Should You Use Medium?
It's been two full months since I started my New Year's Resolution of writing in the year 2013. Outside of upping my tea consumption to near-unhealthy degrees (my beverage of choice whilst writing), taking the time to sit down and craft an article has helped me think, analyze, and reflect on a weekly basis. Recently many folks have asked me about my experiences using Medium as a platform. Clearly, this warrants a response on that very same tool, as I am strangely fond of the concept of meta. These my impressions thus far:
The best composition experience on the web, hands-down
Much has been said about the WYSIWYG aspect of Medium's publishing interface. All of that is true. It just works. You see exactly what your post is going to look like. There is no translation, no guess-work, no typey-typey into some fat textarea and wondering whether it'll do <i>'s and <hr>'s and :)'s correctly. Like the freedom and elegance of discarding mice when we adopted touch-sensitive screens, or bypassing having to upload and download files when we started throwing stuff into a Dropbox folder—getting rid of the idea of Edit Mode is liberating. Kill the middleman. Cut the unnecessary layers between you and the thing you are trying to do. I love this. There, I'll say it again—I love this.
Articles, as opposed to blog posts
There is a sense of permanence and independence to each Medium post. They are like teenagers, standing on their own, unattached to the stream of what's past and present. You don’t get a sense of blog when you look at a post on Medium. You don’t tend to think that a particular post is linked with others by that same author. There is no sense of continuation, no “remember last week when I said that—?” As such, there is also less a sense of contributor identity and loyalty. Each post was designed to be shared on its own, prized for its content rather than its author, shuffled and sorted into different collections, like a newspaper or magazine rather than somebody’s weekly column.
Sure, you can post images on Medium, but that isn't really the point (they will not appear in any previews of your post, they will be scaled down, they will not have full-screen lightbox experiences, etc). On Medium, you can't post videos. Your links will not resolve into colorful little snippets. Even the expressiveness of text is limited (I tried to post a poem once and had to resort to uploading an image because the extra spaces were stripped away.) The words, simple in and of themselves, shine the brightest on this platform. The words, constructed into thoughts and ideas, are king.
Be prepared to distribute yourself
At the moment, Medium isn't much of a distribution platform. Nobody will read what you write if you don't promote it. There’s a chance you’re selected for the homepage as an Editors' pick, but even then the distribution is modest compared to what you will get sharing it to Facebook/Twitter yourself. I expect that this will change over time though, and I’m excited to see what’s in store on the consumption and discovery end.
The broader landscape of other services
I use Medium because I wanted to record my stories for others to read, and I was too lazy to set up my own Wordpress site, and because the composition experience here is so damn nice. Quora will likely give you better distribution and is the next closest thing, but skews more blog and less article. Facebook takes the cake for me on distribution, but specializes in shorter-form content. And of course there’s the brand that goes along with each service. On Facebook, it feels like you should write about Grandmother’s secret onion-pancake recipe, or share your major life events and transitions. On Quora, you get the urge to compose posts that answer questions or contribute to the greater body of knowledge. On Tumblr, you’re creating new cat memes and expressing your artistic soul with an expertly curated set of reshares.
On Medium, you’re writing the stories that connect you with others, each post a nugget of yourself, a stone skimming across the pond of human experience. Because you take pleasure in the simple little act of writing. And because those kinds of stories are the ones you love best.