Something really exciting happened to me yesterday — I was invited to contribute to Medium (which I’ve mentioned before in a previous post here) This is a platform I’ve been excited about for months — it’s a content publishing platform created by Evan Williams (@ev), the founder of Blogger and Twitter. He’s a heavyweight in the social media world.
What is Medium? What problem does it solve? Ev says of the usual social media players in an interview in November on The Big Web Show:
Social media [that is talked about today] is about lowering the bar to the floor when it comes to creating content, but has a ceiling as to what can be created. Instagram is great how great how quickly you can do something that is cool, but you can [only do that one thing].
With Medium, it’s kinda the opposite. Not everyone can create (at least not yet), but there are many things you can post: short form to long form writing, photos, etc.
Yes, that does sound like a blog, doesn’t it. Well, almost. Joshua Benton from the Neiman Journalism Lab at Harvard said in a post about Medium:
What’s most radical about Medium is that it denies authorship.
Okay, maybe not denies authorship — people’s names are right next to their work, after all. But it degrades authorship, renders it secondary, knocks it off its pedestal.
… And while social networks allowed that value to be spread, algorithmically, much wider, the proposition was much the same. You were interested in your Facebook news feed because it was produced by your friends. You were interested in your Twitter stream because you’d clicked “Follow” next to every single person appearing in it.
It feel like a big, collective, hive-mind blog, and posts are organized in collections. Though I can create a private collection, which could essentially function as an in-platform blog, I would have much more success with a shared collection. So rather than assign a category to my post, I’m writing a post to that category. As Benton said, “topic triumphs over author.”
By downplaying the author a bit more (than, for example, this blog, which is solely about me and my interests and thoughts), it’s elevating the content and its message. Content is king, after all, and I can definitely respect it taking a role higher than the author.
Just today, for example, I wrote my inaugural post in a popular collection called “Writers on Writing“. My post is something which is something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, is now part of that collection.
People can “recommend” the post which moves it to a more prominent place, and I have the chance of being moved to the front page. But I’m contributed toward a larger theme, one voice in many. This blog, for example, has many posts in various themes, but the unifying factor is that they’re my posts. Medium is mostly about the content itself.
Medium’s not bad to look at, either.
Hover over text, and you’ll get a format bar. This is great because you format after you write, allowing you to concentrate on composition.
Using the gorgeous Tisa Web Pro, the compose screen and the article view is full of Typekit-y goodness. It’s a breeze to add photos between paragraphs, and adding a cover photo to your story is as easy as dragging and dropping. You have minimal editing capabilities, but I’m okay with that. I especially like how the text-formatting bar is available by selecting a word or phrase after you write it — I can spend less time worrying about my formatting when I should be concentrating on writing my content.
Don’t worry. This blog isn’t going away. I’m still not certain when and how I’ll be using Medium. But since I’ve been finding so many great articles and stories on Medium to read, I’m really excited to contribute in some way to that greater body of writing.