Anna, this is such a solid, yet fair breakdown of what these changes feel like. So much is suddenly stripped away rather than improved. I agree across the board on all your points. To answer a couple of your questions:
1) This IS the focus group. Our comments give Medium that luxury for free with our live feed of frustrations. We're even providing them Quality Assurance testing for free.
2) The Medium logo is a visual of a site/app loading, and not ready to view. That's exactly what we're going through.
It's SO terrible to see Top Writer status and publication ownership links disappear between desktop and app, and at random too. It's a bad bug. The beta version on the app is particularly problematic. No publication credits on stories, no way to link to publications, no way to click links on people's profile bios. You have to do a special search to find pubs! No one has time for that and it kills reader motivation. The visual limitations publications are now dealing with is a whole other story. It's a slap in the face to design minded folks. Featured images and tiled pictures are all useless now, everything just stacks. It's basically become Instagram.
My question is, do you all see a spike in overall views in the last week, but with no evidence of actual story views? Stats were always questionable, but what is this?