Enclosure of the Medium commons

Keith Parkins
Mar 27, 2017 · 6 min read
The State of the Commons / http://bit.ly/2nXyFlX

Like Mike Essig, I too a couple of weeks ago had an invite to write for Medium inside a fenced-off ghetto, apparently I am one of their top writers of content.

I ignored it.

Last week, an invite from Ev Williams. This too I ignored.

For some perverse reason Ev Williams seems determined to destroy Medium.

He acknowledges that Medium attracts quality writing, and yet then contradicts himself by saying writers need to be paid to attract quality writers.

Paul Mason writes for The Guardian, for which I assume he gets paid, he also contributes to Medium, for which I assume he does not get paid.

Paul Mason is worth reading. How many will read if he opts to reside within a fenced-off ghetto? Hopefully he will remain on the outside.

Writers write to be read, they have something to say. They are not writing for money.

signed books Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is a writer, a very successful writer. When once asked why readers read his books, he said he did not know and did not wish to know, as he may be tempted to write what they wished to read, in other words aim at a market.

We know these writers, they churn out the same book, ad nauseum, heavily marketed.

Paulo Coelho writes because he wishes to write, he has something to say, and he wishes to be read.

Dance with the Enemy — Jewelia / http://bit.ly/2nu2oSR

I find the same with musicians. They play and write music, if they can earn some money doing what they love doing, that is a bonus, otherwise they have a side job to enable them to pursue their real passion.

It may not have been the intention of Ev Willams, and probably was not the intention of the Vulture Capitalists to create a collaborative commons, but that is what has been created. Writers contribute their work, readers draw upon their work, often readers and writers are one and the same, or as we see here, one article leads to another article.

What we are seeing is a classic case of enclosure of the commons.

We are also seeing a complete failure to explore alternatives that do not create a fenced-off ghetto.

This is the profile of Ev Williams on Medium:

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

$5 per month, that is $60 per year to pass through the turnstile, through the digital razor wire to enter the ghetto.

And that is how we should treat a pay-for-access Medium, not as exclusive content, but as a fenced-off ghetto, fenced off with razor wire, akin to the Trump Wall, enclosure of the commons.

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.

And let us not forget, that exclusive access is measured by those excluded, not those who are allowed in. Do writers really wish to bar readers from accessing their work, what worth a pittance for your words if no one reads them?

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.

cappuccino and Standart in Makushi

Standart is an excellent quarterly publication on coffee culture, can be found in coffee shops, or subscribe, 11 euros an issue. I do not know how the writers are paid.

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.

Thus as the ideas above, how do we make the commons viable? If Vulture Capitalist get burnt, that is collateral damage that few will mourn.

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.

What we are seeing is a failure to understand how a commons functions, a failure to consider alternative ideas to maintain the commons.

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.

And yes, as Mike Essig says, there will probably be no fiction or poetry.

Medium Collection

Thoughts, musings and ideas on Medium from the perspective of reader and writer.

Keith Parkins

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Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Medium Collection

Thoughts, musings and ideas on Medium from the perspective of reader and writer.

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