A cyclone of chaos is forming at sea and baring down on the coast of Medium.
Some writers and publications threaten to take their toys and go home — figuratively speaking. Publications are trash talking other publications. Writers are being divided. Editors of large publications, who focus on helping developing writers, are exhausted.
Fingers are pointing and divisive words are flying around. Whether Medium is being blamed for limitations and changes or publications are blaming other publications for the culture of Medium, blame is flooding our proverbial streets at every corner.
As a writer who found a safe haven in Medium, this confusion has been heavy on my heart. Because Medium and my work here is important to me, I have taken great care in considering everyone’s angle and point of view.
We will start with the drama on publications.
Publications are trash talking other publications, even blaming them for destroying the culture of Medium.
They are going so far as to mock the work of developing writers and are threatening to exclude writers from their publications who have written in the publications of which they do not approve. The publications that are accusing the others claim to hold some ultimate truth as to what the culture of all publications, and even Medium as a whole, should be.
The publications that are being accused, falsely I might add, are those that have a large focus on helping writers of all levels find their voice. Their editors spend thousands of hours developing new writers and the arduous task of ensuring Medium guidelines are being closely followed.
Many publications require writers to be at a certain level, and when they are, they may receive the keys to the kingdom. There is a good purpose for this if this is in alignment with your purpose.
Unlike many publications, most of these wrongfully accused publications welcome writers of all stages of development that are willing to improve their skills.
Some self-proclaimed ‘elite’ publications do not appear to like this model. They believe that stories published by any publication should be of a certain quality and that the accused are publishing sub-par content and using Medium in ways that they deem unacceptable.
They think that all publications should have the same purpose as they do. Even further, they believe that the accused are “staining” everything they touch and destroying the culture of Medium, which they say they hold so dear.
What is being stained is the reputation of multiple publications and thousands of writers who work tirelessly to share their ideas with the world and be heard. Actually, they are being defamed.
When I first joined ILLUMINATION, and before I heard the doubt whispering, I found this article.
A Cult of Envy for ILLUMINATION
From the perspective of an ex-editor and sometime contributor
I am grateful that I did because my experience with ILLUMINATION, since then, has been in stark contrast to the ugly picture that I had just found out was being painted by an ‘anti-illumination-and-other-like-styled-pubs’ squad.
Another writer of ILLUMINATION received something via email. A colleague was concerned that he was writing for ILLUMINATION. For a writer who takes their work seriously, the accusation of working with unethical people is not something taken lightly.
The Assemblage’s propaganda revealed for what it is — a scapegoating smear campaign
I appreciate the sentiment of holding Medium as a sacred space. I too hold Medium dear to my heart.
Quality thinking, good ideas, brilliant writing and safe space — free of harmful ads and funnel schemes — this is why I came to Medium. This is a space for readers and thinkers to escape the headline culture of most platforms — a space to open welcoming minds and hearts. This is where readers and writers come who care about quality work, free-thinking and free speech. Here, you can hear anyone’s voice and anyone’s voice can be heard.
With all the objectivity I can muster, I have taken a step back and searched for validity in the accusations of the anti-illumination-and-other-like-styled-pubs squad. I carefully considered all points made. After all, being successful on Medium is very important to me.
What if they were correct?
What if I put myself on the naughty list by association?
What I see though — in this angrily swarming mob of ‘elites’ — is closed-minded thinking, ostracization, libel and encouragement of group-think— none of which aligns with the purpose of Medium.
Who worse to take Medium advice from, than people whose own missions are out of alignment with Medium?
The purpose and culture of Medium cannot be defined by anyone but Medium.
The founder of Medium, Ev Williams, has even written, “There’s no reason for Medium to be limited to reading and writing.”
If Medium is not even limited to reading and writing, how can it be limited to a certain so called quality or amount of writing?
He goes on to say, “Our purpose is to deepen understanding and spread good ideas. We have never attached that purpose to a specific format. Rather, we are building the infrastructure, network, and tools to do that no matter what the form those ideas and stories best take.”
He does not mince words here.
More Medium questions answered
On pay-to-play, verification, and staying relevant in a Gen Z world 📺
Ev continues to expand upon his visions for Medium in this recent q&a.
Our purpose is to deepen understanding and spread good ideas. We have never attached that purpose to a specific format. Rather, we are building the infrastructure, network, and tools to do that no matter what the form those ideas and stories best take.
So far, we’ve been focused on the written word — and I expect that will be our pillar for some time — but we’ve also dabbled in audio, tappable stories (words and pictures), video, and even events. The beauty of the internet is that it allows for all these forms to co-exist and coalesce. The important thing is that quality thinking and important ideas get from the brains they’re in to the brains that can make use of them and make them more useful. We’ll continue to try and make that happen even if we’re all floating in plasma consuming 3D Smellovision™.
He even included the definition of the word Medium.
I would like to highlight the most important statement Ev made—confirming, yet again, that Medium is where I want to be.
What is the important thing, you ask? Why are we here?
The important thing is that quality thinking and important ideas get from the brains they’re in to the brains that can make use of them and make them more useful.
This statement is not only a perfect description of why I love Medium, but it is a beautiful display of the purpose behind publications that dedicate their time and energy to developing writers — and finding new and meaningful ways to use existing technology.
Assisting writers in honing their skills and finding their voice is the very definition of ‘getting ideas from the brains they’re in to brains that make use of them and make them more useful’. Finding new and innovative ways to use Medium and share those ideas is the very definition of ‘not attaching that purpose to a specific format’.
Thanks, Ev, for clarifying.
Many are frustrated with Medium.
As people threaten to take their toys and go home, editors are exhausted and publications are flooded with submissions they cannot publish, exacerbated by technical limitations of Medium. Many are at the end of their frustration-ropes.
Some editors cannot publish more than 15 drafts a day on publications. Publications are now being limited to 30 editors. This is an impossible situation for publications that receive over 700 submissions a day — publications whose writers eagerly await their stories being published.
We know the limitations are in place to prevent abuse and, unless you are an abuser, you are grateful for that. Unfortunately, the current limitations are counter-intuitive.
With some editors being able to publish limitlessly, others being kicked off and an inability to add more editors — the ones left to edit are overwhelmed with pages upon pages of submissions and writers waiting to be published. This leads to less time available for working with writers who need the most improvement and guidance. It also causes extreme overwhelming exhaustion that leaves more room for mistaken and or purposeful guideline violations to slip through the cracks.
The same limitations that are in place to prevent abuse are fostering an environment that is perfect for abuse to sneak in.
No-one likes to be set up for failure and I hear the cries of editors, who feel like that is exactly what is happening. In a way, it is. But there is no real reason to believe that Medium is doing this intentionally. It is, after all, out of alignment with their purpose.
Writers and editors are publishing stories and writing in about their frustrations with what they perceive as limitations — limitations that appear to hinder their growth, the growth of their publications and the growth of their writers.
Interesting Scenario, but not Funny
Concerns on limitations put on editors to publish stories of passionate writers for a significant publication
New Medium writers are being discouraged from using the platform.
This saddens me the absolute most.
Before we get upset with Medium, let’s consider a few things.
Now, I do not know what the producer world of Medium looks like, but I do know that any producer world I have been a part of is an entirely different world than that of the viewer. This whole other world is unseen by the viewer.
Similar to the contrast between what editors see and what writers see— there must be an unseen world behind the scenes of Medium and certainly that world is much bigger than the world of our followers, our writers and our publications.
Upon envisioning the size of the platform infrastructure world that the writer cannot see and multiplying that by a lot, it is clear that the behind the scenes world of Medium is a world I cannot fully understand from my view. I can’t see behind the scenes and that unseen world is just too big and far from view for me to know enough to understand.
In the world of the managers, you can keep your teams as informed as possible, but there is no way possible to let them completely into the manager world. The only way to do that is to make them a manager. There is always a whole separate and unseen world that the team members don’t experience.
Many times managers are already fixing the things that the team is concerned about but would rather put more time into fixing those things than explaining how they are to each and every team member at varying times. And there are too many concerns at all times to address each one publicly.
Because I know what I don’t know — about what is happening behind the scenes at Medium — I have opted to make positive assumptions, until further notice.
I will assume that Medium has not intentionally created limitations that create more of what they are trying to limit. I will assume that there isn’t some Medium conspiracy that is targeting some authors and publications. I will assume that the aim is not to hinder growth of non-medium publications and that the humility demonstrated by the founder of Medium is ever present in the behind the scene happenings of Medium.
I picture some of the best coders in the country working diligently — day and night — writing the code necessary to better support the growth of Medium, readers and writers.
I imagine the Medium Staff have all sorts of things in the works that we haven’t imagined yet — things that will do more than fulfill our wildest Medium dreams. This is what I choose to envision, until further notice, while I am still inclined to make positive assumptions.
Choosing to make these positive assumptions—since I have no reason not to, and they make sense—does not mean that I cannot advocate for myself and others. It does not mean that I cannot contribute to change or be a part of the solution. All it means is that I wish to give Medium the same things that I am asking for from it.
Written by Holly Kellums