Another Platform Collapses

This Week In Writing, we talk about Reddit and what it means for centralized communities moving forward.

Another Platform Collapses
Photo by Jp Valery / Unsplash

Last week, nearly all of Reddit was intentionally turned off. At the height, 96% of all communities were set to "private," essentially preventing them from being accessible and temporarily crashing the site. The communities were protesting new API rules and making a general statement about the Reddit leadership.

Since the coordinated protest, Reddit's CEO has called all Redditors data, threatened to replace moderators who keep their communities private and restored deleted posts (Twitter did the same and claimed it was a "bug"). Continuing to fight back, some communities took their protest to a vote of the community and, as Reddit is the most online people of them all, the vote very much went in favor of continued protest.

Screenshot from r/Pics showing a comment stating "Upvote this comment if you want r/Pics to feature only images of John Oliver looking sexy" with 72.2k votes and "Upvote this comment if you want to return to normal operation." with -19.6k votes.
Screenshot from r/Pics

All of this is nuts and is highly reminiscent of the Twitter drama from late last year. But what's happening at Reddit isn't important to writers in the grand scheme of things. It is, however, emblematic of a much larger issue we've talked about multiple times throughout the last year: platforms are dying.

When we give our content to a platform we don't control, we're putting ourselves at the whim of its leadership. As the Reddit CEO said, we are giving them data from which they can profit. There are reasons to do this -- it helps build an audience, and it helps make connections with other creators. But it's vital to know that there are also massive trade-offs.

Clearly, most platforms don't care about their users. Twitter and Reddit see accounts as a means to an end -- free labor and content that turn into data points for ad sales. Which, fine. They're corporations, and that's their prerogative. However, I want to maintain control of my data. I want to be the one to determine how it's used rather than the other way around.

I've talked before about the POSE method (publish once, syndicate everywhere) I follow. As I continue to build out my hub on a self-hosted Ghost installation, this method becomes increasingly easier to maintain. I can choose where and how my words are syndicated and which platforms I trust with that data.

I write all my content in iA Writer and export it to Ghost, where I format and embellish it. With some Zapier ingenuity, the same post is created as a draft in Medium once I schedule the Ghost post. Then, it's just a matter of scheduling the Medium draft. Easy peasy.

Substack, on the other hand, is a completely closed system. They have no API, and even though the platform is built on email, which is entirely portable, they want you to stay in the walled garden. While I am a fan of the audience-building capabilities on Substack, I am not a fan of any of this, let alone their stance on hate speech and content moderation. As a result, I have to copy and paste everything into Substack to generate a new post. It's time-consuming and, frankly, completely unnecessary.

Whether referring to all users as data, preventing API access, or leaning into "all speech matters" nonsense, it's clear that platforms of all kinds are grasping at straws. Their primary focus is not their user base, and it's not the time we spend contributing -- their only concern is the company's bottom line. We're just a cog in that machine to churn out profits. Which, again, that's fine. That's what companies do. However, I'd very much rather not be beholden to that nonsense.

I implore you to have a central hub that maintains all your writing, art, videos, and whatever you produce. Yes, it's more work (initially). Yes, it adds time. But we're seeing the last grasps of dying platforms trying to maintain relevance. They see the massive internet shift to decentralized communities. Their influence is dwindling. Don't get lost in the shuffle, and have a proactive plan.

Medium Day

It's important to state that not all platforms are evil. Some are run by high-quality people who genuinely consider their users part of the community, not a machine cog. Medium is one of these rare exceptions. Tony Stubblebine, the CEO, is a thoughtful and community-minded person I've had the pleasure to work with throughout the years.

Tony announced Medium Day, a celebration of everything the platform offers. The virtual conference is on August 12 and will highlight panels, workshops, and more from Medium's team and creators.

Always up to support Medium's endeavors (again, it's one of the good ones), I applied to host something. It was accepted! Now, I need to figure out what that something is. I need your suggestions!

I love hosting panel discussions, so I'm leaning toward that. But what I want to know from you is what kind of panel discussion you would like to see. Do you want to hear from Writing Cooperative authors? Other publication editors? What would you find the most helpful and interesting?

Reply, and please let me know. Medium Day is a celebration of creators and as the editor of a publication dedicated to supporting fellow writers, I want you to be part of the planning process. But please respond quickly. I need to put a proposal together this week!

I'll share more about our panel when I have more details (like time and access information). For now, mark August 12 on your calendar. It should be a lot of fun!

Silo Book Club

Speaking of decentralized niche communities and a lot of fun, My Writing Community is hosting a Silo/Wool Book Club discussion on July 31. This gives you plenty of time to read Wool (or all three books in the series if you're feeling ambitious) and watch the first season of Silo on AppleTV+. There are at least two episodes of the season left (AppleTV+ shows are typically 10-13 episodes, and the eighth premiered last week).

I really enjoyed all three books, and while the show is different, it provides an interesting twist in the storytelling. Typically I recommend people read the book before watching the show (that's what I did). However, you could get away going the other way around on this one. It'd be interesting to hear about that insight and experience.

Put July 31 on your calendar for My Writing Community's Book Club discussion. If you're not a member, join today! We have a lot of fun.