Directing Water

I grew up playing in muddy Maryland creeks. I liked to make dams in the middle of the water and spot where it got diverted. Then I’d stack up lots of new rocks and see where the water diverted from there. Every action caused a reaction, and every decision was a tradeoff.

I’ve been watching Medium since the very beginning. I’ve seen them add a feature here, then watch it overflow further downstream. I’ve seen them stack up lots of new rocks, take note of the new path the water is taking, then respond accordingly. There isn’t necessarily a single goal or a distinct plan, more of a sense of taste and balance. Add a thing, see what happens, iterate.

Recently Medium decided to put a bit more focus on following specific people, like old-school blogging or even the experience of RSS readers. Instead of recommending “great content,” there seems to be more of a focus on “here’s what writers you enjoy have had to say since last time you were here.”

And ker-plunk, like a rock placed in the river, I’m seeing my behaviours change as a result. I’m finding myself in more of a blog mindset, where each article is seen as part of a greater whole. Which makes me want to write more, and overthink less. And now we all get to see what tradeoffs this brings to light. But even though it’s a new tactic, the strategy feels the same.

For example, I wrote this seven years ago:

“Medium is a place to read and write. Human editors pick the best content instead of letting algorithms do it. This leads to a higher quality experience than on many other sites, so the links get shared a lot. That’s it.”

The water is running in the same direction, we’re just watching Medium drop some new rocks in the way to see what kinds of rapids and eddies emerge.

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.

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Jon Bell

Jon Bell

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.

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