Just about a year ago, a new website from two of the founders of Twitter launched. It was called Medium. The new site was invite-only, but outsiders could read from various collections. Ev Williams announced the site in a post. Medium, he said, was "a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends." While Medium might look like a standard blogging platform, a content management system, it had been "designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world." And yet "it helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say."
At the time, I didn't notice the contradiction between the normative idea that Medium was some particular kind of publication -- that "a Medium" was a genre -- and the platform idea that Medium was for anyone to do anything and "find the right audience."
Over the last year, Medium's momentum has been building, and as it grows, the tensions between these sentiments is beginning to show. In the last couple weeks, five very different posts circulated widely in social media, all housed at Medium.com. They were:
- Journalist Quinn Norton's long-form essay on Bradley Manning.
- Magazine writer Joshua Davis' high-design reportage, "The Mercenary," from his project, Epic.
- Coder Peter Shih's anti-San Francisco screed.
- Entrepreneur Patrick McConlogue's idea about teaching a homeless man how to code.
- Journalist Michele Catalano's post about Googling for backpacks and pressure cookers, then having law enforcement visit her house.