Why I'm Starting My Own Platform
When I started writing on Medium it was an experiment. I have always enjoyed writing for myself, but never knew if I could or should share my work publicly. What started as a couple of short stories blossomed into a love of writing and a need to do it everyday. Medium gave me a place to share my work and meet other great readers and writers.
In short, Medium has been good to me and I have no intention of leaving it.
OK, so then why am I starting my own website?
I recently came across the story of writer Dennis Cooper's blog. For the last 14 years he wrote a blog that was passionately followed by thousands of readers. He wrote about death, sex and countless other topics. Then suddenly, and without explanation, Google shut his account down. Poof. It disappeared. He was given a vague explanation that his content had violated the Terms of Service agreement, but no further explanation of what happened to his content and if he could get it back. From a recent NY Times piece:
Thus far, these efforts [to recover Cooper's blog] have been in vain. Google has not responded beyond saying there was a violation of the Terms of Service agreement. It has neither identified the specific violation nor indicated why it also deleted Mr. Cooper’s email account. It has not provided Mr. Cooper with the ability to download his personal information so he might rebuild his blog and email account elsewhere. In one interview, Mr. Cooper said he thought that the male escort ads might have led to his account’s being deactivated, but this has not been confirmed by the company...
I am all for conversations about art and its limits, but I do not want a corporation to be the arbiter of those limits. Google, as a private entity, is allowed to dictate how people use its services. It is allowed to dictate the consequences when people use its services in ways it doesn’t approve. Such protocols are outlined in Terms of Service. “By using our services, you are agreeing to these terms,” they state. Access is acquiescence. We are invited to use “free” services, and in exchange, Google puts ads in front of us and mines our online habits for data.
Medium is currently a fairly free and open place. It's been a wonderful platform for writing and experimentation. However, there is nothing saying that it might not change. For instance what happens if:
- Medium decided to stop hosting erotica?
- Decided stories must host advertising?
- Decided all stories must be part of publications?
Those are all guesses, I have no idea how Medium will change over the coming years. What I do know is that platforms tend to move toward closure, not toward openness. Think about the beginnings of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger and Livejournal. Think about them now, they are all radically different. Whether they've ascended to algorithm driven bland lands (looking at your Facebook), the land of the troll (yep, twitter) or totally irrelevant (sorry Livejournal), they've all dramatically changed.
I was willing to live with this risk when writing was an experiment. However, I've grown to love this form of expression and I want a place where I can share whatever fiction or essay I like without fear of corporate censorship or service changes. And if services do change, at least this is a site I pay for and I (theoretically) have some recourse for my content to move elsewhere. When you don't pay for a product, you are the product.
OK, so what about Medium?
Medium has a import function which allows me to pull posts from this site. So, I'll still be around, sharing my content with the wonderful folks there. I will also be reading and writing responses, because I love good discussion. I'm not going anywhere.