Tuesday, November 3, 2020

On Medium: How to be Popular and Fake on Medium

Here's some satirical advice on how to be a very popular writer on Medium.


  1. Is this how you quit all your jobs?

    The problem with satire these days is that it's seldom recognized. If Medium pays you a commission on each click, prepare for a windfall.

    1. Medium doesn't promote articles about itself, so unless you're already lucky enough to have thousands of followers and readers, if you write something critical of Medium, it's not going to get much attention.

      Changes in Medium's rules already cut my earnings in half a couple of months ago. For some reason my articles are't being curated like they used to be.

      It's a perennial problem: how do you spread a message that's highly critical of society? How do you get people to listen to what they don't want to hear?

      And more fundamentally, how do you summon the goodwill to _want_ to spread that message? How do you attempt to deal favourably with people you're probably not going to like, without dishonouring your values?

    2. How do you spread a message that's highly critical of society?
      Fame seems like the obvious answer. If you are famous, people will listen to anything you say -- but you'd probably have to compromise your intellectual integrity to become famous in the first place, which would defeat your purpose of trying to sell ideas to a society that doesn't want to buy them.

      The only strategy I've seen that succeeded was Ted Kaczynski's: murder a bunch of innocent people at random & promise to stop if major newspapers publish your manifesto. Most dismiss Kaczynski as a madman, but he also won a lot of sympathizers that otherwise never would have heard of him. I don't think murder is justified in this instance, but the point is to become infamous enough that even people who would normally dismiss you as a crank begin to take you seriously. Crime is a sure path to infamy, but it isn't the only way. Jordan Peterson became infamous without having to murder anyone. Be creative.

      As for the will part of the equation? I wish I knew. I came to the conclusion long ago that most people are just big children. They are never going to leave their toys alone to have adult conversations. I think it's just better to leave them alone to play their kiddy games & find other adults. Trying to convey ideas to people who aren't prepared to hear them is even worse than trying to initiate a prepubescent child into sex: in the best case scenario your victim will just be weirded out & walk away. At worst, they'll scream & turn you in for intellectual molestation. So unless traumatizing adult children gets you off & you aren't deterred by the risks, my advice is to just give up on that venture.

  2. I remember wondering, what is all about those quotes of Napoleon Hill in all places of public forums, and I've looked at it, and what I saw from the small sample — wishful one liners with huge space gaps in between. It is so opposed to what was written in XIX century, right before it, the whole academic style intertwined with intellectual, artistic, philosophical, scientific, poetical ideas, and inspirations, and it went dead. Something happened in 1920-30 with books and overall public book culture, I intuit, from my humble experience researching this. And from that change, all such modern self-help writing takes its inspiration, as a business.

    It is painful for me, I wish I would discover earlier books to focus on. It is hard to blame people, including myself, when you are just surrounded by it, and even don't know the alternative, and especially don't have cognitive abilities to recognize the value of that alternative, its scope, its nuance, its complexity of argument.

    And, I remember reading your first article on medium, and even posted sarcastic comment "clapping in the void" as a mix of its likes-system called positively "clapping" and how it opposed to your general mood of writing. You went popular! For popularity, I thought. I've looked at it in a mainpage and was scared by just those listicles of "how you should live your life, I tell you", as I was running exactly from it.

    I contemplate business and ethics, and all I feel is dissonance and confusion — there is no clear cut solution. I wonder what I would wish you to, to become popular, as you deserve it, or to stick to your values. As wishing would matter anything, as likely to be a pretentious comment, or question of deserving something, do you deserve anything in this world, popularity or else, or you just can take it with predatory business tactics and agenda, or go with the flow and luck, "Trusting the Universe". And so on.

    1. The way we're supposed to express our "likes" and dislikes all across the internet, from YouTube to Facebook and Medium has to do with infantilization. Our thoughts need to be dumbed-down to fit the level of intelligence of our technology. And it also has to do with capitalism: we compete for attention and money even in the arts.

      Your question of whether writers should want to become very popular is a good one, and it's worth a follow-up article. I'll try to answer honestly whether I truly want to become famous on Medium. In short, there would be advantages but also significant disadvantages.

  3. I was wondering if that was your swan song from the platform. I'm glad it's not despite the absolute drek that is most the site. As I've said in the past, I joined to support your work first and foremost. I have no idea what the translation of 'claps' is to views here, but however depressing the symbology of it is I hoped it meant you were being read more. Hardly anyone wants bad news, and if the truth is painful, it's apparently bad news.

    Medium is just that, lukewarm at it's best. I've tried to follow several other authors including some on very general subjects. There's a tone you nail well about the countless young bloggers selling you success and it boils down to marketing, often literally. If you pepper your article with quotes from J.P. Morgan or the Art of Power, there are sales going on. 4hr workweek Gen Z success stories.

    I wish I had a good answer or you had the audience you deserve, your prodigious output has helped me think some things through for many years. Maybe an iOS app? With a subscription? A community game where you kill zombies and buy real world coins. Your essays pop up in between rounds and must be read to progress to the next level. Think big, Ben, get optimistic!

    Hard to even make jokes in the US today as some ugly truths are being missed left and right.

    1. I appreciate your support of my writing. No, I don't plan to quit posting my writings anytime soon. In fact, I'm writing something now about whether writers ought to desire a huge audience.

      Something unfortunate did happen to Medium recently, though. My best month was a few months ago when I think I made around $250 American. I regularly had my articles curated or picked up for further distribution. Then the rules somehow changed and my curation just stopped dead in its tracks. I had a month with none even though my articles were the same as they've always been. Last month I think I made closer to $120.

      Anyway, it's all just pocket change and nonsense. As I'll be explaining in the upcoming article, the question isn't so much why "publish" your writings, but why write in the first place. Putting your work out there is only a matter of a few extra mouse clicks. If you find a way to get a few bucks for it, that's gravy.

      And yeah, the deeper discouragement is just the confirmation of the type of things that ends up most popular. Indeed, this overlaps with the American election. I'll certainly be writing soon on why the election was so close, why so many Americans voted for Trump after four full years of him. Trump is popular and so is trash on Medium. These aren't meritocracies; far from it, although there are some good Medium writers that are popular. I like Jessica Wildfire, Umair Haque, and Douglas Rushkoff (although I don't read them much; I prefer to write).

      As for expressing these ideas on other media, I'd like to get into digital music and graphic novels. Writing may be passe.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.