A Fresh Coat of Paint

My new Medium profile page.
My new Medium profile page.

Approximately annually, around the end of the year, I examine my presence on the web. I mostly focus on blogging. This year, I experimented with the new blogging options on the Medium platform. I like them a lot. The ability to create shorter posts within your timeline is a game changer. The new customization options let your make your blog more personal. Combined with the great support Medium has for embeds through Embedly, the service feels a bit like Tumblr for adults. It’s a nice set of tools. Unfortunately, it’s still Medium. It thrives on social media staples such as likes (claps) and followers.

It didn’t take me too long to remember that the applause economy on Medium is not for me. Nor is the follower count, displayed prominently on your blog as a sort of status symbol. I syndicate my personal blog posts to Medium and consequently I tend to pick up about one follower a week. Some of them seem like they are trying to sell something. One recent follower has a bio that claims he is passionate about writing, but his body of work is nonexistent. Jack Baty succinctly summed up the dynamic that Medium fosters.

The problem with Medium is that it’s full of people for whom being read is more important than writing.

A response to Baty’s original thought from Pratik further clarifies the feeling I get when I’m on Medium.

@jack This is 💯 Lot of posts I read on there sometimes are trying too hard. It’s like a meta-blogging of the past that focused on SEO.

While the new set of tools on Medium harkens back to the golden days of blogging, their emphasis on getting followers and being widely read also brings back some of the problems of that eventually plagued that era. The focus on monetizing your writing all but ensures the platform will continue down this path. This is not good for recreational bloggers. Studies have shown that paying people to do something reduces their intrinsic motivation to do it.

While the network effects of Medium may be valuable to those who do want to build an audience and make money from it, they don’t seem to be especially beneficial to the casual blogger. This is a shame, because the features that they built this past year make writing and publishing easy and fun.

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