I don’t know about you, but one of the things I like best about Medium is not the writing, it is the reading.
I mean, lets be honest, my most successful written stuff are random replies to posts and a drawing that Ev Williams recommended. Seriously, that was a laugh, because I have written a long post just for him just before and instead got a recommendation for a Google drawings joke.
Anyway, as I said it’s not the writing, it’s the reading.
I read a lot ever since hooking up with this writing platform. I am still being a wanderer in the desert of anonymous, and the network and the interaction doesn’t really come in either. I read a lot though. The discovery is not the best, it is actually pretty bad. I mean, really, chronological? These stories here are not status updates, these are not “blog posts” or answers to “what is happening?” they are articles. They live outside time.
But damn, I read a lot more than I used to read online, since I got the Medium bug.
However, Medium is building features for everything else but for reading. So I was wondering if a neat little browser extension could provide us the readers with these simple tools detailed below, or, who knows, maybe, just maybe, the Medium Engineering team has some of this incoming already.
Saved reading progress
Once, Medium was for the long form. We’re not sure what it is for today, but apparently the long form is here to stay. The long form has one attribute though which you cannot get around, no matter how much you try: it is long.
A tracker of read versus unread would be very helpful in assessing how far I am until I’ll get out of the story’s grip. This tracker should be vertical, no idea why everyone implemented it horizontally. It is like a scroll indicator but it works overall, like some text editors have this minimap, like a zoomed out document.
A small ticker appears on hover telling the reader how much time is needed to finish the reading. Below the time ticker, there is a save button that allows me to save the position in time of my current reading, locally via a cookie, and maybe in some “unfinished reads” menu item below my avatar.
Table of contents
A toc is a simple overview of what’s in the box. The reader wants to get a clear look at what’s inside before getting 10 minutes in the piece and realizing it has no structure. The TOC, the visible TOC, helps the writer too.
This toc could be optional, or shown for certain story lengths, but in all cases it is a super helper for navigating things that you’ve already read and want to refresh in your memory.
Quotable, searchable highlights library
Please, I beg of you, use highlights for more than notifying me who else has clicked on green text! That notification would mean something if the users didn’t see the highlights, if by magic the exact same words and letters are highlighted by a reader and another reader. Now it’s just the bandwagon.
Nevertheless, the feature is great. The highlights are snippets of wisdom embeded in the Medium. The reader highlights to share, but the reader of a digital platform should have 21st century tools, right? Like a way to search through his favorite words in the universe?
Then, in an epistolary network, where comments are not comments but responses, wouldn’t quoting someone allow multiple quotes and cross referencing for stories? That’d be great for the amateur writer who is normally a reader, to build up a network of read ideas!
This was posted before all mighty Facebook launched their variant of this. Today I’d do it a bit different. :)
Sometimes you don’t want to recommend, because that ripples throughout your entire network. Sometimes you want to send a hug to someone who wrote the best poem you’ve read in years. But you end up sending a “private note”. It’s … OK, I guess, Medium, but we’re humans. Private notes are also secret. And unfindable, man, I cannot in any way find the private kudos I’ve sent in the past year.
Emotions could be a Path style menu, with a more complete palette of reactions at a one click distance. Allowing readers to tweak how excited they are would be an invaluable gradient factor for your machine learning which despite all protest WILL at some point (I hope) replace the chronological modest feed we’re served today!
The reader, being a human which is a genetic gossiper, wants to know HOT topics. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I know there is a difference between posts with many recommends and posts that spark discussion.
Hot discussions are stories that not only get two worded replies, but those who get fully composed replies, replies who get many recommends themselves and stories that have responses that have responses.
Some of this is done already below each post. But the reader would use, I believe, a place to explore and discover the threads themselves.
Profile for readers
I am probably the 1.000.000th Medium user whining about the profile, but, damn, is that profile useless. When I want to decide whether to follow someone, God, there is So. Much. Work!
The reader would use a profile that tells about the author, not about the stories. What does that author usually writes about, where does the author write, what does the author think are the best of their work, and show if the author has any notable successes.
Most of the people writing on Medium are not known. Please Medium, you must give something to the horde of users, in return for their constant pounding at the keyboard generating so much inbound traffic, it’s only fair!
And one other thing:
Optimized long posts
Especially on mobile devices. My really long Evolving essay, kills my iPad and my mid range Samsung phone. I don’t know…buffer some of the post, show only some of the post, remove from the screen the post that I am not reading. Be more ebook like on mobile, so the stuff won’t jitter at every scroll, and the scroll won’t jump like crazy. I know it can be done.
Thank you for your time and consideration, yours,
Random Joe of the Internets