January 4, 2018
The Well Appointed Skinner Boxfarewell, Medium
A few months ago, I decided to give Medium, blog-host-meets-social-network du jour, a try. I cross-posted pieces from this blog there, and used Medium exclusively for License Zero, my latest project, which has involved a lot of writing.
I won’t be posting to Medium any more, though I’ll be keeping my account there, and perhaps commenting and responding to those who stay. I’ve moved the blog for License Zero to its own site, like this one.
My experience on Medium has been mostly good.
It’s nice to write there. I’ve found my share of bugs in the editor, but I know how hard it is to write an editor. I appreciate what they’ve accomplished.
In a design sense, Medium is a very nice Internet place. From the type to the generous whitespace, it’s an oddly humanitarian hideaway in an otherwise ad-laden traffic jam. The iOS app is consistent.
Long-form social networks are more or less the only ones I appreciate these days, and Medium certainly is that. I particularly like treating comments to others’ “stories” as stories in themselves. Very nice.
Alas, there’s just enough social media in what would otherwise be a very pleasant blog host to ruin it for me. “Followers”. Batched notifications. Accumulating “claps”. Readership statistics and reporting. Ranking for exposure. Pressure to include graphics and other cringeworthy, eyeball-dragging baubles. In other words, all the usual intended and unintended gamifications that drag the heart, soul, and daily experience of the thing back down into the social-media muck of the way things are going these days. No thanks.
My best mistake of the last few years may have been setting up this blog, writing.kemitchell.com, without Google Analytics or other tracking. I get zero numeric feedback on my writing here, except when traffic occasionally brings the site down.
As it turns out, it was the right choice, for the wrong reason. Writing this way, my only feedback is from folks who bother to write an e-mail or reach out in some other way. I’m so grateful for those who’ve written. As a whole, notes from out of the blue have been excellent. Thanks so much to all who’ve taken time to send.
Meanwhile, it’s become glaringly apparent that “retweets”, “likes”, “claps”, and other single-click statistics evidence no meaningful correlation to good correspondence. Rather, they simply reward, in a visceral, Pavlovian way I can’t entirely resist, the very kinds of reductionist, attention-grabbing tactics that I so loathe on other sites. Timely writing. Catchy titles. Abbreviated, cartoonish content. Dense, saccharine prose with lots of toppings, and little intellectual or stylistic sustenance.
To Hell with all that.
There’s no substitute for other people’s views, especially when facing hard problems. I like to think I take on some hard problems. But nobody’s hard on me like I’m hard on myself. I would rather focus on developing my own standards, and posts that meet them, and miss out on low-friction feedback, than to embrace gamification of my writing under someone else’s rules. I’d rather focus on well developed posts that warrant well developed responses, and useful works worth maintaining over time.
Thanks for reading along. A great deal more to come soon.
Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.
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