Stowe Boyd


I am an independent researcher, speaker, and writer, working principally on social tools and their impacts on media, business, and society, and Front Man for Stowe Boyd and The Messengers. Much of my writing is here at Stowe Boyd, and most everything else at Underpaid Genius



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Medium As A Bellwether

The boys at Obvious have launched a peek at a new experiment of theirs, called Medium.

Medium — to the degree that we can fool with it so far, or so far as they have fooled with it — is more of an indication of a new aesthetic that Obvious is pursuing than anything else. It has a iPad-like clean design — shared by all the curations that have been pulled together.


Reading between the lines, the Obvious Ones believe that the dynamic of old-school blogging — typified by Wordpress — is too restrictive, the shouting at Tumblr is too garish and loud, and the self-centeredness of Pinterest too Ayn Randian.

Something other is called for. But it’s not just a slightly different screwdriver, turning slightly more futuristic screws. This is a change where we give up on screws, we give up on hand-tooled websites, we give up on owning what we build.

I haven’t test been invited to post anything: at least for the present, you must be invited, another example of the dream that elitism and/or editors will lead to high quality, without the need for filters.

Certainly, in time, others will be allowed to play fully, but we don’t know what mechanisms will be used to limit or constrain people. Will every collection, like ‘Look What I Made’ in the image above, have gatekeepers who get to decide who gets to contribute? That’s how Tumblr topics work today, at least the popular, profitable ones.

Medium is a speculative design intended to challenge us to consider implications of the deep philosophy lurking within.

Will people be allowed to fool with the templates for collections, or are those fixed by the Editors-In-The-Sky?

Medium has an inbuilt voting scheme where viewers can ‘like’ something — although there is no like or upthrust thumb, only a numeric value showing how ‘interesting’ a post is, on a scale (I presume) of 1 to 10. 

Breaking with the blog norm of reverse chronological, Medium defaults to seeing what is more interesting. Which seems like a nod to Reddit and Digg.

I submit that this early version of Medium is a speculative design intended to challenge us to consider implications of the deep philosophy lurking within, rather than the test of a fully fleshed minimally-viable-product. The Obvious Ones have time and to spare. They are not threatened by a short runway of a few hundred G’s before having to show huge stickiness, or conversion to a Pro plan. They can rethink and reimagine a post-normal social media system, one that they believe will obsolete what we have come to think of as givens, like Pinterest, Wordpress, and Tumblr. 

Whether their twiddling will lead to a colossus, a killer app, remains to be seen. But we can be sure that something new and radically bold is coming, even if it’s not Medium.

Related articles

  • 13 ways of looking at Medium, the new blogging/sharing/discovery platform from @ev and Obvious (Nieman Journalism Lab) One of the most insightful analyses of Medium, by Joshua Bentam, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab
  • Read-only Launch For Medium & Branch, But Twitter Founders Promise More (
  • Twitter Co-Founders Preview Medium, Their Publishing Platform That Gives Anyone An Audience (
  • Twitter Cofounders Unveil Medium, A Publishing Platform That Feels Like Tumblr And Looks Like Pinterest (
  • Twitter founders launch a blogging platform, Kevin Rose blogs about peeing (
  • Twitter founders launch Medium: a cross between Pinterest and Reddit (
  • digg
  • medium
  • post-normal
  • reddit
  • social media
  • tumblr
  • wordpress
  • speculative design
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  • 3 months ago
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