Why Medium Notes Are Different and How to Use Them Well

Ev Williams
Apr 25, 2013 · Unlisted

On Medium, we don’t have comments on posts; instead we have “notes.” They hang off to the side of paragraphs and are shown when you click/touch the little indicator on the side.

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Notes are one of the best parts of Medium and useful for lots of things: They help improve writing. They add valuable supplementary information. They incorporate new viewpoints. They give meaningful feedback to those who write things. And they let people connect over ideas.

Arguably, traditional comments—the kind you see beneath most blog posts and pretty much every other media artifact on the web—do the same thing (in ideal circumstances). Notes are much better for the type of ideas and stories people share on Medium. Here’s why (and how they work):

Notes Are in Context

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This has many advantages. For one, notes are great for word-level feedback. It’s the central mechanism for Medium’s collaboration feature—which lets authors get feedback before they post. Being able to quickly highlight some text and say “typo” is so easy, people are willing to do it frequently. (Personally, I find it fun.)

Alternatively, commenting on the paragraph level is also useful—and more efficient than at the end.

Leaving notes in context gives the same advantage after publication. Getting specific feedback from readers on what parts of your posts are resonating with (or challenging) them is powerful:

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Authors Control Whether Notes are Public

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The only person who can make that note public is the author of the post. This is handy if you just want to tell someone they have a typo—no one else needs to see that.

It’s also handy for avoiding spam or other types of abuse. One of the best things about writing in public is finding out from readers that you’re really connecting with them. One of the worst things about writing in public is fielding random ad hominem attacks and penis enlargement spam in the space in which you’ve poured out your precious thoughts.

By making notes private by default, we remove much of the incentive to spam or troll. If you’re not adding value, you’re not seen.

Note: Replies to notes (which go under the original note) are public by default once a note itself is public. This allows for quick conversations. However, replies can still be hidden by the author after the fact.

Notes Tips for Authors

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We don’t yet have per-post notes controls, but leave a note here if that’s something you would like and use.

Request notes before you publish

Don’t make all notes public

Don’t only make positive notes public

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Dismiss notes you’ve processed

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The note-leaver won’t know you’ve dismissed it from your view and will still see it until they delete it.

Use notes as footnotes.

Use the email shortcut links.


I’m really happy with how notes are working now. (Shoutout to the amazing engineering and design team who built them—it wasn’t a trivial effort.) From my own experience, I find Medium Notes a huge leap forward from traditional comments. Stay tuned for more improvements to come.

Let us know what you think.

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