Owning my words

Jeremy Keith
4 min readMay 19, 2016

When I wrote a few words about progressive enhancement recently, I linked to Karolina’s great article The Web Isn’t Uniform. I was a little reluctant to link to it, not because of the content — which is great — but because of its location on Ev’s blog. I much prefer to link directly to people’s own websites (I have a hunch that those resources tend to last longer too) but I understand that Medium offers a nice low barrier to publishing.

That low barrier comes at a price. It means you have to put up with anyone and everyone weighing in with their own hot takes. The way the site works is that anyone who writes a comment on your article is effectively writing their own article — you don’t get to have any editorial control over what kind of stuff appears together with your words. There is very little in the way of community management once a piece is published.

Karolina’s piece attracted some particularly unsavoury snark — tech bros disagreeing in their brash bullying way. I linked to a few comments, leaving out the worst of the snark, but I couldn’t resist editorialising:

Ah, Medium! Where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens.

I knew even when I was writing it that it was unproductive, itself a snarky remark. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But I wanted to acknowledge that not only was bad behaviour happening, but that I was seeing it, and I wasn’t ignoring it. I guess it was mostly intended for Karolina — I wanted to extend some kind of acknowledgment that the cumulative weight of those sneering drive-by reckons is a burden that no one should have to put up with.

Tempted to @-mention orgs who’s employees abuse me in comments under my posts. Then I remember about million more interesting things to do.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 29, 2016

“Everyday, a dude goes out of their way to tell you you’re wrong. Women’s life on the Internet.” A novel.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 29, 2016

I’m literally done reading the comments for my article. It saddens me that even high-profile Web folk fails to see what I meant…

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 26, 2016

…and only wishes to argue about their favourite and beloved JavaScript. See here and my reply below: https://t.co/2pA3RZZHKk

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 26, 2016

№1 rule of posting controversial content: NEVER read the comments*

*of random dudes who misunderstood the point and are trying to mock you.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 25, 2016

I literally wrote JS is great but the point is understanding who you build for and be empathetic. Still people call me a hater.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 24, 2016

Funny enough it was 98% men trying to tell me I don’t understand how the web works.

Guess what? Stop reading in between the lines.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 24, 2016

So many people decided to snarkily disagree with me without trying to grasp I’m advocating for the users, not saying JavaScript is bad.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 23, 2016

Probably going to have white male dudes tweeting at me how much they disagree for eternity.

— fantastic ms. (@fox) April 23, 2016

I knew that when I wrote about Medium being “where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens” that I would (rightly) get pushback, and sure enough, I did …on Medium. Not on Twitter or anywhere else, just Medium.

I syndicate my posts to Ev’s blog, so the free-for-all approach to commenting doesn’t bother me that much. The canonical URL for my words remains on my site under my control. But for people posting directly to Medium and then having to put up with other people casually shitting all over their words, it must feel quite disempowering.

I have a similar feeling with Twitter. I syndicate my notes there and if the service disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed any tears. There’s something very comforting in knowing that any snarky nasty responses to my words are only being thrown at copies. I know a lot of my friends are disheartened about the way that Twitter has changed in recent years. I wish I could articulate how much better it feels to only use Twitter (or Medium or Facebook) as a syndication tool, like RSS.

There is an equal and opposite reaction too. I think it’s easier to fling off some thoughtless remarks when you’re doing it on someone else’s site. I bet you that the discourse on Ev’s blog would be of a much higher quality if you could only respond from your own site. I find I’m more careful with my words when I publish here on adactio.com. I’m taking ownership of what I say.

And when I do lapse and write snarky words like “Ah, Medium! Where the opinions of self-entitled dudes flow like rain from the tech heavens.”, at least I’m owning my own snark. Still, I will endeavour to keep my snark levels down …but that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour.

This was originally posted on my own site.

Jeremy Keith

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England. Everything I post on Medium is a copy — the originals are on my own website, adactio.com