Why Medium might be pretty great for academics

I just tried using Medium for the first time and I loved it. I suspect I won’t be alone in this. Here’s a few reasons why I think it’s a good fit for academic blogging:

  1. The interface is lovely. It does exactly what it claims to do and adopts an aesthetic which foregrounds what you’re writing. I’ve always seen the appeal in minimalistic interfaces for writing but never quite got to grips with them. There’s something about the Medium interface which really works for me (see screenshot below). It feels like writing in a really nice notebook using an ornate pen, with all the attentiveness this can engender. As opposed to WordPress which, in contrast, feels to me like scribbling for predominately practical purposes. These may be idiosyncratic reactions but I suspect they’re not entirely so. 
  2. The content ecosystem of Medium is setup to preclude the need for regular posting in order to build an audience. Not unlike a multi-author blog, the aggregation of content in one place brings the audience to Medium and users find your article through its submission to a range of curated thematic feeds or through it being ‘recommended’. In other words, articles circulate on their own merits. It’s possible to write very occasionally and yet gain an audience for what you’re written presuming the article itself is interesting and clear.
  3. It has the advantage of guest blogging, in that it avoids the need to build your own audience and blog regularly. But it’s more immediate and I suspect this will really appeal. You don’t have to discuss the idea with the editor. You don’t have to wait for a slot to come up in the posting schedules which most bigger blogs will have. You can self-publish instantaneously but without the need to collate an audience that other platforms impose.
  4. It has interesting metrics, offering stats in terms of views, reads, read ratio and recommendations. I need to look up how it calculates the reads. I suspect it works from time on page (given it automatically generates a ‘read time’ depending on length of the article) but it doesn’t say.

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 12.50.07

3 responses to “Why Medium might be pretty great for academics”

  1. I agree @Medium is quite interesting, especially for rethinking experience from author’s side. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the centralization (vs eg people using diversely hosted & designed/featured blogs and open-source tools), and in particular by its manifesting of the larger. trend away from open comments/conversation.

    I tend to agree with something Mathew Ingram said, “A blog without comments is a soapbox.” (http://bit.ly/1dmftBK). Voices in isolation, not engaged with challenging or divergent views, is a key problem in our whole information environment (from personal to popular to academic, etc., I think).

    Nowadays I see many people accepting the idea that open commenting online is impossible or undesirable, that it inevitably succumbs to abuse. But most comment/forum systems are quite naively implemented and run, making little use of decades of accumulated knowledge we have about how to make them work. Also, there is increasing robustness and steady evolution in systems to implement/integrate commenting at large scale, such as Disqus, LiveFyre, IntenseDebate, and (integratively) Twitter, Google+ etc.

    Recently I’ve been impressed by how well LiveFyre, for example, can now pull in distributed Web/twitter conversations and display on an article. It is connecting me to conversations around my posts which I would never otherwise have known about.

    Extending current comment practices, I propose an #OpenComment model:
    1) allow commenting by Twitter (tweets get auto-associated with the post if they include its URL, are in reply chain of tweet that does, and perhaps by hashtag). This could include tools like Twitlonger that allow longer comments but still link/message via Twitter.
    2) Also allow commenting on-site via Twitter login. Start of or summary of comment gets tweeted, as with Twitlonger.
    3) Comments may be filtered by trust metrics derived from the Twitter accounts, such as account age, follow/follower ratio, tweets/follower ratio).
    4) System could extend to G+ and other soc-media networks, if they support it by API/arrangement, as with case of YouTube switching to G+.

    Commenting today may be often a mess. But another commenting world is possible.

    Tim McCormick
    Palo Alto, California

  2. I think I understand that assumption about open commenting, though I don’t share it. I had to argue recently in favour of open commenting on a shared project. My point was the cultural message being sent by its absence, as opposed to any great loss to the site through the absence of comments. It’s since had very high quality substantive comments and I’ve revised my earlier scepticism!

    I’m quite taken with Disqus btw – thanks for suggesting it for sociologicalimagination.org. I’ll have a look at LiveFyre.

  3. I see what you’re driving at. Could it work though? I’m sceptical but remain open to being persuaded

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