Turning Medium into a fenced-off ghetto
It would have been cool, seriously cool, had we had fore-warning of the pending reader paywall along with a comprehensive explanation as to how it would affect the writer / publisher who are readers too. — Renée S
Last evening, as did many others, I received a ‘personalised’ open letter from Ev Williams, wrapped in an invitation to be among the first of a select initial group of potential ‘founder members’ of the new paywall Medium.
Here’s the thing: With no prior notification or time for a real viable Q & A about Medium ‘s forthcoming plans, we’re ALL (those of us who are not major names or publications) now pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place, primarily, it has to be said, for the lack of information regarding how this roll out will affect writers and publishers of the smaller publications.
I get that you wish to give away as little publicly as possible as these things are rolled out, but leaving your core body value, comprising some of the best writing talent around, in the dark and left to either pay for ‘readership’ or be left out, tends to lead to more than mere disappointment and indignation.
I would hate to leave Medium, as I know others are loathe to consider; leaving us in the dark without consideration of the choices available and no information as to the implications of plans here on Medium, makes it tough to see how we might be seriously valued, outside of being part of the high volume mainstream content makers.
I too last week received an invite from Ev Williams. Begs more questions than it answers.
The week before I received as one of their top writers of quality content an invite from Medium to be one of their paid writers.
The catch, members have to pay for access, the writing sits behind digital razor wire within a fenced off ghetto.
I signed up for neither invitation as I regard as a retrograde step for Medium.
Exclusive is always measured by the excluded, not those who gain access.
Writers write because they have something to say, because they wish to be read. They do not need to be rewarded.
Ev Williams admits this, claiming Medium attracts quality writing, and yet then goes on to contradict himself by saying Medium has to pay to attract quality writing.
Why write for a pittance for your words, only to then find no one is reading what you have taken the time and trouble to write because it resides within a fenced-off ghetto?
This has nothing to do with rewarding writers it is about satisfying the greed of Vulture Capitalists, a classic case of enclosing the commons.
Then there is the lack of consultation, lack of clarity, how will content be judged?
The promoted content on Medium, if nothing else shows lack of judgement.
And who decides, within this unknown criteria?
Creation of what David Graeber would call bullshit jobs.
David Moser has hit the nail on the head:
The change Mr Williams was looking for in reading, writing, and publishing has already happened with Medium, and it happened because some similar small groups of people recognized the quality of each other’s work and supported each other, giving encouragement, discussing difficulties, spreading the word amongst friendly readers on the periphery. I was a small part of this, as were many others.
I read what I decide to read, not what someone tells me, or trusted writers, I may follow up on what they reference or recommend.
This is what we should be building upon, not destroying it.
At our most fundamental level, we cooperate. When a stranger is lost, we show them the way, we do not demand a fee.
We are now postcapitalism.
- Classic Marx: cost equals land, labour and capital.
- Postcapitalism Marx: cost equals land, labour, capital and information.
Postcapitalism, a fourth factor has been introduced, information. The tendency of information is like water, to flow. If I know something, I cannot unknow it. It is only Draconian copyright and intellectual property rights that is stopping this free flow of information, and in doing so, has slowed innovation.
Information has zero cost. I can at zero cost, copy e-books and digital music, I can distribute at zero cost.
Products with a high information content, the price tends to zero.
This is why, as Charles Eisenstein discusses in Sacred Economics, few make money from the internet. Unless you enclose, you cannot make money from a commons, and when you try, because this is a global commons, the commoners simply up sticks and create a commons elsewhere.
Few make money from the internet, those that do it is through exploitation.
It probably was not the intention to create a collaborate commons, by usage, Medium has become a de facto collaborative commons. Writers contribute to the commons, readers draw upon the commons, often writers and readers are one and the same, one article may lead to another, as we see here.
Ev Williams may quite rightly ask, but who pays for the maintenance of the commons, who pays for the platform? If Vulture Capitalists get burnt, so what, or do we let them feed off the carcass of Medium?
I have sympathy with the view of Michael Haupt when he wrote in response to
Enclosure of a commons has only one result, transfer of wealth to the land owner and disenfranchisement of the commoners who lose their well established rights.
While I too am disappointed by the way in which Ev has introduced paywalls, I do feel sorry for him. He is beholden to VC’s and I’ve no doubt he is being forced down this route. I’m letting this one play out — very interested to see what the outcome will be. In the meantime, I’m not paying, and I suspect I will find a platform to write elsewhere.
My sentiments entirely. I will not be paying five dollars a month, $60 per annum.
I considered launch of an on-line magazine The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop devoted to coffee culture, something similar to Standart. There has been interest, Medium seemed the ideal platform, now I am having second thoughts, anywhere but Medium if Medium is to be turned into a fenced-off ghetto.
To put the $60 per annum in context, 40 euros for Standart, a quarterly journal on coffee culture, £30 per annum for Dark Mountain, two hardback volumes.
I have only learnt today, as I write, in reality more than $5 per month. This is published under Light on Dark Mountain, there will be or could be an additional fee to read publications.
Fenced-off ghettos within fenced off ghettos.
Dark Mountain is an anthology of essays, short stories, poetry and art. Launched through crowd funding, now funded through subscription, originally an annual publication, now twice yearly. Contributors do not get paid, they receive a free copy of Dark Mountain.
Standart is an excellent quarterly publication on coffee culture, well written beautifully illustrated, can be found in coffee shops, or subscribe, 11 euros an issue, 40 euros per annum. I do not know how the writers are paid.
The question we should therefore be asking is how do we make the commons viable?
I think we can rule out:
- floating on Wall Street
- paid for access
In his profile on Medium Ev Williams wrote:
CEO of Medium, co-founder of Twitter, father of two. I like ideas, friends, and good soup. Made in Nebraska, live in California. Thank you for being you.
He ‘likes ideas’. Why then is he not exploring ideas to sustain and maintain Medium as a collaborative commons?
- an open source open coop platform
- collate collections, provide the tools, print at local nodes
- an option to pay, the reader decides
- use faircoin and fairpay card
Commons are adaptive, they self-regulate.
The internet runs on Linux and associated GNU suite, open source, freely developed, free to use.
Enable an option, people can pay for an article if they so wish. Show how much goes to the writer how much to finance the platform.
This model works for bandcamp, musicians can set zero price, pay what you would like when you download, listen for free on-line.
And how do we pay if we wish to pay? Use an alternative currency such as faircoin and fairpay card. If an autonomous market in Heraklion can use alternative currencies, then it should not be impossible for Medium to do the same.
Pensar desde los comunes, Spanish edition of Think Like a Commoner, crowdfunded then printed locally, with free e-book. Translation from English to Spanish by Guerrilla Translation, a P2P translation collective and cooperative.
$60 per year to access the Medium ghetto. To put that in context 40 euros for an annual subscription to Standart, four journals per annum of crafted words, beautifully illustrated, £30 for an annual subscription to Dark Mountain, two hard back volumes per annum.
What of collections of poetry, of short stories, with illustrations, printed at local nodes?
Open coops, open source software, interacting coops, all working from and running the Medium collaborative commons.
Commons are a social interaction of the commoners and the commons, the commoners practice their art of commoning on the commons, the commons is a self-regulating and adaptive system.
From what I have seen, what others have written, Medium has done an excellent job of alienating their readers and writers, without which, Medium does not exist.
What we are seeing is a failure to understand how a commons functions, a failure to consider alternative ideas to maintain the commons.
A commons is a social interaction between the commoners and the common, it self-regulates, it adapts.
Medium is a commons of creative talent.
I have put forward a few ideas, it is now for others to expand upon, to add to.
Is Ev Williams listening?
What do others think?
SF Ali, alto, Jason Stelzner, Wild Flower, Tamyka Bell, Crooked Little Flower,Zelda Pinwheel, marika bianca, Nina Szarka, Sara Benincasa, Vince, Vanessa Praça-Correa, Jake Fuentes, Notorious DCI, Kate Lee, Shaunta Grimes,ePeak, BHD, Jake Fuentes, Varun Chopra, Zac Chapepa, Rachel Thompson,Molly Campbell, Sean Howard, Mirah Curzer, Eric Taubert,augustkhalilibrahim, Shahzeb Akhter, Sherry Kappel, Ré Harris, Rebecca Marie, Michael Ramsburg, Michael Benoist, Michael McQuarrie, Patrick Faller, Paul Brookes, Kevin Acott, Angiest In Seattle, Carl Safina, Nick McGuire, Sally O’Dowd, Brian Culley, Christopher Raley, C. Duhnne, Ben Freeland, K.E. Kimball, Richard Subber, walkerjo lee, Elizabeth Kiem, JONI BERGER, zeke woollett, Jackie Williams, Robert Cormack, Garnet,Menkeroth, A. Sethi, Tahlia Calvisi, Olivia Wolfe, Anna Breslin, Cristian Randieri, Phd, Alya, Stephen M. Tomic, Stefon Napier, blaine steele, David Moser, Michelle Monet, Little Fears, Teri Peters, Hevedar Yousif, Eric Taubert, Wendy Diamond, Allan Ishac, Immanuel R. Knight, Abbie, Amy Sterling Casil, Vito Pasquale, Giulia Blasi, Robert Cormack, Molly Campbell, Paul Mason, Michel Bauwens, Renée S, Michael Haupt, babulous, Matthew Deyn, Paulo Coelho, Henry Freeman, Jamie Oliver, Srinath Anantharaju, Jason Stelzner, Violet, David Moser, alto, Ré Harris, Shaunta Grimes, Kathleen Clarke Anderson, Jackie Williams, Mike Essig, Vanessa Praça-Correa, Jeffrey Field, Giulia Blasi, White Feather, Mary Holden, Amy Sterling Casil, Servaas Schrama, James Ardis, Allan Ishac, Paul Dughi, David Graeber, Clifton Middleton, Peter, Elizabeth Kiem, Keith Parkins … I’d address everyone else too …
Why are some names in Green?
I do not know. I assumed they were the ones who had paid the toll to gain access to the fenced off ghetto but not the case as I appear in green, and others who have foolishly parted with their five bucks are not in green.
Those that appear in green, only appear in green because elsewhere in green, which of course still does not answer my question why in green?
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