by adam mathes
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I should love Medium, so why am I bored every time I visit?

The design of Medium is impeccable.

The concise feature set is executed nearly flawlessly. The marginalia notes system is a new and interesting take on comments. The technology behind it makes page loads appear instantaneous.

My respect for its creators as immense. I consider Evan Williams to be one of my personal heroes.

Medium is attracting pieces from writers who I recognize and am eager to read material from.

I should love this site.

So why am I so bored by it all?

Everyone Is Beautiful In Exactly The Same Way

I understand that nobody has the time or inclination anymore to run their own web site. And if they do, the last thing they want to do is spend precious moments of their life trying to design a unique look and then plead with the CSS gods to make it work on the multitude of devices, screens, and browsers the world expects today.

And that’s fine.

But Medium feels so uptight. So stuffy.

Where’s the personality? Where’s the fun? Where are the signs of life?

There’s something about constraining people’s words to beautifully designed, typographically correct grey upon grey that kills a part of the web aesthetic. Left unchecked we get GeoCities and MySpace design (which is hard for gifted designers to accept but may be the Truest Expression of the Web medium, but that’s another story.) But is the alternative that every essay really look exactly the same, with a different header image, really better?

There’s something fundamentally dehumanizing about this consistency of design — it removes a sense of authorship and destroys so much of the personal flavor. Which I’m sure was done on purpose on Medium to let ideas and words be the focus, but it comes with a cost.

And that cost is these carefully words all blur together into a bland sameness.

Authorship and voice on medium are drowned out in a beautiful white noise of careful typesetting.

Everyone Is Brilliant, Have You Heard Their TED Talk?

Perhaps because everyone appears on Medium dressed in a suit with just the right accent colored tie, browsing Medium feels like a cross between The New Yorker Abridged Lite Edition, the inbox of a TEDx submissions handler, and a LinkedIn thread. (Like a Quora thread, if you know what I mean, and I hope for your sake you don’t, but if you’re reading this you sadly probably do. Sorry.)

Not that I’m against self-promotion per se since that appears to be the only reason anyone posts content anymore that but does the world really need more pieces about finding creativity or pitching your startup with storytelling or the insight that you may need to ask users about what they hate about a product before setting product priorities. (Word processor users actually want to be able to format text reliably? Who knew!?)

But the writing on Medium, maybe because of the early adopter thought leader crowd that seeded the community, tends to feel just as constrained and safe and carefully crafted as the visual design.

Which just seems to lead to boredom town.

Thought Leadership on Thought Leadership

I am well aware of the irony of posting a thought leadership piece on Medium about how boring thought leadership is on Medium, but what I really want your feedback on is if this should be a sidenote or a second level header? Thanks.

I am also well aware of the annoyances of being pretentiously unpretentious, but I’m from the Midwest. I think it’s unavoidable.

Here, let’s express that as a meme so I can maximize the viral potential of this article.


This isn’t helping.

Let’s try being constructive for a moment.

Loosen Up

Let’s get past this boring sad phase of the internet where everything is over-designed and perfect and allow some mess back into it. Or at least some customization.

Tumblr’s way of dealing with this was allowing personalization on the individual blogs, but then heavy users missed all of it on their dashboard. Maybe some variant of that could work on Medium.

It’s Loud In The Echo Chamber

In one of my many failed endeavors I created a community site that was some sort of image board game thing. (It’s complicated, you probably don’t care; let’s not get too into it.)

As that community slowly expanded, some people started to bring in Silicon Valley Boring Tech Talk threads, which really killed the vibe. So I devised a simple solution.

When certain keywords appeared in a post, that post was posted but then covered with Phoenix Wright. Screaming Objection. In animated GIF form. It made a lot of sense in context.

Or… more sense in context. Or not really.

Ok maybe that seems completely stupid and doesn’t apply to Medium posts but ask yourself: if every time “Facebook” appeared in a Medium article an animated character appeared and flashed OBJECTION wouldn’t that article be more entertaining?

You Said Let’s Be Constructive, But Now You’re Suggesting Covering Medium In Nonsensical Copyrighted Animated Gif Imagery In A Weird Attempt To Combat Boredom With Pseudo-Censorship

Ok now my titles are also turning against me. I thought those things were supposed to go in the marginalia? And shouldn’t the link to 4uhm be more self-deprecating to discount the self-promotional aspect?

Look, we’re brainstorming on the whiteboard here, this is a safe space there are no bad ideas maybe you need to read more about how foster creativity in technical workers. You’re probably stifling them this very moment by thinking about how you don’t want animated gifs plastered over your thought leadership pieces, showing just how little you understand the Reddit and 4chanification of our web culture.

Essays Have Strong Thoughtful Conclusions

I just want the the internet to be fun? Less boring?

Or at least less self-important and more genuine. We don’t need more of the same looking, same sounding, vapid echoing pieces.

And what I’m saying is Medium: Relax. Loosen up. Be yourself! Take off that tie. Help people find their voice, not just a shortcut to an audience.

This isn’t an essay.

Cross-posted from Medium.

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