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How Sloppy Can Coding Get?

This may be an issue for as many as 2,000,000 users.

By Dr. Randy KaplanPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
How Sloppy Can Coding Get?
Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

Introduction to this Story

As I am branching out to different outlets for my writing, one of the first branches I decided will be Vocal. Right now the root of my publishing tree will be Medium, but that may change depending on how I can build my audience on Vocal. Repurposing articles is one way to extend a writer's reach. I am trying this approach to extend my reach.

This article documents an oversight on the part of the developers of Medium. It is a simple problem that the Medium management team has ignored. I am judging it as a simple problem because if I had built a system like Medium's, this is a problem I wouldn't have missed. In many ways, it is a sore thumb amid a complex system used by many users. The Medium platform may have up to 2,000,000 users. This number needs to be verifiable due to the lack of transparency of Medium's activities. This article is the first article about Medium's system problems that I have found. There will be more coming.

In the meantime, I will publish a story that tells you about my background so you know who I am, what I've done, and what I am doing now so we can become acquainted.

Finding problems in public systems has always been an interest of mine. It is sleuthing, and I enjoy that. The following article is in the form of a letter to the CEO of Medium. My communication with him has been disappointing because he does not want to address what I see as needing improvement. His responses are no better than rude and border on belligerence to "stakeholders" like myself. If that is his "style," so be it. In any event, by spreading the news, as it were, others are interested in topics like this one.


Letter to the CEO of Medium

Dear Dr. Stubblebine,

I am writing to alert you to significant problems with the Medium interface. I am doing this to make public some of the issues, oversights, and low-quality coding I encountered in the Medium interface.

Since you have yet to answer my first note about these problems, I can only assume you have no interest in correcting these problems or, as it appears, you don't wish to respond to such complaints. Further, if you are annoyed by this complaint, then be advised there will be more coming.

If a due diligence process is carried out before selling* Medium, the due diligence team will ask that the issues I identify be corrected. I know this because I acted as the manager of a due diligence team for M&A activity for MacMillan for two years. MacMillan is a reasonably large publishing ($1.4 Billion) organization.

In all of my years (50+) of directing software developers and software development projects, I would have raked my developers over the coals for releasing a system with such glaring oversights. I would have also fired my testing group had they not found these problems in their testing. If they found these problems but the developers ignored them, I would fire them and their management and start over. I'm pretty draconian when it comes to harmful code.

These things represent failures among the development staff and management to address specific issues that would seem obvious to any experienced developer. The work is sloppy and unacceptable. Who was responsible for the design and implementation of the Medium platform? Was this platform cobbled together over time, or did a single cocaine-influenced developer develop it (lol)? Needless to say, whichever it was, it is unacceptable. A phrase is used to describe code like this that becomes embedded in complex systems. We call this "smelly code." I think "smelly" is a euphemism for "code that stinks."

At present, I plan to write several of these articles documenting various problems I have found in the Medium system. I hope that someone in management will notice the issues reported.

— * I wanted to use the example of selling Medium as a reason for an audit of Medium's systems to occur. I do not know such an eventuality, nor do I have any inside information indicating this will happen.

Duplicate User Lists

In Medium terminology, a user list lists references to articles a user has selected to organize and remember. Medium will retain user lists according to names that the user can define. Here is an example.

Figure 1 — An Example of a Medium User List — Screen Capture by Author

To create a user list, you click on the button at the top of the user list labeled "Start a list." Here is what appears when you click on that button. So far, so good.

Figure 2 — Creating a New User List — Screen Capture by Author

Although sparse, the view serves the purpose of creating a new list — EXCEPT,

PROBLEM 1: Creating a User List that Already Exists

Figure 3 — List created, but it is a Duplicate — Screen Capture by Author

Figure 4 — Second (actually the original list) renguy list — Screen Capture by Author (Original User List named renguy)

Why does my newly created user list contain articles? (That is what the small pictures mean in the displayed list). This list is not the new list. It is a pre-existing list.


Figure 5 — This is the second list. Notice it doesn't duplicate the contents of the first. — Screen Capture by Author (Second user list created as renguy)

The original user list is still present.

Figure 6 — The Originally Created List is Still There — Screen Capture by Author

Could it be? Is this a second user list named renguy?

Yes, that's right. A second empty list is created. And it isn't even a copy since it has no articles saved to it. Now I can see how a developer would argue this is a feature. If I were the developer's boss, I would answer, "bull shit, FIX IT."

How should this be handled? If a user enters a list name that already exists, then the system should display a notification of a duplicate list name. The Medium system should display a message like, "this is a list that exists. Do you want to create another list by the same name "name displayed here?" The user can then respond "yes" or "no." I would also ask if they wanted to choose another name for the list if it is a duplicate.

Fixing this is trivial (meaning that it is not a complicated fix) if the system is designed correctly. I don't understand why the developers at Medium did not fix this problem (well, I do, but I don't want this to get too insulting).

That's it for this FIRST PROBLEM NOTE and what you might want to do to fix it. There will be other notes coming soon. Stay tuned.

Oh, I will be reporting back to the Medium users whether Medium's management responds to me or not.


Dr. Randy M. Kaplan


Well, that's about it for this article. There will be more to come, and if you wish to read the following articles about Medium's "bugs," I will also post them on Vocal.


If you have any questions or want to comment on this article, please feel free to do so. I would appreciate your comments and questions. You can reach me by leaving a response to this article.

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About the Creator

Dr. Randy Kaplan

Welcome to my Vocal page and storicles that are published here. I write about tech, the human condition, and anything else that interests me.

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Comments (1)

  • Karen Mengel about a year ago

    Medium used to be fairly straightforward. Now full of click bait and salacious stories. No thanks. Thank you for a well written article about issues of Medium.

Dr. Randy KaplanWritten by Dr. Randy Kaplan

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