Something’s Broken With Medium
Does Medium Even Know What I Like?
Anyone who knows me understands exactly how much I love Medium. In fact, I love it so much that I started an entire publication to; discuss, promote and inform others about it. Medium is definitely a fantastic tool and has grown in popularity — however, the general public (for the most part) still has absolutely no idea what it is. I find myself evangelizing on an almost daily basis and I’m happy to do so. I even recently got a sixty-eight-year-old nun (whom I met at my last AirBNB) to starting sharing her writing here. How amazing is it that we can bring all of these people together under one roof, and be a part of the free exchange of ideas and discussions that take place?So why as such as huge fan am I asking whether or not Medium is broken? It’s quite simple: Medium (the software) has no idea who I am or what I like.
I find myself skipping eighty percent of the stories in my feed and the frequency in which I post has gotten less and less. Medium is having an absolutely terrible time figuring out how to connect audiences with relevant material. I appreciate all of the improvements made to both the mobile and web applications, but feeds are absolutely broken right now. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the following example:
I have 3.3k followers
My publication has 8k followers
Several of my stories in the past month have gotten 20 views or less
Several stories published to my publication have gotten 10 views or less
This is a great example of how bad Medium is right now at connecting writers to their audience. I’ve absolutely had writing “go viral” on Medium and reached thousands and thousands of people. However, those pieces are the exception and not the rule. When I write a story for my publication theoretically it should go out to 11.3k people (I realize this is actually less because a large percentage of people who follow me also follow my publication). So how on earth would I end up with less than ten views on any story? You read that right: views. If a story I published got several hundred views and I noticed that the read ratio what extremely low, it would absolutely make sense at that point. In that case, I would understand that my material was just not resonating with my audience. Time to rework it.
That’s not the case here. My stories are just not being seen by anyone. A realistic estimate would say anywhere from ten to twenty percent of my followers should at least see a story (330–660 people). If each story I published got three to six hundred views I wouldn’t even be writing this. The cold hard fact is that most of my writing gets sucked into the abyss that is Medium’s current distribution network. Something is broken.
The other side of this problem is not as a writer, but as a reader. I meticulously curated the tags, authors and publications that I follow and still the majority of stories that make it into my feed I have no interest in reading. If I see any more tech stories about “hacking your way into a conference” or “ten things I think everyone can learn from me because everyone on the planet is definitely a programmer part 52” I’m going to commit seppuku with a butter knife. I literally have to dig to find things that I want to read. The sad thing is that the stories I do find I love and I‘ve started thinking about a day when Medium actually knows what I want to read and how great it could be.
Here’s a challenge: let’s design an algorithm together that learns what I like to read over time by the decisions I make in my news feed. Let’s do away with tags because let’s face it: they suck. Everyone knows how tags work and can easily find ways to exploit them and therefore, disrupt other people’s feeds by limiting curation to someone else’s marketing decision. Want a good example of curation? Instagram. While not intelligent out of the box, Instagram allows me to curate my interest for my feed and then suggest others to me based on my current curation efforts. I love going on my Instagram because my feed is filled with things that inspire, motivate and captivate me.
Let’s stop thinking about Medium like we do past attempts at a writing platform. We need to look at Medium as a blank canvas in which we can write a brand new story, one that makes the web a better place. Let’s design the most intelligent platform for reading and writing that the world has ever seen. If we’re promoting the free exchange of ideas, the ability to connect those ideas to the right audience is absolutely crucial. Let’s fix Medium together.