Is This Thing On?
I decided to start writing again. I succumbed to the blogging sirens. I’d looked closely at Tumblr, and was honestly amazed at how good the product was. I found the community, however, to be a tad A.D.D. Not my style. I was a little worried about where it was going. (Ultimately, I feel I dodged a bullet.)
I was looking for something more long form, and simple. I’d worked with Wordpress many times in the past, but found it required way too much maintenance. I just wanted to write!
In typical techie style, I set up a roll-your-own solution (an Octopress/Jekyll engine hosted on GitHub). As Fate would have it, just after writing my first post on my custom blog, I get the Medium invite.
- A means by which something is communicated or expressed.
- The material or form used by an artist, composer, or writer.
- The middle quality or state between two extremes; a reasonable balance.
I’d been reading Medium more and more, surprised at how good the content was. I get Medium’s overtones in their name, and respect what the founders are trying to accomplish. I did have a bit of a tug of war in my mind over whether or not I should go all-in, but ultimately decided it was worth it.
I love the minimalism of the editor. At first I was worried it was being minimal just as fashion, but I soon realized how empowering the interface could be. Medium hides the formatting tools until you need them (by selecting text or hovering). And there are a few enforced style guidelines that I find particularly useful, such as converting two hyphens (- -) to an em dash (—); three periods (…) to ellipses (…); and automatic curly quotes (“heeeyyy”). It even prevents you from using two spaces at the end of a sentence (you know who you are).
I love that dates are not the focus. I had removed them from my custom blog. Dates are important to include if talking about a technology, or other timely matter, but are not the best way to organize a set of writings. The content, or theme, matters much more than the date, at least to me. Not highlighting them gives a cleaner presentation, and also takes some of the pressure off of gaming the system—i.e. posting at the right time of day or day of week in order to get the most reads. (Hopefully, this doesn’t hurt the chances of success for the platform overall.)
Medium really lets you focus on content, both in reading and in writing.The fact that, while editing, it shows the text in the same format as its final form is instantly gratifying, and helps communicate the length of a post while we’re writing. (Part of me thinks this isn’t necessary, but conciseness matters even in medium form.)
The concept behind Collections makes sense to focus on the content instead of the writer. For instance, you may wish to follow my thoughts on design, but ignore my posts on technology or software development. I want to write about writing. And startups. And cooking. But I don’t want to run multiple blogs and I don’t expect everyone who enjoys reading about one to necessarily care about the other. So I find the Collections concept really works.
Something that bothered me when I first started was that I had to choose the collection first. Eventually, I found that you can actually add an article, once published, to more than one collection (try it at the end of this article by hitting + Add to…). However, I still find that I often write a draft in one Collection, then have to copy and paste to another, more appropriate one when its taken its final form. I wish this were easier.
So I can add an article to a collection of my choosing, essentially tagging it, sort of recommending it, categorizing it, and editorializing it in one fell swoop. The problem with this is, I can only add such meaningful content that originates on medium.com. This makes perfect sense, and yet it feels terribly limiting for now. Also, I often find content that I know I want to read—just not then and there. Currently I just open a new tab or use various other non-medium means of adding it to a read-it-later list. I could also add it to a collection, but this feels like I’m recommending it—which may not be the case, if the article turns out to not be any good! So, a built in list for reading it later seems to be in order.
Notes are intended to replace both comments and footnotes. I think this is excellent, and had already decided to forego comments on my blog, though knew I’d feel guilty about it. Notes seem like the perfect solution. I’m also particular about grammar and spelling, and a quick comment attached to the suspect text is much better than grouping such edits down below in a pool of overall comments, kudos, spam, and arguments.
However, their replacement of footnotes leaves a bit to be desired, as the writer must first leave “edit mode” in order to attach one (Save Draft, then scroll back down to the paragraph, and so on). In contrast, hovering over a paragraph in edit mode allows you to easily attach an image. I’d like to see this integrate notes as well.
I think some of what makes Medium special may certainly fade as it grows. Notes, for instance, may begin to be a burden—I may have to change my default notification settings, or start to ignore them altogether. The product creators may also figure this one out. For now it’s a great place to be and overall I’m enjoying writing on Medium more than any other platform or custom solution. I hope to see it grow carefully, and with focus.