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Cover image for Medium Was Never Meant to Be a Part of the Developer Ecosystem
The DEV Team

Medium Was Never Meant to Be a Part of the Developer Ecosystem

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・5 min read

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:

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:

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 canonical_url.

Happy coding!

Posted on Nov 7 '19 by:

ben profile

Ben Halpern

@ben

A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.

The DEV Team

The team behind this very platform. 😄

Discussion

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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.

medium.com/@seangwright/im-moving-...

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

 

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.

  • Simple: It just works when you need it to work, it isn't a matter of way too much manual effort to do simple things.
  • Powerful: It needs to leverage the platform well. There is certain kind of content that is kind of "special" for DEV, like our custom liquid embeds that augment markdown etc. We are compatible with RSS and markdown, but the best way to use our platform is to make the most of it, so we'll be thinking through ideas where compatibility and power are maintained.

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

 

a lot of learners quit after a visit to those exchange sites (looking at you stack!)

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.

 

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?

 

Thanks!

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).

 

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 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).

  1. The UX was better for my taste. Write some markdown, hit publish, done.
  2. It seemed like a fast growing community and I wanted to be part of this before it became too big (like Medium already was) to gain any recognition. :D
 

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:

  • Sponsorship (once a month shoutout, inclusion in our main newsletter, etc.) We try to model it after "conference sponsorships", in that they are a natural part of the ecosystem but nothing we want to go too hardcore with in terms of overrunning the platform with unpleasant ads.
  • DEV Listings — In that post I get into specifically how that works in relation to our business model.
  • Special events/contests: Online hackathons, etc. We've done one of these and it went over extremely well. We wan to make this more regular as an additive event the community loves.
  • Support contracts for devrel teams who want to make the most of the platform: Training in community-first business practices etc.
  • Pro features, specifically for devrel, but anyone who wants to go deep into DEV: Advanced analytics, alerts on topics etc. We see these as things we'd rather build specifically for a subset which would like to pay, rather than provide everything to everyone all the time even if it's really only a small subset which would care about and benefit.
  • Commercial open source initiatives: As an open source project, we are exploring the future of allowing more use cases for our community software and offering hosting, support, special licenses etc.
  • Misc future projects: Maybe a conference? (No promises here, but it's an idea!)

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.

 

Misc future projects: Maybe a conference? (No promises here, but it's an idea!)

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!

Yes, please!

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

First of all, whoever came up with that cover image should has a Madmen level marketing chop. Just clever and hilarious.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

After I got fed up with Medium, I set up a Hugo blog and hosted it on Netlify. Nice to have a free option, but it's a lot of machinery to go through to post - new branch, hugo new blog.md, commit, push, create PR, make sure it looks good on the preview page, and then merge. For most of my posts, it takes longer to do all of that than to write it.

For a while I wanted to own all my writing no matter what. I'm setting up some CMS stuff to make my personal site easier, but I really like this platform, Ben (and the rest of the team!) because it feels like it's the right place for developers to write things that are longer than a StackOverflow answer, but still a blog post (not a GitHub README etc..)

These days, I write some stuff here, some there, and a lot of it posted here using canonical_url. Honestly the things that got me to start here were that the whole platform is open source, all my posts are stored as Markdown, and I can use canonical_url.

 

I never saw Medium as a place for neophyte writers to gather a following by latching on to topics that developers search for. There are enough blogs out there, and Medium rose above that mess by focusing on long form, detailed subjects. That happened to include software engineering topics.

I saw Dev as a place where community is built. Not another blogging platform. If the community here is overrun by bloggers it will be less useful for me. I have enough of that mostly useless noise from other sources.

Obviously this is your gig, carry on in whatever way best fits your needs. I just don't feel Medium has to be viewed as Evil for Dev.to to be awesome. :)

 

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.

 

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?

 

Great post. Honestly, I moved to DEV because a dev buddy of mine Michael Solati recommended me to move from Medium to DEV. I did catch myself subscribing to Medium a few times for some Dev articles I needed for a small project. It became a nuisance.

After reading this post I will be making the switch to DEV 100%.

 

I never was a part of Medium and started my tech blog here, just because I've always had a feeling that all posts with code snippets shouldn't be on that platform - it wasn't easy to read any text with code at all.

 

Since I found Dev.to, I progressively reduced my time spent on Medium until it was down to zero, I even stopped reading their "weekly summary". Paid subscription? Absolutely not worth it, time spent reading all of the clickbait on Medium is time wasted.

Dev.to is less click-baity, less "addictive" in a wrong way, and much more community oriented. Stopped caring about Medium a long time ago and my life is better for it.

 

Honestly Medium wasn't ever a great place for this. The sheer trouble I had getting code snippets to work nicely with gists (yes there are tools for this but it shows bad design in the first place) that I used Jekyll for a while.

I think a push from larger groups like Freecodecamp, Hackernoon etc. also helped, and many people published tutorials that spurred it's growth. The interface also felt fresh and clean which is why people liked it.

Medium started out better and slowly went that path, and Dev.to seems like a good community today, but what if it too goes the same path?

 

I had switched to here waaay before this Medium thingy. I've been blessed.. Really.. Looking forward to start writing my own articles very soon.

Can we do polls too? I've been thinking about this for a week now. Can we? Pleeeeaase?

 

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.

I love this excerpt, it really speaks to what i do most of the time on the internet (when in developer mode), i even use discord for answers now as its the modern IRC chat that i never had being a Gen-Zer

 

I'm trying on medium to write technical articles for a month and see what the statistics are. Then I'll try DEV and I'd like to create a final article about the adventure and the experience and even the feedback.

 

This is music to our collective developer ears!

This post is both pleasing and inspiring.

Big respect for having the foresight to stick to principles that you know people will appreciate.

When I found DEV I got it instantly, and realised it was the thing I didn't even realise I was looking for (f**k Medium).

 

I used to write on medium, but the paywall really irritated me, which is why I started looking around and found DEV. My experience here so far has been way beyond anything I expected for writing, not just the tools, but interaction with the community just seems easy. I appreciate all your work on this platform. Looking forward to seeing where it goes.

 

Lol, I think you are right :D, maybe I should switch dev.to for blogging. I started writing in medium recently, hoping to get some subscribers to my company. At the same time, I subscribe to the medium partner program, started seeing some problems with earning calculation.

Just blogged about it, here,
goglides.com/blog/medium-earnings-...

 

I tried to give this post 23 claps.
Sadly... I couldn't so this will have to do.
👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

😜

 

👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏

 
 

Thanks for being so open! Really refreshing!

I know that this post wasnt all about the money etc, but its obviously a driving factor, for both users, and DEV being able to survive long term.

I understand that you need to make money to be able to host and support such a great ecosystem. As long as you kept the core the same (free to publish/read without much bias in results) then I would have no issue paying a small fee for "premium" services, such as the mentor scheme and a lot of the newer features you are developing.

I would also have no issues with dev related adds which approached you directly (i.e. not google adsense/other shitty ad services). Look at how other dev targeted sites somewhat tastefully, css-tricks have a jobs board, stack overflow target job listings at users. I know you have your sponsors and sponsor posts, they are great. But if you are ever struggling for funds, there are options that people would pay for without it having to feel like bait and switch.

Im sure you have considered all of this, but I dont know how/if you would go about floating these ideas with a community that is migrating from services that exist purely for financial gain. So I probably speak for at least a small handful of people, I will pay for and support an honest product.

Keep being as you are with this, its exciting and new with a grassroots feel. We can all make this work, and if there are some costs associated, then if its honest 🤷‍♀️ no issues here.

 

It's never meant to be!

Why?

Simple!

They don't provide Syntax highlighting...