Michael Sippey
The Medium Blog
Published in
6 min readFeb 25, 2015


I’m an advisor to Medium and stepped in to run one of the product teams for a brief stint last year. On October 16, Ev sent me the following direct message on Twitter:

This touched on something that had been bothering Ev for a while: https://medium.com/inside/casual-content-613b6ce4c2cc

On October 30, 2014, I published this internally for Medium employees. It kicked off an effort to build “bloggy Medium,” the first part of which launched yesterday. (More context on Inside Medium.)

Blogging on Medium

tl;dr: you can’t do it today. and i think you should be able to.

Hi. My name is Michael, and I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging since before we called it that, putting words and links (and words about links) online for almost 20 years. Blogging is how I fell in love with the web, it’s how I met a bunch of my friends, it’s how I express myself, and it’s big part of how I connect and engage with the world.

There are a bunch of us, many many millions for sure. Writing about tech and politics and movies and music and crafting and family and religion and Star Trek. And I’d make the longview argument that what’s happening on Twitter and Facebook is just more blogging. Back when there were only a few dozen of us doing this, the notion that a billion+ people would every day use the web to update the(ir) world with what’s happening in their lives or what’s on their mind was mindblowing. And now it’s real.

So hi. I’m a blogger. And I’m not alone.

In the early adopter tech media echo chamber, there’s a little bit of a “blog renaissance” going on right now. (Which I’m enjoying, even though blogs never really went anywhere.) One of the sparks was Lockhart Steele’s post on The Verge back in August, “The retro-futuristic future of blogging,” timed with his reviving his own blog. I loved this line:

at a time where #longform is a hashtag known to all, perhaps it’s time for #blogging to reclaim its seat at the table, too

While the people that never left just shake their heads, a few of us have come back to the table, using Wordpress, Tumblr, Medium or even a weird, retro command-line thing-a-ma-jig. Andy Baio, a contributor to The Message, is now blogging regularly again at Waxy.org, and he explained why in his (short) post Middling. I’ll quote from it, and it’s important, so I’ll make it big:

Twitter’s for 140-character short-form writing and Medium’s for long-form.

I think this positioning is dangerous for Medium. It positions the product (and the company) as being about one type of story, and closes us off to different types of writing. And while I truly believe that Medium is the best place to write long-form stories on the Internet, I don’t think that’s enough.

Medium should be the best place to share stories on the Internet, regardless of length.

I’ve been trying to blog on Medium the past couple of months in Stating the Obvious. And while I’ve loved writing the weekly filtered pieces, it really hasn’t felt like blogging. I couldn’t put my finger on why until Anil Dash posted a thing on dashes.com about the 15 lessons he’s learned from 15 years of blogging. Here’s the one lesson that stuck with me:

The scroll is your friend. If you write a bad post or something you don’t like, just post again. If you write something great that you’re really proud of and nobody notices, just post again. One foot in front of the other, one word after another, is the only path I’ve found to an overall body of work that I’m proud of. Push posts down the page, and the good and the bad will just scroll away.

I’ve been blogging for a long time (and even ran product at a blogging company for a long time) and have read God knows how many blog posts (and books!) about blogging. And frankly this is the most profound thing I’ve ever read about blogging. Because not only is it about the process (just post again) it’s about the outcome of that process. And the outcome of that process is the stream.

The fundamental unit of the blog is not the blog post. The fundamental unit of the blog is the stream.

And this is why blogging on Medium has felt unnatural. Despite the kick-ass world-class editor, the simple distribution model, the fantastic emails that give me kudos; despite recommends and notes and stats; despite knowing that my stories will look great on desktop and mobile, it’s not blogging. And that’s because I’m not building a stream, there’s nothing to push down. While I’m building a corpus of standalone stories, there’s no way to read them together and have that stream tell a story.

So we started to brainstorm a bit about what blogging on Medium would look like, and how we could support both #longform and #shortform in one platform. And while publications could be great group blogs (and there are great use cases for shorter form in a publication context, see below), we started at the simplest place: the user profile.

What’s in this?

  • Reverse chron stream of writing and recommending activity. Infinite scroll.
  • Short posts (things that are < 1 min read time or some short word count) are displayed inline, right there! If you can read it inline, you can recommend it inline. May or may not contain a title, may or may not contain an image
  • Longer posts are displayed like an inline bento listing, with social proof of recommends that they’ve received.
  • Recommend actions displayed inline. They’re 1-by-1 in this mock, but you can imagine coalescing them if need be.
  • Sidebar with profile lockup (following / follower count), and, if the writer is part of a publication, what they edit and what they contribute to.

Then we started thinking about how you’d actually write shorter stuff. (This is related to the post a few weeks ago on a minimum viable editor.)What if there were a “Write” button directly on your profile, and instead of opening a new window, it just pushed down your content and opened up an editor right there?

The mechanics here aren’t figured out (obviously), but you can imagine an option where you can explicitly “write a longer story” or after you’ve written a certain number of words the editor expands to fill the entire screen and you have access to the full suite of tools. If you write in the full editor, your story is displayed as a bento-style listing. If you write inline, it’s displayed inline.

There are a bunch of additional problems to solve / opportunities to address with short form:

  • How could publications take advantage of this? Magazines have front of the book / back of the book content as well as features — publications should, too!
  • How can we make the “permalink pages” for the short form posts really compelling? If you visit a Tumblr permalink page today that only has an animated gif or a quote or a link, they’re reaaaaally lame. How could we drop a user into the context of a stream when they’re coming from a link shared on Facebook, Twitter or email?
  • How could we integrate responses into this model? I think responses are a GREAT addition to Medium; is there an interesting way to have them feel natural as part of a stream?

And there are real tensions…

  • Everything social on the Internet is trending towards this reverse chron model, with social feedback loops and notifications… While there really isn’t a product like this out on the Internet today (Facebook isn’t it, Twitter isn’t it, Tumblr is sort of it, but has two faces) is it too much like everything else?
  • ███████████████████████████?

So here’s what we’re going to do: prototype. On the product development side, we’re going to prototype a version of the profile page with this type of stream on it. Just to see how it feels, and if this is something that we think would work in the current product.

As a team we’d love to hear your feedback on this, especially these questions:

  1. Is this a valuable problem for us to solve?
  2. If you’re a publication editor on Medium, how would you use short form content, and would a “stream” be a useful thing to integrate?
  3. How do we build a “stream” without becoming just like everything else on the Internet?

October 30 2014 by Michael Sippey in meta | 20 comments | permalink