OPINION

The Day Medium Re-Branded Itself as WordPress Lite

An open letter from a mere mortal to the enigmatic Medium gods

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Dear Medium Gods,

You’re really pushing my buttons right now and I think it’s time that we writers told you a thing or two about what’s involved with taking care of us — your valued (or perhaps not) revenue raisers.

We’ve borne your changes to curation that makes it harder for us to analyse our own work. We’ve shrugged at the generic responses to emails sent to “our friends” @ Medium. We’ve even tolerated, albeit begrudgingly, your determination, in the face of thousands of complaints, to hold on to what is singularly THE WORST comments section known to mankind. To be honest, we’ve collectively rolled our eyes, torn out our hair, and stabbed you quite brutally in the back in our support groups. But at this point, it’s getting a little ridiculous and perhaps the backstabbing needs to be replaced with an open letter of revolt, sent out into the ether, that mysterious realm in which you reside.

I think back to my halcyon days as a reasonably successful WordPress blogger. Ahhh, the individual support… the genuine effort to reach out to me seeking suggestions and feedback… the heads up about impending changes, and the really well-written tutorials and blog announcements that were clear and concise and never left room for confusion… WordPress is, after all, a writing platform, so you’d expect no less right?

Oh but the back end! The need to choose fonts and colours and layouts. Such things were needed on a blogging platform because each and every WordPress blog is a unique piece of internet real estate.

When I decided to reignite my passion for writing I chose Medium because of that subtle difference between a blogging platform and a publishing platform. But, as almost a year has passed since I graduated myself from Medium reader to Medium reader AND writer, I am having second thoughts.

What does taking care of your writers involve?

Simple, you ask us what we want or need. You don’t just whack up some beta version and then go cray-cray with changes leaving us all to scramble about on the platform lost and confused.

Perhaps the best way to do that would be to send out an email along the lines of;

“Hi Valued Medium Writer,
First up, thanks for all the hard work you do bringng traffic to our platform and generating revenue for us. It’s a pleasure to have you contribute and to reward you as a partner in that endeavour. [And here’s the important part…] We never stop striving to improve the platform so we’re reaching out to ask you, the writer, how we can make Medium work better for you?
Please fill out this survey…..”

And then, oh I don’t know, after collating all the feedback, perhaps a poll to see which sort of changes would really make your writers happy?

So with that in mind here is my response to the survey you never sent.

If there was one thing you would like to see changed in Medium, what would it be?

OMG, the response feature! Seriously. That thing has got to go… and you know it.

Basically, I’d really like to see Medium take on what they call a relational approach. It’s the way the web is going you see, and the best way you could do that would be to make it easy for readers and writers to, well, you know, relate… have conversations.. engage.

You see, building relationships is what it’s all about these days, and it shouldn’t involve getting lost in 82 clicks in an attempt to follow a conversation thread before realising you really have no clue where you even are on the page so just hit the home button instead… And that doesn’t even touch on the agony and supreme ridiculousness of scrolling through all my frikken comments (because let’s not be pretentious okay; a comment is not a story) when trying to find an article so I can just do something every writer wants to do… check my stats.

Seriously, how many thousands of feedback emails have you had on this one over the years? Heartfelt emails which you've responded to with your generic reply thanking us for the feedback and letting us know you’ve sent it along to “the product team” … which, between you and me, we all know is just code for the too hard basket.

As a writer, what improvements do you think could be made to your profile page to make it more RELATIONAL?

I’m so glad you asked. I’m really big on the idea that my readers can come to my profile and easily work out who I am, what I write about, and of course, read my work. A well laid out profile page really encourages a, you know, relational experience. So here’s what I think is needed:

Layout

First up, let’s think about real estate. On a mobile device such as a smartphone, having my pieces appear in a vertical line makes sense. On larger devices and desktops, not so much. I’d like to see my pieces displayed like a portfolio, say… three across? Now, if you REALLY want to make that real estate work for us writers I can’t emphasise enough how useful it would be to display our work under topics.

Topic Headers

Omg, imagine if the reader had the option to follow a writer’s work on the readers chosen topics! Not all of us write in a single niche. People might love my feminist rants, but find my poetry a bit well, meh really. It’s a case of “won't somebody please think of the readers’. Make it better for them, and n so doing make it better for writers too. I mean, I love that Ryan Fan writes on everything and everything from fascinating events in history to satire and everything in between. Honestly, I do. But I don’t really want his advice ya know… sorry Ryan, but hey, while I have your attention, lose that yellow background dude. I’m feeling ill already.

Social Media

Now, this might seem a little revolutionary, but how about a nice little row of social media icons? And let’s please include Instagram in that. In fact, why not just give us the option in our settings for all the major ones writers are likely to use to help drive traffic to your platform. This would have the added benefit of not having to waste my 160 about-me characters on my entire Facebook link with all the https and www shit.

We’re thinking of adding [insert features here] to profile pages. What are your thoughts on these?

God give me strength. No. No. No. No, and NO! I love the clean professional look of uniform profile pages across what you refer to yourself as a “publishing platform”. My brain hurts adjusting to all the different looks, the colours, the fonts. It’s just super messy and makes me want to stop reading… so as a writer that has me a tad concerned because I kinda want people to hang around a read.

Design

Backgrounds, header images, different fonts and layouts are getting messy and bloggy. It’s almost as if you forgot you were offering something different to what was already on offer to writers online… a nice, simple platform to share our creativity and ideas instead of an overly brain-stimulating and distracting array of individuality. Are you giving up on simple in favour of looking more like WordPress Lite? Which is exactly what I don’t want.

I don’t want to faff about with design settings! I don’t want to spend time learning how to faff about with design settings! I just want to write. Leave the individual unique designs to the publications. Oh, and please tell me a WYSIWYG editor isn’t on the cards?

Previews

Jesus Christ! I just noticed the story previews. What the actual fark? You can read my poems in their entirety without even having to click on them now. And my other pieces… jakers! Readers can get through half of an article for free!… Are you trying to reduce my read time or something? That one’s looking particularly nefarious. Sure, previews are a great way to whet my reader's appetites, but how much whetting is needed? I’m somewhat offended.

Followers/Following

Surely stopping us from being able to click on those words and see a list of who we’re following — so we can just go straight to their page to enjoy their latest pearls rather than rely on you to determine what “latest from [our] network” should be placed before our eyes — is a bug right? You’re going to fix that one right?… Right? And hey, given all the focus these days on the massive issue of online safety for women, and governments, corporations and platforms signing the new Contract for the Web to achieve that end — you’re not going to stop us from seeing whose following us either right? I mean, it has to just be a bug right?…Right?… RIGHT?

About tab

By the way, what is the point of having an “About” tab if the about tab only offers the same 160-word blurb already contained in our headers? If it linked to a more detailed about page it would make sense. But right now it makes no sense at all. And, if I re-centre my header (after you moved it over to the left) I lose my profile pic. What’s that about?

Profile Pic vs Logo

Again, let me bring up a word that is being touted a lot these days, re-la-tion-al… which according to those in the know is much preferred over transactional.

Maybe I misunderstand the word in its internetty context, but in my mind having a profile pic instead of a logo, as you’re now suggesting I use, is very much facilitating a relationship with my readers. It’s my face for fecks sake!… If I wanted a logo I’d be using it in my publication… so again, leave all that unique branding stuff to the publications, and let writers just be us, writers. People. With faces. Simples!

End of Survey

So what’s next? Who knows really — certainly none of us mere mortals. But, if ever you gods feel like smiling upon us, perhaps an actual survey, a well written genuine inquiry of your humble servants and revenue raisers wouldn’t be amiss.

Until then I only have this paraphrased quote to offer on the latest changes to the platform…

These changes are the nastiest skank bitch changes I have ever seen. Do not trust Medium. It’s a fugly slut!

… and breathe.

Yours in extreme frustration,

Sarah J. Baker; Writer, and womxn with a freakish talent for saying it like it is.

© Sarah J. Baker 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Written by

Navel Gazer | Feminist | Urban Agriculturalist | Sweating the little things. Follow me at https://www.facebook.com/thiswomxn/

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