Medium recently introduced a new feature, notes. This is a place where readers can write directly and privately to the author of a post. The author can then chose to make the note public, or not.
Not being a product guy, designer, or engineer, it’s a given that there’s a lot about notes that I don’t understand. That said, I want to offer up some Psychology.
First, I’d like to suggest that here at Medium, not only are we trying to build a company mindfully, but that our product is also a vehicle for mindfulness. When I make that comment I’m thinking about many aspects of Medium, but for now, I just want to look at our current choice to build notes and not have comments.
My dislike of comments comes from two places. First, as a consumer, I still make the same mistake over and over. I read some great piece, and then compulsively scroll down through the comments, only to encounter hate and ignorance. While this experience may not be universal, I know it’s too common. Fortunately, I do find gems sometimes, but the ratio of gem to crap is really distressing.
Second, as a leadership coach, I’m often reading the work of my clients, or articles about my clients, online. Most of my clients avoid comments like the plague, lest they take on the diss-ease of their crititics. Given the ignorance and pedantic nature of so many comments, it’s abundantly clear that most comments are aimed to the online audience at the expense of the writer.
This is why I love notes! They are relational and conversational! Notes work best when the reader finds a way to identify with the writer. This can be as simple as showing appreciation for what’s been written, or it can be a useful challenge to some point they’ve made. It might even be as mundane as offering a correction for spelling or grammar. Whatever it is, it’s enhancing the post and voila, we have collaboration with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m not suggesting that all writers of notes will seek to contribute as opposed to attack, but for sure we are going to flip-flop the crap to gem ratio!
Writing a note can be an exercise in mindfulness and self-reflection. As a note-writer, I’m presumably invested in having the author be receptive to my feedback. If I’m practical I’m thinking about who the author is, their values and their agenda. At the same time I’m thinking about my own values, and my professional agenda in engaging the author. I might even be thinking about what mood they are in and whether I should send my note in the morning or evening. This all is necessary, as I’m invested in being persuasive and engaging. I’m trying to start a relationship with them.
With notes, I’m hoping that authors will not feel the need to write defensively. Write your post, and find out who would like to have a relationship with you. Medium can be a place for new collaborations and new friendships.