Medium As The Messenger

How to show up in an emergent system (versus complaining about it and making it worse)

B. Lorraine Smith

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Medium is a platform in progress. There are simple things we can do to promote high quality material. In this piece I offer tips that serve me as a reader (it may inform writers, too).

I am learning as I go here, and I notice that Medium is learning, too. That’s the nature of complex, dynamic systems — they adapt in response to feedback. It’s kind of exciting when I think about it.

It means that we readers create the conditions for a better reading experience, in simple and important ways.

The truth is, I hear a lot of complaining about Medium: “I get a lot of crap in my timeline. The listicles! The rants! Who are these people?” So I thought I’d pull together a little piece about what’s to be done about that, since it’s so easy, so doable, and so great when it’s done well.

Better readers create a better reading system

My thesis is that for an emergent, dynamic system — such as this advertising-free platform that anyone can write on, where some articles are available for free, and 100% are available for a low cost — readers bear a certain responsibility to contribute to the health of the system.

This idea bears repeating — like a mantra, like breathing, only in a way that regulates the algorithm as opposed to our blood pressure:

Fulfillment of responsibility creates a healthy system.

Fulfillment of responsibility creates a healthy system.

Fulfillment of responsibility creates a healthy system.

I don’t mean “responsibility” in the tut-tutting schoolmarm sense. I mean it in the “ability to respond” sense. The agency sense.

Our contributions as readers needn’t be big lifts. They can be tiny micro-signals of feedback. But they cannot be nothing but complaining about what doesn’t work. That approach cedes control — and results — to an ever-smaller number of people who may or may not have our best interests in mind, and that is the very thing a healthy, democratic system isn’t.

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B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/