Rare Content; Well Done

Medium is a platform born from the minds behind Twitter for publishing and discussing longer-form works. Rather than targeting the rapid back-and-forth microblogging niche Twitter addresses, Medium allows for more detailed contributions, often resembling feature articles or editorials. Quality, user-generated content is rare on the internet; and Medium provides one of the cleanest, least intrusive ways of making it accessible.

Source: Medium

Medium is currently a relatively small service—at least compared to Twitter—but enjoys a strong, growing community of dedicated contributors posting, sharing, recommending, and curating the growing pool of content.

Pinning down an identity for Medium in this nascent stage is tricky. On the one hand it employs many of the extrinsic reward motivations—such as reputation and scoring—popularised by content aggregators and recommender services. I’ve touched on these concepts in previous posts, and Medium compels users to share and rate content in the same ways that Digg, Reddit, and Slashdot have in the past. These services leverage the desires of users by allowing ‘up voting’ of articles to surface—or bury—quality content. This currency of reputation and scoring is paired with a robust system of curation and tagging that tasks users of Medium to thematically organise content and build their own personally-curated collections.

By marrying these two systems together Medium is able to entirely self-organise around user behaviour. It is as meaningful for users to contribute high-quality content as it is for them to gather and collate that content in a collection. Whether they’re authors or curators, users of Medium can be a part of a rich ecosystem where their contributions be recommended, voted, scored, and—most importantly—commented on.

Medium is able to deliver and package this content so successfully because it relies on the same simplicity that propelled Twitter into the stratosphere. It does away with so much of the artifice and bloat associated with most WYSIWYG publishing platforms and offers an elegant, direct platform. Like Twitter, Medium puts the simplicity of content first-and-foremost. It is easy to publish, read, and recommend items because every piece of the workflow is built in service of the user.

Usability and user-centered design is always best when it is simple. Rather than being caught up in the zeitgeist of sacrificing simplicity for the latest interfaces, fads, or ‘feature-added’ hooks Medium is able to provide such a rich user experience by confidently relying on the strength of its contributors and providing as few distractions as possible to the quality of their work.

Simplicity isn’t just a feature for Medium; it is their chief strategic advantage.


Further Reading: I highly recommend Giles Colborne’s book Simple and Usable for any and all of questions you have about user experience and user-centered design.

Colborne, G. (2011). Simple and Usable: Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design. Berkeley: New Riders.

9 thoughts on “Rare Content; Well Done

  1. Racheal

    This is so well articulated! Medium is executed so well for it’s purpose – I could spend hours scrolling through the different articles. It perfectly captures my desires as someone who visits a staple set of news sites (ABC news, Ars Technica…) frequently, refreshing for new articles that might pique my interest on each visit.

    I found the approximate read time next to each article (I can’t think of any other service that provides this) is a match made in heaven for Medium’s format.

    Informative article!

    1. Anita Cain

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for such an easy to read post that explains what this platform is. I had never actually heard of Medium.

      I found the comparisons you make to other platforms a great reference to what people already know and use. Your repetitive use of the word simplicity is what I loved most about this post. I want simple! A pet hate of mine is not being able to navigate my way around easily. After having a play with Medium, I absolutely agree with your examination of this platform.

      Look forward to reading the rest of your posts.

      Cheers, Anita 🙂

      1. mjjfeeney Post author

        Awesome points here.

        I’m a real proponent of form and function being inseparable; and I’m glad that this resonates with you guys! The presentation and format of Medium is integral to its success, and is such a rich platform by virtue of having such a transparent, simple, and accessible approach to presenting content.

        Really pleased to see you guys got something out of it.

  2. Jason Leiper

    Hi Michael

    Your points are well made about simplicity and, having questions about your comments on “most WYSIWYG publishing platforms”, I sought out a copy of Simple and Usable to add to my reading list. Medium quite simply gets out of the way and becomes unobtrusive conduit for articles. Crisp, clean and it feels so open.

    As mentioned, the approximate reading time is wonderful – this will help me when I’m finding something quick to read and think about over lunch.

    Your analysis sold me – now I have an account and a curated collection!

    1. mjjfeeney Post author

      Awesome stuff Jason. I feel that the feedback loop between simple tools and quality content exponentially increases my likelihood of getting engaged with a platform or service.

      It’s great that you’re getting involved with a collection too! I feel that the conversation happening on Medium is incredibly compelling, and bringing some guiding authority and an eye for quality to curation is making that possible.

      Keep up to good work 😀

  3. Peter

    Regardless of how usable or clever Medium is, I question the viability of a service that provides detail and depth where the current start-up successes (Twitter, Summly) embrace the opposite.

    1. mjjfeeney Post author

      Great point Peter! I feel that there is a great need for brevity online–especially considering how short attention spans are when it comes to digital content. Traditionally, long-form articles are found in more formal contexts (ie. magazines, print features etc.) but the beauty of Medium is that it can test that model in a Web 2.0 context precisely to see if it is viable.

      Time will tell.

  4. Wyatt

    Hey Michael! Another great post. You’re right in your claim that pinning down Medium at this point is tricky business – I’ve read up on it quite extensively (though I’m yet to actually try it out), and it still seems to me nothing but a fancy blogging platform. Of course, with the makers of Twitter involved, it’s tricked out with all the bells and whistles – with ‘reputation’ scores and upvoting, etc – but it hardly seems as revolutionary as their flagship product. I must admit, though, I like the concept of “do(ing) away with so much of the artifice and bloat associated with most WYSIWYG publishing platforms”, as you put it. The clean, sleek veneer of the Twitter platform – which immediately brings to mind the classic ‘less is more’ Google design – has certainly been put to good use here. I’ve long thought the design of most blog platforms to be somewhat overwhelming and at times restrictive, which makes very little sense considering the exceedingly broad range of people interested in starting or subscribing to a blog. If the Twitter guys can brings this reign of inaccessibility and inconvenience to an end, more power to them.

  5. wangduo

    Hi Michael,
    Nice post! Medium emphasizes that the use of the visual graphic style improves the user experience of reading. It aggregates the content by the way of treating topic as the core. It strengthens the page structure with a beautiful website sector. For this new form of web 2.0 platform, the author and the brand are not the most important. Topic is the core. Most users focus on the article because of its topic. That is my opinion. Thank you.

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