You probably write a blog. I write three personal blogs (with more coming soon!), and then there’s the blogs that I write for professionally. But blog writing has never been about the writing. Blog writing has never been about community. In fact, blog writing is a very personal and self-indulgent thing, despite the fact that you want to generate an audience. You’re not writing with any partners and you probably can’t generate an audience.
That’s because blogs have always been made with a single person in mind — you, the writer. It’s like a public diary. But in today’s world of social networks, that’s often not enough. While Twitter has proved that many writers can successfully make 140 characters work for them, most of us still want to write long form articles.
It’s time for a change. Medium is promising to be that change.
What Is Medium?
You’ve probably heard of Medium at this point. Founded by a couple of Twitter’s cofounders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the site has gained a ton of traction since it was unveiled. It’s still in beta, but I’m excited about the possibilities.
Medium is designed to eliminate the need for bloggers to market their site. Because I write for several personal blogs, I can tell you that’s an impossible task. It takes years of quality posts, luck and maybe bribery to get your blog into the thousands of page views every month. In other words, your investment is going to end up costing you more than just time. You’ll be forever worried about everything from your domain name (“Is it catchy without sounding childish?”) to coding (“I don’t care if I don’t know how to customize CSS; Seth Godin’s blog looks great on iPhones and mine will too! Give me eight hours”).
Medium is different than that. You don’t have to worry about coding; it’s not your site. You don’t have to fight with adjusting the text editor, because it’s not bogged down with useless formatting options. Medium is made with an eye for design. It’s made for writers, by writers, and that makes a huge difference.
Working With Friends
Medium is also a place for collaboration, allowing simple collaboration with your writing peers. Let’s talk a little bit about how this works before talking about what it actually means for you as a writer.
When you’re done writing the draft of an article, there’s little doubt in my mind you’re going to want to get somebody to read it for you. When I’m working on my blog, I always wish I had somebody who could take a look at my writing. But it’s a bit of a pain. I write in Markdown, which most of my writer friends aren’t familiar with. Without understanding the syntax, I worry that some of my friends would accidentally change important formatting.
Also, I write in plain text. There’s no way to markup plain text so I can see the changes people are making to my work; I have to re-edit their edits. It’s a time-consuming process that I prefer to avoid. As a result, I don’t often get my work edited before I post.
Medium fixes both of those problems for me. First, sharing a draft is as easy as hitting the Share Draft button. You choose who you want to email and go from there. Despite the face that Medium is filled with writers, you don’t have to share your work with strangers just to get some feedback.
Editing is also really easy for your friends. Instead of just correcting your text, they can highlight it and add a comment with the click of a button. This leaves a simple comment you can access with your friend’s notes. They haven’t directly modified your text, so if you choose to ignore their advice, you don’t have to return anything back to its original state.
When you finally publish your masterpiece, your friends will automatically be credited for their help at the bottom of the post (unless they’ve chosen to make their names private). And now that they’ve helped you with your writing, they’re granted access to the Medium beta.
Yes, a Beta
I should mention that, of course: Medium is currently in beta. That means you can’t just sign up and write right away. It means you have to start participating in the community first. Whether Medium is unable to support lots of new writers with its infrastructure right now doesn’t matter, because either way, Medium’s focus on building community is what separates it from all the other blogging services.
When you post something on Medium, it’s publicly available and mixed in with lots of other writers’ work. It hurts your discoverability, but no more than having your own personal blog would — and arguably less. Medium is formatted so that there’s no cruft getting in the way of reading. When you finish a post, you can Recommend it with the click of a button or share it to Twitter or Facebook.
There are also article recommendations at the end of every post. It’s a nice little touch that collaborates with Medium’s Sections to ensure that once you’re on a reading roll, you can keep right on going.
You can also add comments to any author’s published post similarly to the way you would if you were helping edit a piece. The interface for it is gorgeous and, unlike most comment forums on the Internet, filled with intelligent and insightful suggestions. It works because Medium is filled with people who want to help each other write and who want to become writers themselves. Medium makes blogging inherently less self-indulgent and more community focused, which, as it turns out, inherently makes the Internet world a better and more civilized place. (Who knew?)
Why I’m Excited for Medium
I have to admit to you that I don’t have access to Medium yet. I just read there all the time. I can’t write or publish anything, but I’ve read literally every How To article on the site. I have colleagues on Twitter who have been published there. I’ve been told that the web editor is brilliant, fast and easy to use. I understand the posting process and I can’t wait to be a part of it, because I’m excited about a community like Medium’s.
I’ll end this off by sharing the one little detail that grabbed my attention and revealed that Medium is the sort of place on the Internet that respects me as both a writer and a reader. It’s right beneath an article title: “8 min read.” Any website that is willing to tell me how much of my time I need to sacrifice to truly enjoy and understand a piece of quality writing gets full points from me.
Medium is a place where clarity of thought and design are given the utmost importance. That’s good enough for me.
Medium is designed for writers, by writers, and that focus on bringing writers together is what separates it from every other blogging platform out there.8