true?" and "could someone follow this advice?" And we do all the normal editing things like sending a piece back for revisions.
In sum, I think Medium is trying to have it both ways.
One way is a high volume of "better than the rest of the internet" content. That's how my two new pubs operate. We just want to clean them up and filter out the worst ulterior marketing motives. But we are definitely volume first.
And then in a different dimension, they want to have prestige publications that feel must-read. I think this dimension is much harder, but it looks like they'll get there. (And I know they want to).
As someone who by principle wont ever pay that subscription, my experience is quite the contrary having all those metrics you say, going to the shit, starting from quality content...
Maybe some great articles get hidden behind the paywall but mostly to me it seems all low-quality click-bait shit now, and on top of it they put the modals and stuff...
I feel like most of the examples of this are the other way around: Great Thing is built without a lot of capital (other than a bit to get started, if even that), then gets a bit of traction, and then Captial comes in and the demands for increased ever revenue starts, even if it might not lead to profits.
We really need to have a concept of a sustainable startup, not just "hyper-scale or bust". That is what normal people call a "business".
By doing exactly what ElementaryOS did here: stop using these platforms. And if you have to use them (as a user), try to use them in the most open way possible: Never via a dedicated app, preferably via RSS or similar for the platforms where it is suitable and where it is supported (like youtube).
There's none of that nonsense on those open source platforms.
An aside: Tumblr isn't hostile like Medium is. At least not last I used it. I prefer seeing Tumblr to medium you can really just do any kind of blog you want whether it's a meme feed, or some serious blogging.
Edit: Forgot to add, also Tumblr lets you optionally advertise to non-logged in users to join Tumblr, and it's not a modal, just a button on the top right hand corner where the "Follow" button shows up to logged in users, or you can hide it entirely.
That’s why they don’t have such problems – but this is also they reason most people don’t care about them.
Then you've got projects like Mastodon, and specs like ActivityStreams that have not been adopted by Ghost or WordPress yet, but there's no reason plugins can't be made, these would add a social element to these blogging platforms and turn them into federated blogging platforms. This is just a side thought, but it's not impossible for WordPress and Ghost to get there. WordPress is used more than most realize.
OPs point stands though, as there is no platform like YouTube where you can easily discover similar content. wordpress.com is not really the place for that, either.
Medium still works like a charm, especially with JS turned off.
As engineers & designers, we need to stop being complicit and building this shit nor working for such awful companies. If the majority of engineers become ethical then companies like Facebook, Google, etc will have a hard time hiring people to do their dirty work.
I'd love an app where I could define companies, people and perhaps countries I don't want to pay so that I'm notified when browsing to a site, or scanning a product to buy so that my time and money could be invested elsewhere.
True but one step at a time in the right direction is all it takes for change. Say if I got shafted by Expedia. I would like to add them to my "do not buy" list and have their other brands (e.g. orbitz, travelocity etc) added to the do not buy list. Could make it social so that if my sister got shafted by some company I could see that too and opt for an alternative. There are often stories about unethical companies (Monsanto for example which is now owned by Bayer). I'd like to avoid them, but the burden of doing so prevents it. Lower that burden, provide alternatives and maybe over time we'd see improved ethics and accountability.
I’m not sure how else to keep track of everything you want to vote-with-your-wallet against.
I've witnessed the rise of the machines from a unique vantage point just across the y2k horizon which makes me uniquely qualified to describe the evolution of the so-called 'technology professional' born of the nexus of home-brew computing, video gaming, sci-fi and old corporatism -- the modern 'tech bro' if you will
I tell you for sure it's the attitude of the casually invested subtly egotistical tech pro intermingling with the traditional corporate stereotype that has brought us here and the only way out is to bootstrap ourselves out of the shadows and take over the system from the inside out by becoming sentient adults rather than code weaving pithicathropus. Our black monolith moment is way overdue
Uploaded into a public directory on a web server.
The other thing we could do is intentionally support good, honest indie makers over mega corps (but there is no guarantee they won't sell to mega corps).
We did this to ourselves through decades of equating personal wealth to community and social value.
Which is ironic given the economic purpose of hacker news.
The app should cost <20$ ( or be open sourced ) and it should have a huge eco-system of themes / plugins, including paid ones.
Sadly this app will never have an IPO or growth rate worth investing, but it will fix the problem ( for a while ).
Me included. I previously wanted to write an elaborate comment, but I should really focus more on productive endeavors.
Pardon the interruption -> close window.
As programmers we can refuse to implement such nagware. There's not much worker solidarity in our field so quitting is usually the only option if the company has made up their mind on the matter.
Overall I don't believe it can be stopped at this point. This process is called privatizing the commons and it will continue to happen to every common good as long as capitalism is the system which we work under.
Or install our mobile app and get more content, or signup and get more content we figured with our fancy algorithm for you.
Here's the thing, Medium never worked for me.
I had over ~300 followers and if I published something none of them would see it, no reaction, no visit, no read at all and I repeated the same thing over and over again with no luck.
I'd only get visits and reads on my articles when I shared the articles on social networks.
It seems your followers, real or fake don't matter are spammed with Medium algorithm to read "recommended" content.
I'm a developer, I like simple thing, but I don't like using static site generators to build a blog out of rst or md files and push to github etc.
I want a community around my blog, I wanna nice simple UI, a simple commenting solution, a place to upload my files and attach in posts optimized for web.
I simply had enough of it and created my own blogging platform, https://www.gonevis.com where I have my own blog https://alireza.gonevis.com
I'm done with weird platforms where things are shiny and promising until they're not.
The recommendation engine from technical point of view is not a rocket science, they're just simply trying to tune for maximum engagement even if it costs them repeated nonsense content you don't like which tbh defeats the purpose of "recommendation".
It seems there's not much of community in Medium. All viral articles are the ones that the author had a good influence over their twitter of facebook etc audience.
If you already have 10s thousands on your twitter follower list that you worked hard to find and bunch of people know you for some of your other work, no matter Medium or a static generated blog, your article will go hand to hand and viral in many cases.
i hate this. it's the same with youtube. if i "follow" an author, or "subscribe" to a channel, it's because i want that creator's content; not content by other creators related to the same topic.
I must say I don't get what unique value proposition Medium think they have that allows them to treat both publishers and readers like crap.
My take is that they had a unique value proposition at the beginning: "YouTube for text: audience and authors all at the same place, with recommendations and unified comment platform". But then it became apparent that they will not magically become profitable or bought, so they started with the crap.
The reason a lot of creators have bought into YouTube is 1) it's still expensive to host video elsewhere 2) there's constant noise around the earning potential (as misguided as it might be to listen to it).
Medium doesn't have the depth of content to become a destination wholly in and of itself as they don't have a critical mass of creation. All they needed to do was allow creators to make some decent cash, get a few wild "this author is earning a $1m a year, just on Medium!!11!1!1" stories into the mainstream, and suddenly you'll have an influx. Then, just don't be a complete arse to those creators and keep the cash pumping.
I don't really want more ads in the ether, but that would have been the most obvious way to juice it - have their own self-serve ad product from ad one, and the offer the options to remove down the line.
Instead, we get dialogue boxes.
It's easy for a story or two to go viral (as in, slightly easier than on other platforms). What's not easy is to retain that viewership. Similarly to YouTube, you could put weeks worth of effort into one article just for it to flunk spectacularly simply because the recommendation algorithm didn't like it in the first 12 hours or so since you've clicked "publish".
I think that when you want to write, you shouldn't need to mess up with tech details of your system. It's distracting. Of course I'd like a static website for deploying, but I'd love a web gui which acts as a frontend for such generators. I think that Prose was something similar but I found it buggy/not updated, while another saas I tried(Forestry, I think?) was good but you couldn't customize everything.
Ghost is my ultimate choice until an official, core-developers supported web gui is created for jekyll, hugo, or whatever static generator lies out there.
A better implementation would be: render all the markdown files in the repository and map README.md to index.html. Now you can create your own file structure, have your images with the article, and optionally add them to the RSS feed by adding a `published_at` in the frontmatter. Or even better use the git history to find out when it was added (and changed) in the repo. You get all the "admin" and rendering for free from GitHub.
I guess my point is that there is a lot of friction inherent to Jekyll's blog post publishing system. Since I adopted that other approach it's much easier for me. I love to only focus on the text and not worry about the rendering. And be able to edit it with my favourite text editor.
You can have the best of both worlds though. You can use gulp.js to build Jekyll friendly files coming from Ghost using the Ghost Content API: https://david.darn.es/tutorial/2019/08/11/use-ghost-with-jek...
It's extremely minimal, but I found that it's perfect for my needs. Sample blog: https://rwtxt.com/kevinfiol
That's why i finally settled for a Flat File CMS , in my case Grav . Like with hugo you get total control. And with most of them you get a single web interface to administrate the site, manage extensions and write blog entries. And you still have the possibility to git push everything on the dev server and git pull on prod, without managing a database. It's a dream.
They are not without problems though. You need to host your php site somewhere. Sometimes it's necessary to dive into php to fix some problems and creating something unique still takes some web skills (in contrary to wordpress for example).
We used to have that with MovableType and (less known) Bricolage.
Today there is Lektor (does it support Python 3?) and that's about it.
> Of course I'd like a static website for deploying, but I'd love a web gui which acts as a frontend for such generators.
If you want such a gui on your local machine you're not much more than a few commands away
npm i -g ghost-cli
ghost install local
* Medium policy changes and how they affected readers and authors
* The importance of "owning" your own posts
* Possible alternatives to medium
* Issues with CDN wrt privacy
* Issues with commenting services
* Use of custom fonts
* Sharing to social media without being privacy invasive
* Google AMP, and how Google strong arms you into using their tech
... and much more. Highly recommended!!
The popups, as mentioned in the linked article are annoying. As is the increase in the number of articles you have to pay to read. Not to mention the fact that the trolls have discovered Medium, and the quality of writing there has gone down (One article prominently linked was about how one needs to “ditch loyalty” to have a healthy relationship).
For my personal blog, https://samiam.org/blog, I use a homegrown CMS that makes static content I wrote using UNIX shell scripts, with a bit of Perl and PHP, about a decade ago. I updated it to use web fonts once those became viable about five years ago, and updated its color scheme based on my wife’s wishes after she passed away.
For reading stuff online, I have a subscript to the New York Times which keeps me up to date on the news; I also read articles linked to here (and I haven’t seen Hacker News link to a Medium article in a while).
I have tested it in Internet Explorer 5 and above, Opera 12 (the last version to use the Presto rendering engine before they moved on to WebKit), Dillo (depending on the version, it may need to have CSS disabled), Chrome, Firefox, Safari, you name it. It can be read by pretty much any browser that exists (the Unicode will look a little strange in stuff like Mosaic from 1994, but the site is still readable).
Why did IT-affine people (i.e. people who can easily manage their own installations or which can easily move to other hosters) use Medium in the first place? Maybe [because] they never used the platform without being logged in? Because that's where all the cruelity ("you already read your 3 free articles this month...") starts.
Almost nobody is writing anything 'just because'. They're writing because they want to be noticed, either as a "domain expert" or "thought leader", or simply as a stepping stone to a writing gig at HuffPo, Forbes.com, Inc.com, whatever replaced Gawker and the various pipelines of formulaic listicle generators out there that might pay a few pennies for the next "Elon Musk's top 10 secrets for Productivity" gruel.
But I was disappointed a little with some quirks with Jekyll. For example, I really needed to list blog posts in categories separately. Turns out there's no built-in way to do that with Jekyll, so I had to find a third-party plug-in to do that. Then there were some changes didn't trigger a rebuild with the local development server running, which I (eventually) realized required stopping the server, deleting the _build directory, and then restarting the server.
These things sound minor in hindsight, but they took a lot of time for me to figure out in the moment. "It's a static site...I picked a static site generator for simplicity!" I kept thinking, annoyed.
I chose Jekyll in particular because it's been around forever and expected it to have little things like this figured out, but was slightly disappointed.
Otherwise it's been good I guess.
For what it's worth, I will occasionally repost articles on my Medium account too, to take advantage of my following there, with the appropriate rel=canonical tag. No reason not to take advantage of it while it lasts.
The way I set it up was with tags but that's really no different than a category. For example if you click the #docker tag, you get back a bunch of posts I tagged with #docker. Each post has a `tags` item in its front matter where I can pass a list of strings (a post can belong in 1 or more tags).
It would be too much to type in here to cover everything but if you Google for things like "Jekyll filter posts by tag" you'll find a bunch of plugin-less examples.
What's neat is you can also define a custom page title / meta description for each tag's index page using nothing more than what's built into Jekyll.
Good on them for changing.
"In 2016, elementary moved to a Medium publication to host our official blog. At the time, Medium was touted as a simple, clean, and reader-focused host for writers. They supported custom domains, a robust API, RSS, rich formatting, and great image embedding. We had been largely happy with the experience—as were our readers—but something changed in 2017."
That's the very same thing Medium took people away with from self-hosted. Rinse and repeat?
This part is interesting. Assuming it isn't just polite PR-speak, what is Medium being applauded for, here? Trying to use user accounts openly and directly, instead of cookies and other tracking elements to track everyone? I've always thought of these Sign in prompts on Medium (and on Quora) as just an annoyance to get past, not a possible means to "ethical monetization somehow.
I know I'm going to be downvoted for this but I'll give it a try :-)
Can we please-please have a native dark theme for Hacker News? Without plugins, browser specific hacks or other gimmicks, just a simple "Light|Dark" option.
I even have a subscription, but will cancel it.
Whenever I click an article or watch a video, that must trigger such a strong certainty signal in their system that I then receive a lot (TOO MANY) related articles/videos as suggestions.
YouTube recently fixed that, but Medium has not. So I just don't click anymore. And I read a lot less on there.
I've long dreamed of a kind of Unsplash for news/text. Just don't have time/or care enough to do it, just would be great to have it available as a user.
Also, I always felt uncomfortable when reading a Medium post. It was always much more than a clear text that what I am interested.
I've seen Medium post links on various social media, clicked on them and read the articles (or got the paywall nag thing), but I never went beyond the articles to investigate what Medium itself was all about. Now - thanks to this article, and the comments it's generated on HN - I know everything I want to know about Medium, alongside some useful pointers for possible tools to set up my own static-site blog.
"Don't announce; just flounce" is often good advice for people who want the world to know what they're up to, just because they think they're important. But I'm happy to see people ignore that advice if they offer me a compelling backstory to go alongside their announcement.
The other reason to me, is that you lose your own brand since your editing options are limited in terms of fonts, colors, domains etc.
I wonder now, how many blogs will follow suit? I like a lot of the content on Medium, but I don’t like the platform. It’s positive (to me) to see others migrating off.
I, personally, eventually settled on Ghost, hosted on DigitalOcean. WordPress felt frustrating to work with and something like Jekyll just wasn’t “enough” for me. My day job is writing code all day, a platform that is just text editing in the browser is a nice relief.