A Simple Solution to Clickbait, Listicles & Infobesity

Bad things are happening at Medium — here’s how to fix them

Image courtesy Markiplier

If my more recent Medium Daily Digests are anything to go by, frustrations are running high.

Kamil’s posts are being stolen, Kristyna has the same theft problem while CamMi Pham says stealing is perfectly acceptable.

John-Michael says plagiarism on Medium doesn’t really matter, Daisy is sick and tired of all the self-help advice and Gabriel is desperately seeking escape from the constant, oppressive slinging of listicles.

As long ago as mid-2013, Andrea compared Medium to a shady content farm and Henry is so frustrated with Medium’s lack of vision, that he put together the cynic’s guide to writing the perfect Medium post; Roberto is annoyed that Medium isn’t living up to the promise of stories that mean something.

Justin thinks that Medium Staff know what’s going on but choose to say nothing, even though their stated vision (at least according to Lincoln) is to provide a platform by which everyone can share their ideas and have a chance of being heard, without being drowned out by those with a larger following.

I could go on, but I think you get the point — readers and writers alike are frustrated.

The problem is much wider than Medium alone and — as Simon so eloquently writes — it’s not Medium’s fault. It’s our fault, because we’ve created a culture where popularity and virality trump relevance and depth. (If I hear the word “influencer” again I’ll vomit.)

There is a solution, but it requires someone with much better technical nous than I have. If that’s you, please run with the idea and bring it to the world — we all desperately need this.

SEO — —> REO

The solution is to replace Search Engine Optimization (a term I use euphemistically to refer to all manner of online traffic and popularity shenanigans) with Resonance Engine Optimization (a term I first heard from Jazz Rasool).

Here’s how REO would work…

If you’re familiar with the Yoast SEO Plugin for Wordpress, you’ll know that the plugin also rates any article against the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale, which measures how difficult it is to read the piece of text. The plugin provides a Red-Amber-Green result, as well as useful suggestions to improve a Red or Amber result.

Using similar design, it should be possible to build a plugin that rates an article against a scale of consciousness (my personal favorite is Dr. David R. Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness from his book Power vs. Force).

The plugin would allocate a score from 0 to 1000, a Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet result (based on the frequencies of the colors of the rainbow), as well as useful suggestions to improve a score below 200.

(I highly recommend Hawkins’ book — or this video — if you’d like to understand more about the scale).

Power vs. Force
The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior — www.amazon.com

Medium (and other blogging platforms) could then build their own Resonance Engine which allows readers to filter newsfeeds and articles based on their preferred level of consciousness (or frequency).

Listicles and other clickbait would score below 200 and genuinely useful articles with real depth and life-changing potential would score above 400. Writers who currently produce content that scores above 400 would be found by those desperately seeking them, like Daisy, Gabriel, Andrea and Henry. Writers producing brain-dead content would have a tool that helped them improve.

As a user, I could choose which type of content resonated better with me, without first having to perform a search or relying on AI to present content based on my interests (which is still an incredibly immature technology). I could even control/influence the speed at which I climbed the scale of consciousness — imagine that!

While the solution sounds simple, I am aware of the challenges. However, the advances in AI, Machine Learning and cloud computing would easily cater to the requirements.

I’m also aware of the accusations of quackery levelled at Dr. Hawkins, but if we use his map of consciousness as a useful “story” through which we can view the world, does it matter whether it stands the test of left-brained scientific scrutiny?

I am convinced that a Resonance Engine would work far better than every existing Search and Discovery Engine and I’d love to be one of your alpha testers once you’ve built this plugin.


In support of the Anti-Clickbait Movement, I won’t ask you to share and like this article, but I am interested in healthy debate. What do you think — could this work? If not, why not?

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