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Andrew (R.S Admin) @ajroach42

I dislike the website medium, because they represent the lost promises of the web, and all that can be gained by siloing content.

I used to mirror my best blogposts over there. The medium posts for some of those still get hundreds of views a week. Sometimes my views on a single blogpost on medium will outstrip hits to my actual website in total over the same period.

That's fine, that's a testament to the need for curation. I'm all for curators and aggregators.

But Medium is parasitic.

· Web · 9 · 26

@ajroach42 Medium told me they'd pay me for writing and then didn't, fuck them.

@ajroach42 to be clear this was before they had mechanisms for paying writers like you describe, it was a handshake (email) arrangement that they bucked.

When I say they are parasitic, I mean that they can't exist without the labor of writers, to whom they deliver negative value.

They say "come write for us, we'll pay you"

And then you realize that, in order for them to pay you, they're going to 1) stick what you wrote behind a paywall artificially limiting the size of your audience, 2) silo your audience away from your distribution channels in to Their distribution channels, ensuring a steady stream of revenue for them, not you.

Think about it:

A post on your own website gets shared online and what happens? Some newsletter subscribers, some rss subscribers, some social media followers. AND people associating your name, your design, your layout, your presentation with that content.

What happens when they see the same post on medium? Some of the above (although, honestly, IME, less) BUT people associate MEDIUM with that content. They subscribed to you on MEDIUM. They respond to you on MEDIUM.

Syndicating to medium is, as far as I can tell, actively harmful.

@ajroach42 There are SEO benefits if you syndicate properly.

@estoricru I'm sure, I'm just concerned that the long term detriments will be worse than we've realized.

No judgement from me towards people who use the platform. All my judgement is towards the platform.

Now, I've said all that with a Cheery tone. It may not seem that way, but I am cheerful.

Here's why:

Nothing medium offers is exclusive to medium except lock in and an unwanted paywall.

We can liberate ourselves and one another from medium.

I'm working on a thing. It's basically just some instructions and a little glue to sit between existing software to make it really easy for people to blog, see one another's blogs, and aggregate stuff (with or without dedicated hosting.)

I've got to go to a meeting, I'll update more later.

@ajroach42 Every iteration of an idea related to this ends with RSS, which kinda sucks because it leaves little room for movement when it comes to mainstream sites. Perhaps a combination of RSS+Wallabag

I'm excited to see what you're coming up with

@brandon

What do you mean by leaves little room for movement when it comes to mainstream sites?

@ajroach42 Sorry, I misspoke. I meant that many of the mainstream blogs/news sites have truncated RSS feeds which makes for a poor RSS experience. One of the few ways to combat that is to use an article/post parser like Wallabag offers

@ajroach42 I think the movement part came from the idea that one would try to convince one of these sites to change their mind about RSS entry truncation

Okay, coming back to this.

Medium provides several things that make life easier for people publishing on the platform:
- built in readers/promotion (allegedly)
- Easy interface
- No software to maintain
- Free for writers
- potential to make money
- Other things that I have forgotten since I started writing this several hours ago)

These things come at a cost, as mentioned previously. I won't rehash that.

Each of the good things can be achieved without Medium using various existing tools! I know a few of them appear to be really difficult or impossible (and which few might vary depending on what tools you already use.

IMO, there are also a few things that medium doesn't provide which we also need to provide (which also seem impossible!)

Specifically, a medium replacement must check these boxes:
- Free
- Low/no maintenance
- built in audience
- Easy interface
- Able to monetize
- Ethical (no tracking, no ads)
- Censorship resistant
- Usable by non-technical readers and writers
- Built on Open Standards
- Own your data, Own your distribution

Some of these things are at odds. Free + able to monetize + ethical for example, that's a hard line to walk.

But I think that the tools exist that can give us all of these things.

@ajroach42 I’m interested to hear more about this. Writing is fraught for me as you know but I want to know more!

@Ethancdavenport So I wanna talk to you about self hosting and stuff while you're here, but I don't know if ADD will allow. We'll try.

@ajroach42 oh oh I see. By here you mean all up in your physical business and not in this thread.

It’s kind of a miracle we have ever completed anything lmao.

This part gets a little less well formed, unfortunately. I'm still reasoning through the specific implementation details, but I have the broad strokes figured out.

I'm jumping in to another meeting and will continue after.

What I have to say now is 4k characters.

so uhh, tootstorm coming.

The solution I've been working on, from 10,000 feet, is something like this: 


- You write a post
- That post gets sent out in to the world a bunch of ways, all of which are clearly *yours*
- RSS/Atom
- Newsletter
- Dat/Beaker
- ActivityPub
- Various syndication aggregators and mirrors (I’ll explain this bit later)

- Your personal website (which might just be a tor/onion site, so you don’t have to screw with DNS, or might be a clearnet site (which means you’ll need a domain name.) )
- However else you want to syndicate

- Because of the mirroring and syndication, it’s okay if the source of your post is ephemeral. It’ll still be available online, even if your server isn’t.

The “official” home of the post doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that it’s Your post, that others are able to easily verify that it is your post, and that you have visibility in to the distribution chain.

Of course, the technical details of how you achieve the above are still in the dicey/early stages, so don’t think that I have some kind of miracle solution here. Just a vision for a path forward.

Now, it might seem like this won’t check any of the boxes that I mentioned earlier.

And hey, maybe it won't. Let's explore.

- Free:
Nothing is free, everything comes at a cost.

On medium, the cost is your labor for their clout.

In this implementation the costs are possibly: 

- A domain name (yearly, ~$15)
- Web hosting (possibly free, possibly as low as $5/year, possibly much more. It depends on how you want to host. I’ll cover this some more later too.)
- The ability to send emails (This might be free, it might be very cheap, it might be very expensive.)

Some workflows can be achieved for “free” provided you have a computer you can leave running all the time. Some workflows can be achieved for “free” as long as you’re willing to trust someone else to manage your [newsletter|activitypub syndication|web hosting].

- Low/no maintenance

I'm still working on this. In my opinion, the existing solutions are very low maintenance for most users. But I haven't deployed anything yet, we'll see what things are like when the rubber hits the road.

My envisioned workflow is basically: create a text file in a folder on your computer. When you’re ready, add a line to the top that says “publish”. Let the software handle the rest.

- built in audience:

Ah yes, the network effect. This is what keeps people writing or syndicating on medium.

We have a huge network here, on the fediverse. If we run an aggregator/mirror like I described above, we can use that aggregator/mirror to amplify one another writing, and achieve a very wide audience. This is the part of the tooling that is the least well developed today, but it will get there soon.

- Easy interface
IMO, the easiest interface to use is the one that doesn’t exist. If this is properly configured, you’ll just *write* and let the software do the rest. Configuration will need a simple wizard to make a config file. Should be almost entirely invisible.

- Able to monetize
You betcha. Fill in a “support” section in your file with your ko-fi or liberapay or patreon or PayPal or whatever other information you want people to have to support you. It’ll get attached to your website, and to the “support” section of your posts (look at peer tube for an example of how this might work in practice.)

- Ethical (no tracking, no ads)
Since the content is going to be syndicated in a bunch of ways, we can’t guarantee that all of them will be ethical. We can, however, make sure that we provide ethical ways to consume the content (which is easy. It’s easier not to track people than it is to track them.)

- Censorship resistant
Between wide syndication, tor, and dat/beaker (and maybe some other stuff that I’m not ready to talk about yet) it becomes difficult for anyone to actively prevent someone who wants to find your content from finding it, or from silently deleting parts of it.

- Usable by non-technical readers and writers
Uhhh.. I hope so? If we get the rest of it right, it totally will be.

- Built on Open Standards
Check

- Own your data, Own your distribution
Check

So yeah, I've been thinking about and dicking around with those ideas.

There's another bit that fits in with this idea that isn't ready yet, but most of the above things are/almost are.

The syndication/mirroring/aggregating bit I feel like wasn't clear enough in my post, but I'm not sure exactly how to explain it right now.

Basically, I think we need a fediverse equivalent of a bunch of medium front pages + boingboing or another linkblog. Fediverse magazines.

Anyway, that's all for now. I have to go write 6000 words for some podcasts and

@ajroach42 What about a fediverse-like opt-IN scheme?

You make your blog, whatever, and then whenever you encounter someone else using the same SW, you can click the "Syndicate Me" button at the top of their page and then have their content hosted on your server, at some sub-directory

I think this fits within your description here

@brandon
Yeah, that's a good way to describe it.

@ajroach42 I feel like the "built in readers" thing isn't much of a factor anymore. Anecdotally, I used to know people who regularly checked Medium like it was a social media site & shared links. Now it feels like that's fallen by the wayside. Authors promote their pieces on social media and those links get shared, but I haven't heard of anyone"checking Medium" in at least a year.

@ajroach42 I don’t even click on medium articles anymore

@ajroach42 I've actually heard less-technical people refer to medium as if it's a publication and not a blog platform because the branding is so pervasive on there

@aeonofdiscord
That, I think, is what they were shooting for.

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@ajroach42

well, there's a choice. you could write for Medium, or you could repeatedly jap two sharp pencils into your eyeballs while screaming worldlessly.

@ajroach42
OMG YES!

Fuck Medium! They should be renamed to "Middlemen" instead.

@ajroach42 Yeah I syndicate there, but, I won't post any exclusives there anymore.

@ajroach42 The lack of capital M on the first medium made me have to read this three times to understand. :)