Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Happy Medium?

Image: Kalavinka
There are an ever-increasing number of blog providers. I was fond of Posterous for use in school - it was free and gave you security settings that made it easy and safe for students to post. But now its dead as a bebo. Currently on the rise is Medium. Originally only available to a select few, it quietly opened its doors to you and me last autumn. But what is it for and what makes it different?

Over the last few years of writing this blog, I've occasionally broken out of the creative media mould and written posts about things that have happened to me. Often things that made me laugh, sometimes with a mildly media-ish connection, sometimes not.
A belated birthday present from my daughter* reminded me of my ambition to write more. Co-incidentally I came upon Medium again, which seems to be for real writing - not endless widgets, gifs and memes. So, nothing ventured...

I had an idea for a piece of writing about a recent problem. So I signed up, drafted my piece, saved the draft without publishing and sent the link to a few friends, hoping one of them would be interested enough to use the comment facility which consists of notes attached to sections of text.

Please avert your gaze while I flush with embarrassment.

So eager was I to use the collaboration tool, I sent the rather appalling first draft, when I was perfectly capable of doing the fairly vicious editing it needed myself. The friend who took up the challenge is a journalist by training and was remarkably gracious with her comments whilst making pretty clear how ill-written it was. Her comment about the commenting facility was:

I did find Medium highly annoying as it wants you to save each note, it doesn't make the save button very conspicuous, but if you try to go on to the next note without saving, it gives you a warning but then wipes out your notes anyway. It feels very beta to me.

I know what she means. Medium autosaves, which is great - until you do something crass like... um... deleting half the post accidentally and then makes it really hard/impossible to undo your mistake. This is a little strange especially when Settings allows you to download your work as a zip folder  of HTML files (listen up Blogger!)  Various other minor glitches occurred; quite often I would find myself suddenly editing the title for no apparent reason.

But, for all that, I still enjoyed using it. It's a clean, minimal working space with simple but useful formatting tools, which pop up where you need them. The editor is identical to the finished result - no preview needed. And the end result is rather beautiful to behold. A large, elegant, black font with lots of white space makes it easy on the eye. It's very readable on my phone and I expect it would look rather good on a tablet.

Readership is achieved by offering your pieces for inclusion in collections made by other Medium users. I found it hard to place a piece called The O-Be-Joyfuls Mystery (previously posted on this blog), because all the keyword searches I put in for Collections, gave me a nil return. I expect this will change as more people sign up.
I've put all my own work in a collection called, strangely enough, "All my own Work" . You'll find a new link button in my sidebar. The question  remains though, whether anyone will find it through the Medium network. Rather crucial because, after all, anyone bothering to put writing online, presumably wants the biggest possible readership.
I'll keep you posted...

*Moleskine notebook and posh pen if you want to know...