There has been renewed backlash against Medium lately. It stems from an idea that Medium has engaged in bait-and-switch tactics and generally has not been a good citizen to all users all the time. And, honestly, bait-and-switch is so common with Internet startups, they must teach it somewhere.
It goes something like this:
- Offer free or cheap product (while burning through VC cash)
- Gain users
- Raise price or change the product; Pray you retain users
I remember being floored by Instacart's low prices on grocery delivery—until they went through the above cycle. Uber already went through this cycle very clearly with the driver side of their business and it seems they are preparing for phase three on the user side as well (to pay for some of the driver side backlash).
It's a thing these startups do. And we should, rightfully, be pissed a lot of the time.
During every cycle of Medium backlashes, we tend to experience a bump in signups due to word of mouth for DEV. This is sensible, given that DEV is oftentimes thought of and described as a Medium alternative for developers. But if your primary concern is Medium's use of the
baitAndSwitch algorithm, moving to another platform with the same incentives to eventually pull the switcheroo, you should probably avoid us too, right? Well, since we would love your business I want to wax philosophical about this idea.
To be clear: We already try to be forthright with our intentions on these issues. We are an open source platform and are generally transparent with our goals—but this really isn't the full story.
DEV is a part of the developer ecosystem
In examining DEV’s purpose outside of the ethical question of how one should act as a platform, the key element is that we are designed wholly to serve the developer community inside and outside of our community—and this is inspired from platforms that came before us.
The origin of DEV is based on the idea that Medium very obvious lacked interest in specifically serving the developer community, exemplified most bluntly in their lack of syntax highlighting for code snippets. Not that all developers agree that syntax highlighting is a good thing, but if Medium had any intention of being a product for developers, they would have offered this feature. It's table stakes.
From there, it was easy to find more examples of this lack of interest in our market. It was clear to observers already that their interests were in serving a very abstract concept of "publishing", not in serving the specific needs of the software community—but the paywall was the nail in the coffin here.
Developers truly use platforms like Medium (or DEV, or the blogosphere) in ways similar to how we use Stack Overflow, GitHub, docs sites, etc. We go there for answers, we go there to take part, we go there to get our jobs done. We get our jobs done by a) Googling to solve our problems, b) Hanging out and upping our skills by immersing ourselves in the conversation or being a fly on the wall to intelligent conversations, and c) Establishing a reputation, making connections, discovering job opportunities, etc.
Content restrictions are an obvious deterrent to all of this—yes there is a time and a place for charging for some things, but in general the software ecosystem is built on the ready availability of a lot of good ideas. We simply can't get our jobs done without our words being indexed and available in search engines, and having the capacity to further the discussions in abstract ways.
In its origin, I felt that DEV had to exist in the world as a part of an efficient developer workflow. It's a consistent reading experience, it has a consistent notion of following individuals and software trends you care about, a consistent daily experience of idea discovery and self-improvement. The broader developer community can also be harsh, exclusive, and downright mean. If you've hung out around here, you know that addressing this issue is also core to our mandate.
When your central concept is solving developer problems, you have a reference point to work from. I can't imagine attempting to address the nuanced concerns of developers from a broad, generalist perspective. Medium had no chance. The developers were always an edge case.
In service of the developer-centric mission, published content meant for the masses will always be for the masses. Additional features and tooling will always add on to these core concepts, not replace them—and we can't wait to keep serving the community the best we can.
One last thing to say about all of this...
We do wayyyyy more than blog posts.
A "post" on DEV can be a question, a discussion, an AMA, etc. You just can't silo these kinds of interactions on their own islands.
I loved the answers to this recent #discuss post:
What are you "old enough to remember" in software development?
Ben Halpern ・ May 23 '19 ・ 1 min read
The discussion in this #help thread was incredibly useful to me as well:
How to handle outbound links in desktop PWA?
Ben Halpern ・ May 21 '19 ・ 1 min read
There are enumerable examples from around the community, but I also thought this thread was super valuable from the other day:
Which is the Best Static Site Generator and Why?
Oyetoke Toby ・ May 30 '19 ・ 1 min read
Closing thoughts/going forward
In furtherance of our open source mission and general intent to be a trustworthy player in the ecosystem, we are set to embark on new projects related to the generalization and re-use of our core codebase, and an adjacent project related to general self-hosting and decentralization concepts we feel are simply important (and exciting). I'm not sure if these new ideas will come out in the form of a clear and articulate roadmap, or if they'll creep out through smaller announcements and idea threads along the way.
Hopefully we'll find ways to be clear about the outlook as soon as possible. 😄
There have been some good projects pop up around self-hosting and decentralization. I'm excited about how we plan to get into this space as an open source company.
P.S. you can cross-post to DEV from an RSS feed like Medium or your own blog by adding the feed URL here in your settings. We encourage cross-posting as a pattern and offer simple ways to set your
Top comments (81)
I posted my final Medium post recently, discussing why I've moved my technical writing to DEV and my thoughts on blogging/content ownership in general.
I'm glad to see reinforcement of the ideas of an open-platform and serving the greater development community - both writers and readers.
This will result in developers holding DEV to a higher standard, and I believe you guys are up to the task.
Thanks for the hard work creating a great place for us! 👍👏
I do not have much experience with Medium or DEV except publishing my first article on both platforms in the last few days.
I published it on Medium on the 30.05 and so far got three views, the same article I put on DEV on the 02.06 and till now got 62 reactions, 666 views, one comment, and 61 followers.
It looks like this is the right place to publish articles for developers. 😄
So much this. The way that DEV works to get information to people, doesn't discriminate against new users. It gives a fair platform that allows your voice to be heard.
I use Medium as both a developer and non-developer. I agree they do not target the developer community, but have been reasonably happy with them as a literary community. I post short stories, poems, and other editorial pieces there. They tend to have more of an audience there than my programming articles.
It's the story of startups that ultimately you need a way to make money, and unless registered as a non-profit, you need to make profit. Bait-and-switch is almost essential at this point, as the market has been conditioned to want products cheaply. Additionally, services which profit from user data (profiling, such as Facebook), skew the price point at which services can be offered.
It's a difficult challenge to market a community and balance it with financial needs. The pressure only increases as the community increases in size. Many places face an unfortunate situation of either switching the service, or going bankrupt.
I'm glad you'll be open with the intentions and progress of dev.to. Every bit of success will be met with a new set of challenges to deal with. :)
Oh yes, I definitely agree with all of this.
I recently just started using DEV and you mention in your Post Script the RSS feed import and canonical settings. I have to say, it's WAY better than doing it with Medium. So thanks to you and your team for making that process awesome! I think the idea of POSSE (indieweb.org/POSSE) is super important to the web going forward :D
Agreed. And what we really want to make sure is that it's both powerful and simple to do.
We're excited to build cool things along with the community!
"The broader developer community can also be harsh, exclusive, and downright mean. If you've hung out around here, you know that addressing this issue is also core to our mandate."
please never stop addressing this. a lot of learners quit after a visit to those exchange sites (looking at you stack!)
it is important for me to have a place where i can just absorb information and ask questions without negative feedback! i've become much better at expressing myself and coding simply because of the vibrant healthy community.
ps: i always like all 3 ( heart, pink-mane horse and tag emojis) but i dont really know the differences and/or uses, someone care to explain?
pps: if this was asked on some exchange network (:coughs) i'd be downvoted before i even reload the page.
Re: PS: the bookmark icon adds to your reading list.
The other two are the same for all intents and purposes but I promise we’ll eventually find some more meaningful ways to differentiate the interactions.
And you can bet that inclusion will always always be front and center in our effort.
I've always wondered the diff between the horse and the heart. I guess i'll just use them both from now, ☺.
Btw, DEV is awesome but it sets me off when i'm on a slow network and I click a link to a post. There's no sign that it's loading. Sometimes i click repeatedly. I feel something could be done to improve on that experience.
I think the difference between the heart and the unicorn is the unicorn aims to upvote the post...probably to make it a top/hot post for the week or so.
I might be wrong
This is why I always had a love and hate relationship with stack sites. They are invaluable in their sheer number of questions and how much I use it on a daily basis but some of the comment sections are so hostile I never could get myself to take part.
Contrary to Medium, Dev.to is not trying to replace you personal blog or publication, rather its trying to enhance it and bring it to a broader audience. That's why I like your platform and in my opinion that is the reason why Medium is failing, they tried to bait people to move to their platform completely and then lock them in.
I used to like Medium because of its minimal UI. But its UX now-days is really sub-par with its annoying pop-ups and limited capabilities for editing rich text.
I still use it for Index Zero (I write articles explaining computer science concepts) because it does have a pretty UI and my articles rely heavily on pictures and not much code. I actually like how the landing/home page looks.
But if I am writing articles where code is important and I need to be able to communicate things quickly, I use Dev.to.
I took a look at Index Zero. Nice job! Have you considered some sort of video like format as well for your content?
A video format would be interesting but I feel like at least for me personally I prefer static content to video content. I just feels easier to process because I can sort of move through the content at whatever speed I want, if that makes sense.
That is true. I just thought with your illustrations and explaining it could be a nice fit (ex. Khan Academy like).
I have to admit, as a developer two main points led me to write here instead of Medium (I only have a few posts cross-posted there because some curators asked me to).
First of all, whoever came up with that cover image should has a Madmen level marketing chop. Just clever and hilarious.
On the topic, now that I come to think of it, Medium free clapping feature might have been a form of manifestation of the bait-and-switch strategy. It's difficult to trace how many claps a user gives to an article. If you have a few close friends give your article as many as possible and it's behind the pay wall, then your article becomes a revenue generator for the wrong reason.
Yours truly, thank you. 🙂
And yes, I agree with that assessment. Medium is a funny little game in terms of how the claps and the paywall and everything in that ecosystem fits together.
Admittedly I'm appalled by how easy I've earned from my articles though.
The syntax highlighting was a huge issue and something my readers would get upset with. I would post images of code and end up linking to repos or gists because I wanted to show the code, but I wanted it to not just look like a wall of code.
But what upset me the most about Medium is the enormous drop in engagement. Even with editor curation on certain posts (I have 3 that got picked up via the "programming" tag), I'm seeing significantly less views, reads, and comments. The whole promise of curated posts was around getting your content in front of Medium's audience. Had they not picked up those posts, I feel I would have had more engagement because my audience of developers doesn't appear to be Medium members. Maybe at most they are Medium users, but they don't seem to be paying for access to content.
Medium seems great if you want to write some shock-and-awe viral opinion piece for a mainstream audience, but you are totally right in saying its not part of the developer ecosystem.
And, honestly, bait-and-switch is so common with Internet startups, they must teach it somewhere.
Yes they do. It's called growth hacking.
I will acknowledge I have been in rooms where these concepts are taught, and I have been witness to blatant instruction towards really unethical deception.
It's weird to be in a room where everyone laps it up without thinking through the broader ethics. I'm all for clever growth tactics, but when there is an obvious victim in the scenario it's fairly ludicrous.
There's gray area in that things do need to change, and sometimes a segment of a userbase can be affected negatively. But the way it's taught rarely offers concern for all of this.
It's quite difficult to question all this when you're someone desperate for traffic. Worryingly, we're seeing other industries like the gaming industry also applying these ideas. Fortunately, there are others out there who are writing about alternatives to "growth hacking" (ironically hosted at Medium). Perhaps we could serve the community better by offering and researching alternatives.
The root problem I guess is that growth brings more clout/bargaining power to the table when it comes to VC money I think. There is an incentive to produce growth by whatever means necessary.
Great article Ben!
I want to know what is the monetization model of DEV.
You know I have been reading and following articles on DEV from quite 2 years or so.
I'd love this platform to thrive but would like to know your thoughts, roadmap etc. :)
PS: sorry if it is documented somewhere.
We have a few pillars of monetization, some mature, some more in the works:
We would describe our model as hub and spoke: We have a core community platform we are not interested in trying to directly monetize all the traffic from, but as a company devoted to the dev community, we have a lot of adjacent areas where monetization fits nicely.
We think this is all pretty scaleable, but very longterm thinking. The fastest route to monetization (and often exploitation) are obtrusive ads and paywalls. These are not in the roadmap.
This stuff isn't all that well documented in any one place, but it should be.
Is there any plan for Reddit style donations? Like Reddit Gold but similar. If you can do humblebundle style book things I think that will be quite interesting too and promotes a lot of goodwill from the community.
A conf where topics and speakers came from the community!
Writers and readers meeting and discussion everything DEV/dev!
I would love to see something like the Technical Writers Summit find a home at an event like this!
Amazing! I know some of them previously. Definitely looking forward for a conf (happy to volunteer!)
Wish you all the best. Looking forward to do participate in this journey with the community.
I do cross-posting! That's one of the big reasons I love using
dev.to. I usually release an article here and whenever I finally get to it (and usually after the article's popularity wanes), I post it back to my blog and set the canonical url so that my personal blog has a canonical copy.
It's such a killer feature and I don't think I'd be on here without it.
Yes, Medium was never really well suited for Devs. Lack of proper syntax highlighting is a good example.
But what Medium could give, and maybe one of the main reasons that it became popular among developers was reach and visibility for their posts. At least compared with unknown personal blogs.
But then Dev.to appeared and is blowing Medium apart. ;)
Never expected to write an Article and get almost 200 reactions in 2 days, and more than 200 likes and 50 retweets on Twitter.
There is a sense of community and sharing, being focused on developers, that Medium doesn't have. And their comment system is awful btw.
So keep the amazing job.
One thing that Medium has is that I never explored is their Parner program. A friend of mine managed to get 5$ in one week with an article, which I think is not bad. Ben, what is your opinion on this? Would a program like this possible within your vision for Dev?
This article is great...and is on the nose. I’ve been migrating to Dev recently because I can read in depth or light hearted articles while commuting. And Medium keeps asking me to pay for something I used to get for free.
But the biggest reason I’m a daily Dev consumer is that I’ve noticed collaboration and genuine kindness. Im learning so much each time I read, and it makes me proud to be a part of such a great community. Thanks for creating this space.
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