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Breaking free from Medium

For the past couple of years I can been running (badly) a couple a publications on Medium.

A recent set of tweets by @yongfook got me thinking.

He’s right!

Why am I spending my time promoting a platform that does not directly serve me? Why am I spending my energy on a platform that monetises me at my expense.

Don’t get me wrong, Medium is a pretty cool. It’s deceptively easy to use, has a huge audience, and has an intoxicating system of claps. But, it’s doing nothing for me long term.

Those tweets got be thinking, so I continued checking the Twittersphere to see what others were thinking.

@levelsio is right. It’s full of spammy articles. My writing isn’t that great. The one controversial post that I wrote that generated a tiny amount of traffic resulted couple of the large publications ask me to submit to their publications. At the time, that felt great, but looking back at it objectively, this is one of the issues that I have. Someone (Medium or a larger publication), monetising me at my expense.

They were circling me like vultures. All they wanted was the traffic to their publication, from an article that I wrote, the didn’t know or care about me.

@Mike_Arnesen hit the nail on the head. Ease of use and distribution at the cost of EVERYTHING?.

A bunch of other publications(Signal v Noise) that I follow have started to exit Medium. It’s been somthing that I have been thinking about for a while prior to @Yongfook’s tweetstorm, so I have jumped about the train 🚆🚆🚆

But what to use

I had an idea of what I wanted:

  • Something that is easy to write write. The reason I like Medium is it’s markdown-ish ability to write content
  • Something that I didn’t have to worry about being ‘up’. I don’t want to waste my time doing maintenance
  • Something that would have a low learning curve for me, and if I did have to learn something it would have benefit me long term
  • Something that I would have to pay little or no money to run.
  • Something that I could customise easily (control the look & feels, have a custom domain, etc)

There were a number of options.

WordPress

Wordpress is pretty good, some might say the de facto, choice for blogging but it didn’t wow me on enough of the key criteria for me.

  • ❎ Something that is easy to write write. The reason I like Medium is it’s markdown-ish ability to write content
  • ❎ Something that I didn’t have to worry about being ‘up’. I don’t want to waste my time doing maintenance
  • ✅ Something that would have a low learning curve for me, and if I did have to learn something it would have benefit me long term
  • ❎ Something that I would have to pay little or no money to run.
  • ❎ Something that I could customise easily (control the look & feels, have a custom domain, etc)

WordPress could be a valid choice but I don’t like the post editor, I didn’t fancy having to maintain a VPS, and

Ghost

Lots of awesome blogs are on Ghost. Ghost founder @JohnONolan is an awesome follow on twitter but it didn’t feel just right.

  • ✅ Something that is easy to write write. The reason I like Medium is it’s markdown-ish ability to write content
  • ✅ Something that I didn’t have to worry about being ‘up’. I don’t want to waste my time doing maintenance
  • ✅ Something that would have a low learning curve for me, and if I did have to learn something it would have benefit me long term
  • ❎ Something that I would have to pay little or no money to run.
  • ✅ Something that I could customise easily (control the look & feels, have a custom domain, etc)

Ghost seems really cool, but I just didn’t fancy paying some money for it.

JAMstack

I’ll acknowledge my biases - I’ve been real keen for a long time to build a site using JAMstack.

Moving my blog to JAMstack seemed to just make the most sense.

  • ✅ Something that is easy to write write. The reason I like Medium is it’s markdown-ish ability to write content
  • ✅ Something that I didn’t have to worry about being ‘up’. I don’t want to waste my time doing maintenance
  • ✅ Something that would have a low learning curve for me, and if I did have to learn something it would have benefit me long term
  • ✅ Something that I would have to pay little or no money to run.
  • ✅ Something that I could customise easily (control the look & feels, have a custom domain, etc)

Learning something that has been of interest for a long time, I could use a static site generator & write my article in markdown, contributors could make a pull request to add additional articles, I can use whatever design I want, and I don’t have to spend a cent.

Using a JAMstack was a no-brainer.

What’s JAMstack?

JAMstack is essentially dynamically-built static sites i.e. all dynamic tasks in a JAMstack site occur at build time, not at runtime.

Modern web development architecture based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup.

The key benefits of using JAMstack for me are:

  • Performance: The site is already built when it is delivered to the visitor (via a static HTML file), so there’s no waiting around for data. A huge plus for SEO.
  • Scale: You don’t lose runtime performance when your site scales because (again) you’re simply delivering HTML files to the visitor. The CDN delivering those files doesn’t care if there are 100 or 100,000. It delivers only what it’s asked to, and that content is cached after being delivered the first time. The main scaling issue you’ll have to deal with occurs at build time in considering how long it takes to run the build. But that’s on you to solve for your own (or your client’s) benefit – it doesn’t affect the end user because they only see the result of the build.
  • Security: There’s no way to get into the database because there is no database.
  • Developer Experience (DX): I can make changes locally, commit to git and just push to production. I don’t have to worry too much about anything

Using the community’s best practices, this is the process for deploying a site using the JAMstack approach:

  • Make a change to the code or content locally.
  • Push the changes to GitHub.
  • GitHub webhook notifies a server to build the project.
  • Server pulls down the changes from GitHub.
  • Server builds the project.
  • Server uploads the HTML files from the built project (along with any necessary assets) to a CDN.
  • Server informs CDN to invalidate its cache.
  • Site is live.

When a visitor hits site they are delivered static files (which are server up using Netlify’s content delivery network (CDN)).

What did I choose

I eventually chose to build a JAMstack site, and host on Netlify for free.

There are a number of static site generators that could be have been used to build the site. Hugo, Gatsy, Middleman, and others. End the end I chose Hugo because I had used it previously (remember that I wanted a low learning curve for me).

I didn’t want to have to think too much about the design so I just used a very popular Ghost theme that has been ported over to Hugo.

Check out my post how to build a website for free

This means that I have a blazing fast, secure website where I own the content.

I can’t see myself every turning back.


If you have read this far, please let me know you thoughts?

Over & Out 💪 💪 💪 💪 💪 👊 👊 👊 👊 👊