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.
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.
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:
The discussion in this #help thread was incredibly useful to me as well:
There are enumerable examples from around the community, but I also thought this thread was super valuable from the other day:
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