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Medium: Social Network on Steroids or Interaction Failure?

| Posted in category Blogging Social Media Twitter

''Part of the beauty of such a system is that people are going to write stuff other people don't agree with.''

Medium was largely talked about a couple of months ago. Another social network, which is a kind of compilation of Blogger and Twitter, is a baby product of Evan Williams and Biz Stone, former employees from Blogger and Twitter. The service was  opened in beta version for some early subscribers about 2 weeks ago.

And I happened to be one of them. Woohoo!  I haven't been excited about the idea itself that much since Pinterest launched. While Pinterest compelled to my consumption-self (come on, it's not really about lofty matters), Medium compels to my high-quality-self.

Overview

Basically it's a writing and reading platform with nothing extra.  It's as simple as Twitter is but with a new format. While Twitter limits you and makes you think carefully about what you want to say, Medium gives you freedom to express your thoughts just the way you like.

Everything which is simple easily becomes addictive for Social Media maniacs. It's not a sensational thought but you might keep it in your mind before investigating Medium deeper and being caught in his powerful network of simplicity and information richness.

When you log in with your Twitter account (quite an easy way, ha?) if you hover your mouse to the letter “M” on the top of the page you can see a brief menu where each point is logical and quite understandable.  However, some may turn to be key points for personal and professional use.

Start Menu

Stats is an interesting section from a marketing point of view and covers very basic info such as Views, Reads, and Recommendations for 30 days (with an option to get the same info for previous months too). I suspect the stats list can be complemented over time and some may come at cost in the future.

Wondering how Medium counts Reads, Views and Recommendations?

There's not much info on that yet, but still there are some hints to excite our imagination:

''How we calculate the ranking is an algorithm that will change over time (kinda like Google's PageRank but obviously much more simplistic at this point in time). It's not a direct popularity ranking. It takes in a variety of factors, including whether or not a post seems to actually have been read (not just clicked on) and whether people click the “Recommend” button at the bottom of posts. The ratio of people who view it who read it and who read it and recommend it are important factors, not just the number.''

Welcome to a huge family of social networks algorithms! We've been looking for another puzzle because Facebook EdgeRank is kind of boring after all these years.

You should also look at the settings details as even though you log in via Twitter Medium still wants you to confirm your email.

There's also an option to download your Medium posts in a zip file in the settings menu which is pretty cool if once your profile develops into a book or something of the kind.

As soon as you log in to Medium you can immediately get acquainted with the most popular posts for today. Still not sure how Medium determines that and whether posts overview is the same for 2 different users, but each day there's a new choice. Who knows maybe Medium can be also influenced by the era of personalization started by Google? However considering that it's only in beta personalization might be still out of the question.

What's more interesting and unusual is that there's no way to sign out from the network. Looks like it's fully integrated with Twitter for such purposes.

If you're not really into reading other folks' stuff but would like to get down to writing you need to learn more about collections.

Collections

As you see collections can be found as a separate tab on the right. Currently there are 117 official collections. What do I mean by the official ones? Those are collections that can be seen by anyone. I've tried to create a collection of my own but it doesn't appear in the collections tab and I couldn't find any info what one should do in order to promote their child to the official status. My assumption is that there's a ''popularity ratio'' for each collection which is made up as a total score of each and every post belonging to it divided by the total number of posts in a collection. Still I believe it's a very rough guess and maybe Medium simply doesn't have enough capacity to display all the existing collections and have set up the default ones.

Why should we care anyway? Medium is trying to systematize huge loads of information that it's getting now because apparently there will be more in the future and search has always been an eternal pain for the majority of social networks (except for Google+ probably).

You cannot have a post on Medium without assigning it to a relevant (or irrelevant – as there's no official proof that Medium moderates this stuff) collection or to several ones. Yes, there's an option of cross-posting for those living in fear of hesitation and simply for those who would like to increase outreach. What's more exciting you don't even have to be the author of the post but you're obliged to have enough rights to share this piece of content.

In order to add someone's post to multiple collections you need to scroll it down and use the ''Add to...'' icon at the bottom of the page. Currently you can add somebody else's post only to the collections you created or to the ones you contributed to.

One more important fact is that you are limited to having 7 collections maximum (at least for now) and certainly can have ''Invite Only'' collections.

Writing, Reading, Commenting and The Best In-Browser Editor

OK, let's try to write something. This is what you see when you want to create a special piece. As I've mentioned at the very beginning of the article: it's all about simplicity and freedom.

As Evan Williams says it in one of his Medium postsWe've spent a bunch of time (and will spend much more) making the best in-browser editor on the web” and now you can see its beta version and it's already perfect.

The image can be placed not only at the beginning of the post but practically anywhere. Still the majority of users prefer to survive without them.

When reading somebody else's products of mental work you can leave a note literally to any paragraph which will remain private until the author reads it and approves of its public status.

I think that's an awesome idea that potentially will carry a huge impact on engagement scenario and may change the way we envision blog commenting.

What's Missing

Certainly Medium is just in very early beta and most functionality hasn't been added yet. However, there are some major questions that come to my mind:

  • Will there be a friend's list or anything of the kind? Let's say a newsfeed that consists of posts of people who I follow. I tried to ask this question to Medium on Twitter on April 4, but they still remain silent (bad carma points go to Medium tech support);
  • If there's a friend's list will it be made of folks who I follow on Twitter and/or will I be able to create a new one for Medium in particular?
  • Will users be able to sort of bookmark the posts which they enjoyed the most and save them in some place where they could easily access them when needed?
  • How will Medium make money? Are there going be any ads (I strongly hope that there won't be as the interface looks pretty neat and completed now) or promoted posts that can be a huge benefit for businesses?
  • Will one be able to find out the names of people who read, recommended or viewed their posts in the Stats Section?
  • Will authors have the ability to answer the notes you left for them, and if yes, how will you be notified about it?
  • How will you be notified if anybody cross-posts your post to another collection? Will you be able to ban the user if he didn't have any rights for spreading the content?

Should you go to Medium now?

We gotta be honest, at least with ourselves: how many social networks can we manage? Not many from the quality point. You can schedule posts and tweets, but you can't schedule real-time conversations. Medium is potentially a time-consuming hole and that's why it's important to understand whether this social network can be beneficial for your personal brand or your business.

Please do not judge me strictly if you read this blog post after a couple of years since Medium launch. We don't know much of its hidden capabilities now and it's hard to make realistic forecasts. The only thing that I know for sure is that some folks will try to use it for commercial reasons.

However is there an opportunity for commercial benefit? And can Medium be called a Social Network in the first place?

As far as I can see Medium is not a social network. At least not now. There are no ways for users to interact with each other. This functionality can be added over time but can you imagine Twitter launching without giving its users the possibility to talk to each other?

I haven't seen a post with a single comment on it (except for the one I left) which can indicate that people either don't know how to comment or that they do not read somebody else's stuff at all. Sure users can be just cautious and trying to understand what the network is about, but my guess is that they simply do not feel that feedback is expected from them.

Or authors are simply not notified about comments and thus do not make them visible to the public.

Some Medium posts are widely shared on Twitter but there's no indication about it in the network itself. Right now the network looks more like a journal with various authors invited. If I knew nothing I would think that Medium was initially planned as a free publication platform and its content was supposed to be shared and discussed on Twitter and honestly, this tendency doesn't look impressive.  I may be wrong and I hope I am.

Bearing in mind that there's little space for user interaction it's hard to say how anyone can promote his personal or business brand there. Medium breathes content, so does your blog. So where will you publish your articles in most cases? I bet on your blog. BTW, here is a very vivid example how one can try to promote his blog content on Medium. It's not really a delicate maneuvre but I am confident most marketers will utilize it aggressively until one of us comes up with a better idea.

Currently it's very undesirable to take my article seriously. Medium is in beta, the audience is not vast yet and things change rapidly. However it's a starting point for something that has the potential to change our life, the way we communicate and consume information online. Again.

Here starts our discussion today: are you on Medium? What's your first impression? How do you want the network to develop?



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