Am I a Medium masochist?
I seem to be a glutton for punishment. Hooked? We’ll come back to that.
There are two things I want more than anything else in the world:
- Media Reform
It’s time to revert copyright law to something sensible. It’s time to punish marketers and advertisers for filling the internet with garbage. It’s time to punish the corporate heads of publications and television, both entertainment and news, for pushing hyperbole over facts.
- Good Content
I crave information. I’m addicted to it. You all are addicted to it as well. We can’t help it, especially considering how absorbed into the internet we are — the constant dopamine rush of likes, recommends and shares. The internet is a tool for information sharing. This is all it has been and will continue to be until its inevitable self-destruction by corporate and government intervention. The information shared on the internet is subjective to a quality scale. Some is entertaining, some is educational. The majority of it is bullshit.
I constantly complain about Medium. I should leave, this is not a place for me. But I have not and cannot, despite my best efforts. I love the editor. It is lightweight and robust. I like the metric tracking. The stats are informative and help me gauge who my readers are and what they may like to hear in a new article or essay. I like the reading experience here. It is pleasant and distraction free. And as much as I cry about trackers and ads, Medium has neither (save for a Google Analytics tracker and a few sponsored articles) and that surprises me and is excellent for the site users.
Medium is a website for writers and readers — the design of the site shows the love for the experience of reading. Evan Williams, the site’s founder, says in his welcome post:
It’s clear we’ve only scratched the surface of how we can use the tools available to us to connect hearts and minds. It’s also clear that the way media is changing isn’t entirely positive when it comes to creating a more informed citizenry. Now that we’ve made sharing information virtually effortless, how do we increasedepth of understanding, while also creating a level playing field that encourages ideas that come from anywhere?
We don’t know all the answers. But we know that words matter (still), so we built a better system for sharing them.
Medium is built for everyone. We encourage you to sign up and give it a try.
To me and many others, THIS is the philosophy that makes the platform so particularly appealing. The experience is for reading and sharing information and ideas. A return to the root of the internet, free from the distraction of advertising and media infiltration.
So, what’s my problem?
As individuals, we enjoy different flavors of writing. The gamut of personal experience tends to drive us towards content we can relate to: Romance novels, research papers, social journalism, technology updates, science fiction and whatever else, amen. The beauty is we can chose what to read and what not to. (For those who are addicted to learning new and expanding points-of-view, you may be pressured to read everything…a curse that does tend to lead to a pessimistic optimism, so soldier on.) The beauty of a platform such as Medium, which is for writers and readers, is that the user SHOULD be able to choose their reading experience. For the most part this is true: the users can subscribe to publications, follow individual writers, and sort by specific tags.
Medium does not feel like it is for everyone, anymore. Yes, it’s one of these essays, but stick through it, perhaps we can have a discussion and find common ground. The Daily Digest that comes to my inbox each day and the front page recommends have become trite. Content has different flavors to appeal to many people, but it seems that the recommends are only for one type of person, the Medium staff.
Each day there are many incredibly deep articles published by independent, no-name authors that share unique and educational view points on a wide variety of subjects. I am not referring to my articles, as most of my content is complaining about other content, but instead I refer to those wide-eyed, wishful writers who come to just write and share their experiences and knowledge. They are not e-celebrities and do not write ‘from a pulpit’. They are here to teach, not to preach.
Social change is popular right now. The interconnectivity of cultures and countries through the web has brought a lot of new ideas to people across the globe. Due to our addiction to dopamine release through internet engagements, feeling good is also popular. People like to share their moral feelings of superiority with others. These feelings aren’t innately bad, either.
Social progress / justice / reform (whichever your choice word) has been an important part of society since its inception and has helped to protect many individuals from persecution. Extreme ideologies can offshoot from social platforms, on either side of a political spectrum, but having a passion for personal values is good. Social Reform covers a broad topic range and learning about issues can help open-minded individuals form their own opinions.
I’m not writing to be political. The thing about social progress… is that hidden away are people who will take advantage of the kindness or passion of others. Many do it intentionally and a few do it by accident. The web has been awash with e-celebrities preaching about a cause, while raking in money & traffic from the poor, passionate people who believe in said cause. Many begin with humble roots and good intentions, but the allure of wealth and fame pushes them down a path of greed and stupidity. This is akin to televangelists, an evil a majority of the world recognizes, but many refuse to believe is possible elsewhere.
What I see too terribly often now recommended on the front page or pushed by user recommendations are essays by people who may mean well and by others that do not, intended to teach nothing and build the publishers ‘personal brand platform’.
A third of the content is ‘Moral Superiority/Feels Good To Share’. To not recommend them, would make someone feel guilty. Sharing them makes people feel good. The second is controversy. Call outs are strong and opinions are harsh. There is no discussion or debate to be found within these essays or the comments. The final third of the front page content is bizarre (not-so-subtle) marketing articles from CEO’s or inspirational mumbo-jumbo that have ridiculous headlines expressing nothing such as:
“Why Thing YOU do, you shouldn’t”
“Obvious Thing That You’ll Share Because I’m A Celebrity”
“5 Ways I’m Selling Something to you RIGHT NOW”.
Aside: I’m guilty of many of these hyperbolic headlines, and I will continue to work towards being more genuine. Humanity is so used to headlines being a summary, that we often don’t read the articles — the media knows this and creates hyperbolic headlines that don’t sum up the article, in order to mislead ‘readers’. It’s time to start reading the content. (I gloss over this here)
I really would like to reiterate the point I made earlier about content flavors. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking the above examples of articles and essays. If that is what you signed up to read and the content the publications you follow publish…more power to you! I mean absolutely no offense towards your taste.
Personally, I am here to learn and many articles I see featured are just rewordings of things I’ve read many times. They are great for new readers and shares, but not really for return users to the platform. Are you not fatigued by your front page?
I propose an algorithm change. Websites LOVE algorithm updates. Twitter, Facebook and Google constantly tweak their algorithms, I’m certain to annoy their users, but also to gauge page retention. Medium allows me to set the publications and users I follow and through their recommends, shows me people I wouldn’t normally see. I propose a small change — not based on Follower count or Staff recommendations, but based on two feared terms: random or expected.
I would love to see a section on my front page that is just recently published articles. I would also like to see a “Random Article from Today”. Of course, we could go to settings to turn these off, but give me the option to learn something new that isn’t hand picked by a human or based on popularity clout and I’m a happy reader. There is a lot of new writing produced here every day. It is hard to find it. As king, I would even allow Medium to leave the staff recommends, as long as Medium gives my digest and front page an opportunity to highlight something NEW by unknowns.
What would you like to see changed for your reading pleasure? I’m certain you have an opinion — let’s talk.
I should leave Medium, but I won’t. I refuse to let a website with such a strong and principled mantra stagnate the death of every other content aggregate. Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook — all have fallen prey to controversy and advertising dollars. I am here to read and write. I hope you are as well.
I won’t flee.