Enhancing Medium articles

Medium as a platform has been doing quite well so far. Many individuals and companies alike started publishing their content on Medium in addition to their regular blog. Some of them even migrated their whole blog with the old content and now release new articles exclusively on Medium.

But we should not be surprised about that. There have been many odes and reviews written about the beauty of the Medium editor, the algorithm that recommends more articles, the community, and more. So I was thinking if there is something more that could be done to make this website even better? (hint: there always is)

There is this one little thing that I like about services such as Facebook, Amazon, or even the email newsletters.

If done right, attention to detail can yield good results.

Yes, our beloved variable user_fname. Personalisation might have a slightly damaged reputation because of the horrible marketers that still manage to get it wrong, but if used with common sense, it can be a great addition to most web services.

And Medium is one of them.

Introducing the Magic Variables

Medium has the necessary social element to it, so it could potentially benefit from further personalisation. It also has enough valid data about a lot of its users I believe, so when it comes to rolling out this new feature, there would be a lot of people who would notice the change. And if they like it, even more people would want to have the same experience, so they would include more information in their profile as well. Moreover, Magic Variables could be something that would be only very difficult to compete with, if you are a regular blog.

Why would anyone want to use Magic Variables? Because we have seen enough evidence in the past that they work. You might be thinking, “but Medium is not selling anything to me,” and you would be probably right. However, there are other people trying to sell you something — they are called authors and they sell their content. At least I think that most people want you to read their stuff. And if Magic Variables could help them in this endeavour, why not use them?

There are many potential uses for Magic Variables. We have the classic example, such as “Thanks for reading this article, Lubos. Be sure to share it with your friends if you liked it.” But we could do more. Medium is, after all, a storytelling platform. What if we would write a fiction, and a random character (is it really?) would have the same name as you, the reader? Such pieces could offer a much more emotional experience. Or if I were promoting my latest book, perhaps a bit of personalisation could make my message more compelling, and you would feel more inclined to use your credit card. The possibilities could be endless.

As you probably also experienced before, sometimes when you do not give your name to the marketers, their email content fails embarrassingly.

Yo, what up, I am *|FULLNAME|*, nice to meet you! Source: Danny Schreiber

What if we could prevent this? And instead of failing gracefully, we would enhance our articles progressively? (note: this post is not sponsored by Google) With Magic Variables, we could display different content based on whether a certain variable is defined. If it is not available, our article will look as it always had. But the world could be so much better if the variable was defined, wouldn’t it, <fname>?

So what kind of Magic Variables could we use? Well, this would be up to the Medium team, but some of the examples I can think of are:

  • name — as mentioned above, endless uses
  • age — so we could replace the inappropriate words in interviews with Mike Monteiro
  • time — what if the story you’re reading would take place at the same time as you in real world?
  • language — many creative uses, but we could also serve a translated article to our readers, Facebook already does this

I am sure there are many more use cases for Magic Variables. After all, this article should serve only as an introduction of the idea. Hopefully, it succeeded at that and you can see the advantages that having these little helpers could bring about. Let me know in the comments if you can come up with more examples, or any other remarks. Thanks for reading!