As a very early writer on Quora, I see eerie similarities here to the trajectory I saw there. Originally, it was about deep, thoughtful discussion and connection with other readers and writers. As it progressed, people began focusing on success, upvotes, being “top writers,” and credits. It’s the SEO- and click bait-ization of content that happens when people try to win ranking games.
Sadly, what’s missing here, as it was in Quora, was having the platform optimize for long term value to readers, not just immediate click through rates. For the things you really will find meaningful, not the ones that promise to revolutionize your life in the title. If you optimize for instant click through, kittens and “simple tricks” always win. But if you optimize feeds and recommendations for long-term engagement, subtle, thoughtful, and more nuanced messages are found and read. If you expose more longer tail content along with what’s popular, we might find ourselves surprised and connecting with new people, rather than reading yet more from the same celebrities. Good reading is really about relationships and connection, not popularity. I hope Medium’s data science team really gets this, before it’s too late.