Medium Made the Right Choice in 2013
I used to think Medium was the greatest platform ever. My admiration was the result of one thing Medium did well; it lessened popularity contests and focused on the content. I joined Medium as a writer and editor in fall of 2013, and by spring of 2014, I was completely in love with it because it enabled everyone to be heard regardless of how popular you were. Those times have changed here on Medium, but its not too far gone and not too late to turn around and embrace the past. Below is the story I wrote in April 2014 about why Medium’s popularity system was the best around. Since then, Medium has made some changes that have been good and some so bad that many are crying out: here and here.
Medium is second to no other “social” network (I don’t know if I should call it that). It’s a place to share meaningful content that others can relate to; share thoughts, insights, pursuits, inspiration, and simply help others grow. It definitely lives up to its slogan. Everyone has a story to tell, and there are people out there who want to listen. Together we all grow and achieve more together.
But why has Medium been so popular? Why is this simple blogging platform on such a steep incline? Whats more, how can a social platform that does not allow people to boast their popularity be so successful? I mean, isn’t that the point of social networks: to show off how many friends, likes, comments, and whatnot you have acquired?
My answer to all those questions is simple. Ev Williams and team understood their product really well as they engineered it. They wanted a platform by which everyone could share their ideas and have a chance to reach people without being drowned out by those with a larger following.
Here’s the problem with more breeding more:
1. if you are popular and write terrible content, you get many undeserved likes and retweets, and you drown out the more notable content.
2. If you are unpopular and write amazing content, you don’t get as many likes and retweets, so your message doesn’t reach its potential.
Yes, those are terrible situations, and that’s why Medium’s three visible recommendations is the best way around the related human mental failure to filter good from bad.
Everyone Gets a Chance to be Heard
Medium’s engineers wanted all content to have a chance at reaching the right eyes without being written off as a waste of time because it has not 1000 likes like the other post. The people over at Medium understood that an atmosphere where more breeds more would limit the ability of everyone to be heard.
Good Content Has a Chance to be Recognized
I’ve been on social media since the Myspace days and with all that time, I couldn’t help but realize my own failures in filtering good content from bad content. Often, the bad content is the one with more likes and favorites — people have a tendency to not share bad content because of how it will reflect on them, but they will surely like it as long as it amuses them.
We tend to gravitate towards posts with 1000 likes more than we do posts with 10 regardless of the content of such posts. It wasn’t until I joined Medium that I realized this mental failure. Imagine Medium having a popularity system alike Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ wherein posts are accompanied by their respective count of “likes”. You would scroll through the Medium homepage and collections looking for the articles with fifty or more recommendations, ignoring the ones with a mere six or fifteen.
As I alluded to earlier, if this was the case, you would miss out on all the wonderful content calling for your attention. The contents worth reading may be overlooked for the contents written by people who may be more popular but not necessarily insightful or talented in writing exceptional pieces of literature.
With sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, while not blogging platforms, you have to worry about how many friends, followers, and whatnot you have. Its often uncomfortable to post content when you know you won’t get as many likes and favorites as the other guy, even if your content is better. People, including myself, even go as far as posting content, watching how much love they get in a certain amount of time, and if the numbers don’t reach their expectation, they take it down. A way around that has been to buy likes and followers.
Okay, why are you paying for likes and followers simply to share insight? Are you trying to sell something? That may be the only time its okay to buy such commodities.
You are here to write great content and connect with like-minded individuals — that’s it. Medium allows you to do that without worrying about buying likes and followers. Just create great content and all the other noise will take care of themselves. Unheard of on Medium, I was able to write my first story, Entrepreneurial Advice Nobody Gives You, and reach the minds of close to five thousand interested people in a few days because Medium allowed me to put my thoughts on paper and share it with the world. It was up to me, not a popularity system, to be heard. If I wrote a terrible piece, which I have many times, it wouldn’t of been shared through Twitter, Facebook, and personal webpages of my peers. People really care about what you have to say, rather than how many people decided to click the green Recommend button.
If you are sharing ideas people like, can respect, and/or can respectfully dispute, you will be heard.
More Unbiased & Efficient Collection Editing
As the creator and editor of Marketing & Growth Hacking (10k+ readers), Inspire the World (1k+ readers), Tech and You, and Succeed Together among my ten collections (publications), I have had great success building a number of collections people enjoy following. After noticing others haven’t had as much success, I wrote The Only Growth Hack You Need to Succeed on Medium basically outlining how to create collections people will want to follow. My main point was that you have to care. That’s the only way. You can’t buy followers here, fortunately.
If you run a collection where you go around adding every article you see to it, it won’t get too far in following. This wouldn’t be curating, which is the idea of collections. Still, its hard to know which articles are good and which ones are bad, wouldn’t it be easier if Medium allowed us to see which articles and submissions have 300 recommendations and which ones only have 20? Well, no, because of the workings of “more breed more”, which Medium has wisely stirred away from.
As an editor of collections, I enjoy sharing the articles I think will be useful to my followers on both Medium and Twitter. Say Medium allowed me to see how many recommendations each submission has, I would gladly skip over the ones with less recommendations than my predetermined threshold. This would save me so much time in the editing process, and make my life a whole lot easier. But is easier better? Would I still be curating? No. I would simply be adding any popular article to my collections; these popular articles may not even fit my collections, effectively defeating the purpose.
If 3 is so Great, Why Not Zero
Well, because of our mentality, zero popularity ratings would have left Medium in the dust of the other “social” networks. As humans, we want to relate to others. We want to feel what they feel. We use social networks to share our interests and pictures of our beautiful babies who all our friends care so much about. We want to know that others agree with our ideas. If we like something, we feel good when others agree. Further, if we put work into writing incredibly inspiring articles, we feel accomplished knowing others like it; its even better when others can see that somebody likes what we have to say. If we don’t have that gratification in a site, we just can’t use it. We want to know, and we want others to know.
Medium Hit the Nail on the Head
When it comes to its popularity system, Medium made the best choice it could of made when it chose to not be like the others.
Hey, here you go, you can see the number of people who like what you have to say in your private Stats page, and everyone else can see that at least three people, most likely more, agree with or enjoy what you are sharing with the world.
Your job is to write interesting, engaging, and inspiring content. On Medium, you can do that without worrying about how many likes you will receive. If what you have to say can acquire at least three reccommendations, in the eyes of everyone else, that can equate to anywhere from 3 to medium.Members.length-1, the number of members on Medium (had to throw some code in there ☺.
Keep writing wonderful pieces and inspiring the world. Ev and team have your back. If you have any articles that would fit my collections, submit ☺