Pretty Please, Let's not make Medium a Mindless Echo Chamber

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 5, 2016 6:53:51 PM / by Marcus Andrews

Marcus Andrews

My big gripe with Twitter is that, for the most part, the marketing gurus that occupy the channel just regurgitate stale ideas. This is not a unique point of view and I’ve more or less accepted it. I still get value from Twitter, but I have my own way of using it, I build lists, I don’t expect much from the feed, etc.

What’s sad/interesting is that Medium, brought to you by the creators of Twitter, basically feels like the same thing but with more characters. Long form regurgitation. Which also makes it a little easier for folks to pretend like these stale ideas are theirs.


[See image for details on how content and ideas on the internet work Image Via Nedroid - Nedroid.com].

This is OK and I get it, if I’m looking for original ideas or actual journalism, with things like fact checking and research, I’m looking in the wrong place. However, there are some good, original ideas on Medium and everyone once in awhile they jump out and make me think that the channel has some potential. Furthermore, I believe that most of these rehashed, echo chamber type posts, where the author spends more time on the headline than the actual words, are very close to being interesting. I want them to be interesting.

Why is this happening?
People are busy. Hemingway or De Vries said write drunk edit sober. The problem is most people don’t have the time for part two. They get the idea, they get inspired, they write it down and they hit publish. This isn’t all bad, it’s better than never hitting publish but it leaves Medium with a scattered mine field full of half baked ideas.

If we take things a level deeper, I’d also say most people are evaluating the success of their medium posts on hearts. This leads to them writing posts with killer headlines and crappy content that champions an already widely accepted idea. It’s not as much fun to present ideas that are maybe unpopular or that people may really disagree with.   

An Idea for the Future
When I worked at Google a funny thing would happen. You would come up with the most interesting, innovative, well thought out, data powered initiative in the world, win internal buy in, build out a structured and bullet proof plan and it would fail. This happened all the time. It happened because someone or more likely multiple people had already done the same thing. Google employs so many smart, innovative people, at such a large scale, that it’s really really hard to think of a solution to a problem that someone hasn’t already. How did we deal with this?

There were two steps to take before starting any project.

  1. Find out who else is working or has worked on this problem/idea.
    1. Before doing anything it was important to understand everything that you could about the work already done on the problem and where they were with it.
    2. Read their work, understand their approach and learn from their mistakes and wins.
  2. Then go a level deeper
    1. You couldn’t just come up with the idea or the solution and stop. You had to be very critical of yourself and try to think as far into the future as it made sense.
    2. It was important to ask yourself what is actually new and what is just a rehashing of past efforts. To look for where the solution has cracks, where it will go wrong, why, and what could be one to solve that.

Doing these two things allowed you to build off of other's work, while adding your original take to the discussion. It required a lot more work upfront but always paid off. The pain of putting a lot of work into something only to find out that your big idea has already been done is not fun.

What’s my Point?
The world has a lot more people, thinking about solutions to a lot more issues than any one company. So when you have an idea or solutions or concept, try taking the same two steps we did at Google before writing about it.

When I started writing this I did some super simple research on what others are saying about Medium being and echo chamber. I read what those other people had written and I considered their ideas and solutions. I’m probably rehashing a few ideas but hopefully I’m taking a slightly unique angle and building on the conversation.

I also asked myself why these echo chamber type post are happening at all. I spend some time thinking beyond the obvious stuff and hopefully went just a little deeper than I would have otherwise.

Writing is hard and all I really hope to achieve is a unique point of view, that contributes to the conversation. This is also what I hope for when I visit Medium and I think we can get there.

Topics: writing, medium, media

Marcus Andrews

Written by Marcus Andrews

Marcus is a Cambridge, MA based writer, marketer and Larry Bird mustache enthusiast.