I’m moving from posting my content here on Medium to my new blog on Dev.to.
I started blogging about programming in 2012.
For a long time I self-hosted my blog on a Digital Ocean Droplet. I was running Wordpress and managing that entire stack along with security and operating system updates.
Every time I wanted to post I’d see that there were plugin updates, Wordpress core updates, theme updates… the list goes on.
This would lead me down a seemingly endless hole of maintenance work when all I really wanted to do was write something I learned about software development. 😫
Because of these impediments, I posted less and less often. I didn’t want to deal with the non-blogging work I knew I’d find. So, I just wouldn’t blog until I had a full weekend to sit down and perform application maintenance.
This changed slightly when I started blogging for my company WiredViews. 😊
We had a company blog that several employees posted on. It was hosted on Kentico CMS, running on one of our VMs, in our data center.
Our IT guy handled OS maintenance and any developer could perform application updates.
But, there was still the impediment of needing to wait in line for others to get their posts published and I also wanted to continue posting on my own blog. 😐
During this time, I was still, infrequently, posting to my self-hosted blog.
I started working on a new personal site for myself and wanted to build a pre-rendered static site — so, no Wordpress.
This meant that I would need to either get the dev tooling and update process so seamless that it wouldn’t be an impediment to me writing blogs or move my blogging to another platform.
I had been reading posts on Medium for awhile and commented on other developer’s posts occasionally. I liked the platform and thought about using it for my own blogging.
After a discussion at ng-conf 2018 I was motivated to make the switch. I archived my old blog on my personal site, which was soon published as a Nuxt.js app hosted on Netlify, and wrote my first post on Medium.
It was great having an easy to use blogging platform that required absolutely no maintenance effort. Medium allowed for a simple draft review process, which was great when people helped me proof my posts for typos. 🤩
I could schedule posts, SEO was good and everything “just worked”. 🥰
Wait, Then Why Are You Leaving?
Along with all the great stuff that Medium brought to the table are some annoyances.
The Great Paywall
As a reader I was getting annoyed by the paywall that Medium uses as an alternative to running display ads and the constant popups on my phone telling me to use the Medium native app (ostensibly, because the native app is much better at enforcing the cookie-based paywall). 😒
As a writer I was getting annoyed by the constant reminders that I was not putting my content behind a paywall and was not part of the partner program.
Other people have their own issues with Medium’s paywall, membership, and partner program.
I can’t fault Medium for having a revenue strategy — they are a business — but I have not enjoyed it. 😕
Maybe I would be open to paying Medium a nominal feed to host my content in exchange for removing all the annoying popups and increase my premium post limit each month?
$5 a month is more than I want to spend as that puts me back at my Digital Ocean Droplet cost.
It’s Not Developer Oriented
Medium’s editing experience has some great features that allow me to focus on the writing and not the formatting, however there are some problems I run into given my use-case of technical writing.
Medium has issues with GitHub Gists, which it supports, but only partially. A developer has to create a new Gist for each file they wish to embed on Medium because the file specific hash in the url is ignored. 😣
My collection of gists is hard to maintain. I have to come up with weird naming conventions to group them together which is frustrating because gists already have support for grouping multiple files together. 😵
Gists are a major part of my blogging workflow on Medium because it also doesn’t support language specific highlighting in its code block formatting.
Formatting code can occasionally be a real nightmare because of everything that the Medium editor does to “help” you write. There’s no way to access the source to do a sanity check because the editor experience is supposed to remove that necessity and be friendly for writers not familiar with web dev technologies. ☹️
I do like the opinionated styling and formatting that Medium uses but I think due to the technical nature of the content I write there are always going to be features that are missing.
The platform might be used by lots of technical writers but it definitely wasn’t built for us.
Tech Publishers Are Leaving
There were others who are also questioning Medium’s strategy, want more independence, or more ownership of their content without feeling as though they are at the mercy of a platform they don’t have a say in.
HackerNoon is planning to move all of their content to their own platform.
You can hear HackerNoon CEO and founder, David Smooke, talk about their experiences with and planned move away from Medium here
You can read about their tech stack plans here
FreeCodeCamp is in the process of migrating to their own platform as well.
You can read their announcement and explanation here
In both of these above examples, the organizations do not feel that Medium’s benefits as a platform are worth the cost, either in terms of the publisher’s preferred business model (HackerNoon) or the UX of authoring and reading (FreeCodeCamp). 🤔
According to the FreeCodeCamp post above, if you don’t put your article behind the paywall, Medium will not promote it to its community of readers nearly as much. 😮
I intend for my content to be free, so any promotion of my content is going to come from my own efforts and any platform is going to be as least as good as Medium.
Despite the fact that I am a small fish in a very large tech content sea and I also am not trying to monetize my content, I agree with both of the above publishers motivations for moving away from Medium.
Why Don’t You Go Back To Self-Hosting?
I think the ideal solution to all of this would be to use my personal site as a blog and go back to self-hosting and publishing.
I wouldn’t be subject to the whims of a platform I had no influence on and I would be guaranteed to have full control over my content and how I wanted it delivered. 👍
I would be able to use whatever tools I preferred to write and publish my content. 👍
I could also continue to access communities and followers on Medium and other platforms by re-publishing to these platforms. Setting the canonical url to my domain would guarantee the site I own benefits from the search rankings / link-juice generated by the content. 👍
I know of several tech content writers that do this and recommend it as a nice way to have their cake and eat it too.
This all sounds great but I’ve done it before and my main motivation for blogging on Medium was wanting the fewest number of impediments to writing as possible. 👎
Self-hosting only adds to that list.
Dev.to — My Current Solution
Vendor Lock-In 👩✈️
Am I worried that at some point in the future I’ll wish I had all my content on my own site or wasn’t so tied to a specific platform?
But the only way I’ll have that problem is if I post a lot of content and I already know I won’t write much at all if I manage my own blogging solution.
There’s a healthy and active community of tech writers at DEV and I’ve seen some writers already make the switch from Medium to DEV.
Microsoft’s Cloud Developer Advocates appear to already be building up a large library of content on DEV.
On DEV, posts can be authored in markdown with a large selection of rich content embedding by way of Liquid Tags.
DEV supports rendering a single file from a GitHub Gist!
Content authors can publish blogs under an organization (kinda like a publisher on Medium) and can group posts into a series.
I have re-syndicated my recent Medium posts over to DEV and I will be publishing all future content there. I haven’t decided if I’m going to publish on DEV exclusively or import it back here on Medium for a period of time.
I’ve found the UX for comments to be a lot friendlier than on Medium where I felt I was constantly clicking “Load Comments” to see just 1 additional comment.
The UI of the site has a “night” theme and some other minor customizations (but more could always be added through a PR!)
There’s more reactions than “clapping” (hearts or unicorns) and you can bookmark a post without having to react to it (a complaint I have with Medium).
DEV’s current revenue model is simple and clear.
I don’t doubt that in the future DEV will add to this list of revenue streams and products but I do trust that they won’t shift their focus away from being an open platform built for software developers to grow, commune, and write.
What About You?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this move.
Maybe I’m making a mistake leaving Medium, maybe there are better options than DEV, maybe you are trying to figure out where you want to write about software development.
Let me know in the comments below.
In the meantime… you can come follow me 👋🏾 at https://dev.to/seangwright/.