A friend pointed me to a story on Medium called “Death to Typewriters,” by Medium designer Marcin Wichary. The story is about the influence of the typewriter on digital typesetting. It references my “excellent list” of typewriter habits.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Minimalism doesn’t foreclose either expressive breadth or conceptual depth. On the contrary, the minimalist program—as it initially emerged in fine art of the 20th century—has been about diverting the viewer’s attention from overt signs of authorship to the deeper purity of the ingredients. ❧
This also sounds like a great way to cook!
Like all nonsense, it’s intended to be easy to swallow. ❧
You’re giving up far more than design choice. Mr. Williams describes Medium’s key benefit as rescuing writers from the “terrible distraction” of formatting chores. But consider the cost. Though he’s baiting the hook with design, he’s also asking you, the writer, to let him control how you offer your work to readers. Meaning, to get the full benefit of Medium’s design, you have to let your story live on Medium, send all your readers to Medium, have your work permanently entangled with other stories on Medium, and so on—a significant concession. ❧
You’re definitely not owning your own data.
Boiled down, Medium is simply marketing in the service of more marketing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, therefore, utterly superfluous. ❧
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This is 100% on the mark, you should definitely own your own content. Syndicating it out to Medium is a great idea, particularly when you can get a rel=”canonical” tag for the original on Medium. Incidentally Medium has their own WordPress plugin that will allow you to quickly and easily syndicate your site’s content directly to Medium without needing to separately import it. It’s also available on a per post basis.
But, even with this, you’re only getting 50% of the value of having your own website because you’ve only got one way communication out. Next you’ll need communication back in. What if I said you could get a lot of the comments, likes, and interactions from those other silos back into your website too? This way the conversations others are having relating to your content also come back to your site and enrich it there? What if you could own all (or almost all) of the conversation around your content?
Think about it, what if there was an @mention functionality that worked from website to website instead of being stuck inside Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Flickr etc.? Interestingly, it exists! And you can set it up for free with last year’s new W3C Webmention protocol which already has WordPress plugins ready to go. Roughly for WordPress you’ll need the Webmentions plugin, the Semantic Linkbacks plugin, the Syndication Links plugin, a few strategically placed rel=”me” tags on your site, (maybe some tweaks to your microformats on your theme), and a free Brid.gy account. Details for setting it up can be found on the WordPress pages of the indieweb.org website. I suspect if you’re strong enough to have figured out the tech for your article, you could probably have it up and running in under an hour or so. Then instead of feeding content from your blog to the black hole of social media, you could have actual two-way communication with many social silos! Now you won’t need to pay as much attention to those other sites as you can use your WordPress site as an “app” to interact with them instead.
I’m happy to help walk you through it if you’re interested and need help. My own personal site has some documentation of some of the above as well as examples of how it works.
In some sense, hopefully this post on my site will be an interesting exemplar. I own it and “loaned” or syndicated copies to Disqus and Twitter. Comments, likes and reposts you make to the Twitter copy will automatically be ported back here after the fact using Brid.gy. (Sadly, Disqus isn’t supported–yet.)
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I consider myself a member of the open web community and very friendly with the goals of the IndieWeb community. I too wish for a world where web giants have less power and where the user is in control of more of their data. Yet, I now work for a large (the largest?) publishing platform. It is not often easy to reconcile, but one thing that I can tell you for a fact is that your data is, on average, safer on large hosting provider than it is on your small indie site.
I’d be curious to see more concrete numbers on these statistics, though I suspect that for “mature” sites, it may actually be the case. Some of the small, middling platforms however… The other side of the coin though is that when airplanes do crash, the death toll is seemingly large, and this is also the case with major silos.
While he mentions personal sites disappearing, it’s typically something that the site owner can often at least make a conscious choice to do and they can also mothball the data for later use. With a silo death, they really have no choice and often can’t get any data at all.
This just goes to point out that we need better solutions for both openness and longevity. How much of what I write on line will survive the next 500+ years? More or less than what Copernicus or Newton wrote? (Of course, who will care is an entirely different question…)
I hope that perhaps Medium opens up in the future to do some of the functionality that he mentions.
Controlling my data is important to me. It’s also important that my students (and the faculty that I support) have the ability to control their own...
A prescient article written last fall before the news that Medium was downsizing significantly this week.
Continue reading “Getting data out of Medium”
Paragraph commenting, or annotations is not exactly new. Readers have been scribbling in the margins of books, magazines and uni assignments for years. The online world has been slow to adopt this approach which is perhaps why Medium caused a stir and no shortage of admiring looks when it went the annotation route. Well, admire forlornly no more because I'm going to show you how to add paragraph commenting to your WordPress site. There are existing annotation solutions for WordPress but they are generally theme dependent, or in the case of CommentPress actually provide a theme.
This has some great advice and code for potentially adding marginalia.
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