Obviously Medium

Why I joined Medium and have loved it ever since

Xiao Ma
· 4 min read

About a year ago, I interviewed Joy for an engineering position at Medium. We finished the interview early, so we had time to talk about many random things. Later that day, in the round-up meeting, Pete said, “Xiao, you should write down what you said to her about Medium — you got her very excited.” I said sure, but things slipped my memory shortly after the meeting.

Ten months later, Joy graduated from MIT and joined Medium! I was super excited.

Every Friday, the whole company sits together and shares exciting things. We call it FAM (Friday Afternoon Meeting). At her first FAM, Joy stood up on the stage, and she was asked four questions. The first question was, “Why Medium?”

Joy started talking about why she’s excited about Medium, and she said, “Then I met Xiao. What he said resonated with me a lot. I decided to join Medium.”

I was thrilled. Now I’m going to write down what Joy and I talked about, which is also why I myself joined Medium.

I deeply love what Medium is trying to do:

Medium is advancing the human society by preserving and spreading everyone’s stories and ideas.

This is such an important and difficult problem to solve that I can’t not be part of it.

Everyone has stories and ideas that are inspiring and worth spreading. Most of us pass along our stories and ideas by talking with the people we know. Obviously, this is very inefficient, not scalable and not sustainable. Think about how many people an average person can talk to and share thoughts with in her entire lifetime.

If you compare the stories that have been written down versus the ones that only exist in people’s mind, it’s not hard to realize that the former is only a very small portion. We are missing a lot of great stories simply because they have not been written and shared.

And it’s getting worse.

If someone’s stories and ideas are not preserved, they will be gone forever after that person passes away. There is no way to recover them. It’s very scary, isn’t it?

Writing is not only the best way to preserve our thoughts; it also helps us think better.

I spent a lot of time writing academic papers in grad school. I didn’t like everything about writing papers, but I did greatly enjoy one part of it — it brought clarity to my thoughts and helped me structure arguments. Writing forces me to think harder, more clearly, and more thoroughly. I understand things much better when I try to convey thoughts via writing.

Back in 2011, my good friend Erik and I made a website called Learn From Mistakes, where people post the mistakes they made, vote for others’ mistakes, add comments, and—most importantly—learn from mistakes. We got passionate about the idea that mistakes should be, but are not yet, well documented. We are often taught how to do things the right way, but in some sense, mistakes are more valuable. While there might be some right ways to do a certain thing, it could still go awry in many different ways.

It became more and more obvious and urgent to me that there should be a place that lets people write more, much much more. Mistakes are just one of the many things that we should write more about.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons for us to not write. Some may worry they are not good at writing; some may think nobody would read what they write; some may feel writing is difficult; some may have trouble finding time to write from already busy schedules; the list of excuses goes on.

At Medium, we try extremely hard to maximize the ROI of writing. We push the boundary of every single aspect of writing to deliver the best possible writing experience. We help writers find an audience by recommending their stories to the right people at the right time. We know it is difficult for people to write, but it is such an important problem that we must solve, even just one baby step at a time.

We don’t know all the answers. But we know that words matter (still), so we built a better system for sharing them.

So, I joined Medium.

If it resonates with you as well, come join us. :-)

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Thanks to Wanmin Wu, Dan Pupius, Kendra Vaculin, gianni, Gabe Kleinman, and katie zhu

Xiao Ma

Written by

Xiao Ma

Chief Architect @Medium. Serving Engineers. Teaching Machines. The ultimate goal of tech is to help us live better. Built @PatternInsight PhD @IllinoisCS UCSD

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