On Leaving Medium

by Liam Hammett · 6 minute read · #blogs

As you can see because you’re already on it, I have a new site that I’ll be posting blog content to at liamhammett.com!

My reason for this change was pretty simple; I want more control over my content.

Medium seems to be given a lot of shit lately, but it holds a special place in my heart for getting me interested in writing. Here I’m going to talk about some pros and cons with the platform that made me come to my decision to move away from it.

Pros

  • Medium is really easy to get set up with
    • The first article I wrote was simply an opinion on a topic I was interested on, so I wrote it on a whim in one afternoon.
    • I chose to use Medium since I’d seen lots of other publications using it, and it was as simple as logging in and hitting “new story”.
    • I didn’t want to spend time setting up a website, figuring out what theme I want on a blogging platform, or anything else. I just wanted to write a little something.
    • Writing that first article was so effortless on Medium’s part that I could just enjoy the writing process without sweating the rest, and I got hooked.
  • The writing experience is brilliant
    • Everything is WYSIWYG and I’ve found that it’s very intuitive, even in ways that often get ignored by other writing tools.
    • One little thing that always makes me happy is when typing a single backtick it opens an inline code block, and when typing another it moves the cursor out of it.
    • There’s lots of little things like this have made it a pleasure to write with, and most other editors don’t pay attention to these things.
  • The reading experience is really good (if you’re logged in)
    • The typography is crisp and clear.
    • Everything is spaced out perfectly without the writer having to put effort into that. The end result is easy on the eyes and easy to keep track of where you’re at.
    • There’s no sidebar vying for your attention - the focus is on the content. There’s a couple of minor things like the social buttons and claps, but they’re very much pushed off to the side.
  • People do get showed your posts
    • Your posts to the site do get shown to readers at the end of other articles. It’s not a huge amount by any stretch of the imagination unless you hit trending - only roughly 4% of views for my articles on average are from Medium.
    • When you’re writing something purely for the purpose of helping other people out, even if one person sees it and gets use of it, it’s worth it.

Cons

  • The reading experience isn’t ideal if you’re not logged in
    • Over the past year, Medium has been focussing more and more on their membership program to read paid content, so that’s what they’re pushing instead of a good user experience.
    • Nowadays, if you browse to a Medium article for the first time, you get bombarded with popups and messages. “Accept our privacy and cookie policy”, “read this on the Medium app”, “Sign up to Medium”, “Get a membership to view these other articles”, etc. It adds up, and when you have to close so many popups just to even get a glimpse at the article you went there to read, it puts you off.
  • Lots of large and high quality authors and publications have moved away from the platform in the past year
    • Some I frequently read that have been driven away are Signal v Noise from the folks at BaseCamp, and the nonprofit freeCodeCamp.
    • The sad thing is that a lot of these people have different reasons for moving away, citing various other problems with the Medium platform that you wouldn’t otherwise fine.
  • The blocks you can put on a page are so limited, which is arguably to keep pages clean and focussed on writing.
    • One that’s caught me out before however is the lack of tables, something that’s so common to explain data when writing.
    • There is a solution for some of these elements, but it’s less than ideal; host the table on another platform like GitHub Gists or AirTable and link to it so it might be embedded on the page.
  • There’s no syntax highlighting for code. This is a bummer for me, because I write a lot of articles about code, so naturally they’re very code heavy.
    • Having more than a couple of lines of code in the same colour makes it difficult to read.
    • Once again, there is a solution for this; embed a GitHub Gist on the page. It works, but it’s just not the same - it’s styled completely different from the rest of the site, you can’t click-and-drag to select code as the whole frame is just a link to the embed, and it completely takes you out of the writing experience to do that.
  • Comments don’t behave like comments should.
    • Medium has comments, which is great, but they act weirdly. They’re counted as “stories” so show up on your profile, get pushed to the RSS feed of people subscribed to you.
    • They don’t show nested or inline like you’d expect from any other platform like WordPress or Reddit. You have to click through to each reply as a separate page.

Luckily I’ve not had to worry about most of these problems too much myself, but there are lots of horror stories out there about Medium being a terrible experience and pushing people away from their platform. I’m just doing this on my own terms.

My new site is a self-hosted and custom-coded platform that will afford me a handful of benefits that Medium simply could never offer:

  • An opportunity for personal branding.
  • Any extra little features I might want, like syntax highlighting code blocks, or adding tables inline.
  • Control of my own SEO.
  • No ads, links to other people’s articles, registration or app popups. Just pure reading.

I’ll still cross-post to Medium at least for a little while, but if I link someone to a post of mine it’ll be to the new site.

Photo of Liam Hammett

Liam Hammett

Full-stack software developer that loves working with PHP, Laravel and Vue.