tl;dr - I've migrated this site away from Medium.com to a shared server running an install of Ghost. There were several reasons for this but chief among them was a growing sense of disconnection with the readers of the site and a desire to create a community again.
🌰🥜 and 🔩🔩
Despite being a bit behind the curve when I migrated this site and its contents to Medium.com a few years ago, it felt like the right thing to do. The work involved with maintaining the site's infrastructure, my disillusionment with Wordpress as a writing platform and corresponding enchantment with the writing experience on Medium all played a part. But underlying it all was a belief that I could share my content with more people on Medium than I could on my own. I knew that would come at a cost but at the time it was one I felt glad to pay.
Back in 2017, I got in just in time to utilize my own domain—something that Medium subsequently shut down but would have been a deal breaker for me had I had to use medium.com/alttext versus alttext.com. What they also did, however, was to start switching over, more and more, to a membership model. I paid—it wasn't much—and I believing in what the leadership at Medium was trying to do. Not only did I move Alt Text to Medium but I spearheaded the move of the Misty Robotics blog as well. Medium seemed like a great content discovery and consumption solution and it also happened to be a pleasure to create content there.
Experiencing Medium as a reader
At some point, however, more by laziness than anything, I let my membership lapse and I was confronted with how the Medium community felt to a non member. It felt exclusive but not in a way that I wanted it to. All of a sudden I wondered how much of that was apparent to readers. I didn't want some people left out. I always made sure my content settings allowed anyone to read posts on Alt Text. But what I don't know is how that affected my posts being recommended or otherwise served up to Medium readers. (I suspect it did not help)
The costs of hosting Alt Text on Medium now started to outweigh the benefits. Sure I am a very sporadic writer and I probably did get a bit of a lift in terms of readership. But the cost of that was that I don't feel like I have a relationship with those readers. Even now, I don't really have a good way to tell all those who subscribed to Alt Text on Medium that I have moved; that I would love for them to subscribe again, to this new form. Because the largest reason for the move was a growing sense of being disconnected to the community I really wanted to build.
Ghost made this possible
Though this move has really been facilitated by the creation of Ghost. The editor in Ghost is essentially the experience of drafting and publishing on Medium. There are a few places where it isn't as polished but that is more than made up for by the fact that it is in continuous development and you can embed HTML into a post. They even have a discourse community forum where I can gripe :)
I've still got to work on my local development environment (I'm a bit rusty in that department and I was never super knowledgeable in dev ops/sys ops to begin with) that will allow me to make some more significant changes to the template.
What's next for Alt Text?
As with all plans, this is subject to change but moving back to a more independent platform should allow for a few things I have been meaning to do more of here at Alt Text.
- More posts. Yeah, I know I have said this before, but I feel a pretty strong sense of purpose here. I would like to connect with people through what I write here and so I plan on keeping a better cadence of posts—you know, like more frequent than annually but
perhapsassuredly not weekly.
- A redesign. That's right, one of the itches I've really wanted to scratch in the pst few years is getting back to some design and UX work in my spare time. This site has often given me this opportunity and now, outside of Medium, I'll be able to do that again. Though you may notice that this default them provided by Ghost is very similar to what Alt Text looked like on Medium, you should start to see subtle tweaks here and there prior to a new look.
- Different content types. Another think I miss from the heydays of Alt Text (see screenshot below) is the ability to mix in some different content in addition to longer form posts. Small asides, movie and tv reviews, etc. Sometimes I just want to post a quick thought–why should those be restricted to Twitter?
- Subscriber perks. I'm not sure about this one but aside from getting new content from Alt Text sent to their inbox, I am wondering if there is something else I can do for those that choose to subscribe. If I can figure out the technical challenges, maybe something as simple as commenting on posts is only open to subscribers, or maybe there is an area only for subscribers. Still needs more thought but I do want to encourage a community here—since that is what I have been doing in my career for the last dozen or so years. So hey, why not subscribe.