Medium isn’t building community

Derek Beyer
Mar 8, 2016 · 2 min read

You’ve seen the symptoms.

Your stream is filled with huge stories that everyone is seeing (including appearances from the occasional “influencer”), and stories from near strangers that maybe nobody is seeing (the result of aimless attempts to connect with others). You feel no relationship to most of the content. 7 Ways to Quit Your Job. Grow the Fuck Up. Write a Novel While Traveling or Something.

And it’s all because Medium hasn’t built infrastructure for communities.

I hate to say I told you so (okay that’s a lie), but I told you so. Back in June of 2013 I said that one of Medium’s biggest threats was The Lowest Common Denominator Problem: if all content is ranked together and swift approval is the primary metric (whether that be views, reads, or recommends), the platform will become dominated by generic bullshit. Aspirational pap is just Medium’s version of the cat meme.

I hoped back then that this future would be averted. Cat videos and memes are fine for YouTube or Reddit, but this is a writing platform. It should be about curating really good, original work. It should be about connecting and having conversations.

In short, it should have communities. And Medium ain’t got none.

Publications aren’t communities. Tags aren’t communities. They are content ownership vehicles and search tools.

Communities are the lifeblood of platforms that want to produce quality content. Writers need to feel free to produce for more select audiences to create their best work. Communities provide shared context and familiarity, allowing them to act as incubators. Then when something really hums with the resonance of far-ranging truth, persistent curators can place that diamond on a pedestal for all to see.

Instead, we see a hivemind being built. You either succeed massively with your bland aspirational slag, or you write specific, critical work that never takes hold because you aren’t a *name*, and there’s no coherent community for you to share your work with. Occasionally you catch a piece of mild success, but it doesn’t last — for you or the conversation.

If I were to be really cynical, I’d say Medium wants things this way. Their choices seem geared toward a platform for established voices, influencers, and professional publications. In other words, Medium is trying to do the same thing we are ready to vilify Apple and Facebook for: trying to own the content venue, and thereby, the content. It’s a growth mentality aimed at future monetization.

Please, prove me otherwise, Medium.

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