If Medium subscribers could spend their fees on their favorite stories… you wouldn’t want to know which stories are the most valuable?
Promoting VS Rewarding

As a matter of fact — no!

This seems to be a problem with your understanding of valuation, and I really shouldn’t be surprised. This is a problem you’ve exhibited before.

I will explain again on the off chance that it actually works for you.

You have confused value to the community in the abstract with value to me as an individual. That’s wrong. It is actively invalid. It is the wrong way around to think about things.

I don’t care what other subscribers spend their fees on, just as I don’t care what they signal (in aggregate) with hearts as “good.” Neither of those things apply to my interests or values. Taken as a community signal, they are completely without value to me. Not only do I not want to pay for them, I don’t need them even for free.

We both know who Harry Potter is because lots of people were willing to spend their money on the books and movies. We both know about computers because lots of people were willing to spend their money on them.

Harry Potter is not my interest. Knowing that Harry Potter exists is of no value to me. That many other people like to throw a lot of money at Harry Potter and Harry Potter merchandise is not a signal to me. It’s noise. It’s a distraction from finding things that I actually like. That many people may like Harry Potter is true. It’s just utterly meaningless in the context of me finding things that I like.

I know about computers not because lots of people were willing to spend money on them but because I find them interesting and they were useful enough in the first place for lots of people to throw money at them. That lots of people were and continue to be willing to throw money at them is not a useful indicator of my potential interest. It happens to be true, and in this case they happen to coincide, but correlation is not causation.

How many products do you know about? What percentage of these products did you learn about because they are bestsellers?

All of them that I look at — which I can.

Again, you seem to have a terrible confusion. Grocery stores aren’t creators; they’re curators. We reward grocery stores for curating a set of supplies that we find useful. But we don’t just shop at just one grocery store, or at least I don’t. I shop around. I look for the best deal. Some grocery stores are better at providing certain types of groceries than others.

It doesn’t matter if one grocery store makes more money in my community that another. That doesn’t indicate that it is a better grocery store for my purposes at any given time. All it indicates is that people in my community, who may or may not have anything in common with me aside from physical locality, like to spend money there.

That’s a meaningless signal. We know it’s a meaningless signal because that’s not what grocery stores advertise. They advertise their products.

That’s different from the way that Medium functions because Medium is a medium, and you’re talking about rewarding individual creators on that medium and theoretical marketplace.

(Also, not everything in my grocery stores a bestseller. If that were true, no products would ever cycle out of being sold at a grocery store — and anyone that’s ever done their own shopping knows that not to be reality.)

If subscribers could spend their fees on their favorite stories… then there’s certainly going to be plenty of bestselling stories. And one way or another you’re going to learn about several of them. From my perspective, if I’m going to search Medium for stories about games or economics then I will for sure want the option to sort the results by their value.

None of those things have value to me until I assign them value. You have confused the order of the way that signaling occurs both in marketplaces and in discovery.

Frankly, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing. You have to work really hard to misunderstand everything to that level.

You’ve brought an entirely third component into the argument: not only are we trying to simultaneously signal promoting writers and rewarding writers, you are trying to assign individual value via broad marketplace operation. That’s not how this works. That’s not how this is ever worked. No amount of misappropriating Adam Smith quotes will make it the way that things work.

If you are proposing that we treat Medium in general as a curator like a grocery store to be rewarded or not as a signal to show whether we are getting what we consider useful value out, I would say that would work — but it wouldn’t be useful. Medium as a curator has already proven that they can’t take my signal and provide me content on a regular basis that I’m interested in as a curator.

They’ve already failed at that marketplace.

It would be far more valuable to me to be able to shop at multiple grocery stores — that is, patronize curators who specialize in subsets of the overall available products in general. Then the signal that I provided by engaging in economic exchange is actually meaningful. Likewise, the ability to directly reward and signal my interest to an individual creator might be useful signal.

But it needn’t to be.

In order to get Medium to provide me even the chance of discovering material that I’m interested in, I have to work really hard at engaging with the set of signals — multiple signals — that the platform provides me to communicate with it. I can hard articles. From my front page, I can tell the platform that I want to see “fewer articles like this.” I can tell it with keywords that I’m interested in a certain subset of articles. With all of those signals, combined, the platform can maybe hit a 10% success rate. I suppose that might be fairly good.

Your suggestion is that by adding one more signal and ignoring the context of all the rest of mine, magically there will be a better result.

I’m here to say that’s not the case. It’s not true. It’s not real.

Interestingly, the very worst part of Medium and how it interacts with my preferences is exactly why that’s a failed idea: the Medium Staff. They and I have absolutely no tastes in common. We have no interests in common. If anything, there’s probably a negative correlation between what they think is important and what I think is interesting. (A good data mining application could probably work out that there is a negative correlation there and use it to provide me better choices.)

If everyone on Medium Staff decided to drop $100 on the same article, that would indicate absolutely nothing about the value of that article to me. It would communicate nothing about the value of that article to me. And in the more abstract sense, it would signal nothing about the value of that article to anyone. The only thing that it signals is that for that group, they considered it valuable.

That’s a terrible system if you intend it to surface content I’d be interested in.

I don’t have to perfectly share society’s values… but it would behoove me to know them.

No, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter to me what everyone else on Medium wants to read. That doesn’t change what I want to read. It might change what people want to write — what I referred to as chasing the Dragon. That could actually have a strong negative influence on me getting to read things that I want to read, especially if it means that Medium focuses on facilitating and promoting articles which chase the Dragon to the detriment of the people who write things that I’m interested in and how they write articles on Medium.

It’s useless to me to know what “society’s values” are. When it comes to the society of Medium users, if we look at where the hearts go, we can immediately observe what their values are. I just don’t care. Even as a writer, I just don’t care.

Provide me the opportunity to be rewarded by the people who are interested in my work, sure. That might be useful. But I can do that for myself; I started putting a PayPal.me link at the end of all of my articles. If anyone cares that much, they can see to it. Would it be nice if Medium provided a simpler, more straightforward way for that micropayment to work? Maybe. Is what you’re suggesting even remotely useful in that context? Not really.

Do not conflate one person’s willingness to pay for a thing with another person’s willingness to like, desire, or wish to support that thing. You have definitely violated that basic axiom of understanding economics.