It happened on Medium: January roundup

Last month’s most-read stories, most-highlighted sentences, and stories by new writers


Medium writers and readers are my favorite barometers of zeitgeist and trends, and if there was a message from January 2024 on Medium, it was that less is more. German-American painter Hans Hoffman once said, “To simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary, so that the necessary may speak,” and top writers in January offered a proactive stance on this matter. Several top stories on Medium this month focused on saying “no” in effective ways that give us agency to focus on what’s important. More importantly, they were specific about these ways of saying “no.”

It’s perfectly exemplified in the top highlighted passage below from Ryan Holiday’s story, “This Is the Word I’m Trying to Live By This Year” (I don’t think it will spoil anything to tell you that the word is, indeed, “less”). It’s also echoed in Aaron Dinin, PhD’s story for anyone who builds products: the right testing and prototyping gives you better results with less work.

Focusing on the value of less can be another way to deal with procrastination. I’m finding the power to say “no” to myself to be even more important than the power to turn away demands from others. As in, “no, I will not watch another episode of reality trash TV tonight” or “no, I will not give in to my reluctance to go to the gym today” or “no, I do not need to online shop for…” well, for anything, really.

Instead, I can ask the question Scott H. Young offers as a tool to overcome the root of procrastination: What’s the next step? And then I can get refocus on what’s important to me. Which might just be, as Eve Arnold describes, writing the stuff I want to write about.

Read on for more about what was important to you on Medium in January. We can’t wait to see what you write and read about this month.

Terrie Schweitzer, Director of Curation, and the team at Medium

Medium by the numbers

In January 2024…

  • You published 91,500 stories in publications.
  • 1,417 stories were Boosted this month, based on 2,546 nominations from the 102 editors in the Boost nomination pilot.
  • Over 5 million logged-out visitors navigated to daily.

January’s most-highlighted passages

“Less. Less commitments. Less drama. Less busyness. Less screen time. Just less. Part of the reason I want less is so I have room for more. More stillness. More presence.” — Ryan Holiday, “This Is the Word I’m Trying to Live By This Year

“Running landing page tests, doing customer interviews, releasing explainer videos, circulating pre-orders — these will teach more with less work than even the most basic product prototype.” — Aaron Dinin, PhD, ”The MVP Is Dead — How to Avoid Wasting 6 Months Building a Crappy Version of Your Final Product,” in Entrepreneurship Handbook

“The idea here is to keep breaking down frustrating, ambiguous tasks until you get to a task that is so straightforward that it shouldn’t cause you much of a problem.” — Scott H. Young, “One Simple Method to Get Into a Focused State Quickly,” in Wholistique

“Write about the stuff you want to write about at the pace you want to write about them. Optimise for playing the game forever. Don’t worry about everyone else. Get on with the work.” — Eve Arnold, “If You’re Sitting There Thinking ‘I Don’t Have a Content Strategy’ Read This,” in Practice in Public

Introducing the Medium Daily Edition

Last month, we launched a newsletter: Every weekday, the Medium Daily Edition offers useful, human perspectives to help you become a better reader, writer, and thinker. It features outstanding, relevant stories from writers across Medium. We hope to feature you there in future! Subscribe here, and drop us a line if you find stories we should feature:

250+ publications accepting submissions

If you’re a writer, browse our newly updated list of Medium publications accepting submissions. We’ve added 100+ new publications to the list over the last month, and you’ll find publications focusing on everything from language and culture to mythology, wildlife, spirituality, travel, machine learning, and beyond. Take a look at their submission guidelines and send in your stories.

Are you a publication editor who doesn’t see your publication listed? First of all scroll down to the bottom just to be sure (it’s a long list!). If you still don’t see your publication, email us a published Medium post containing your publication’s submission guidelines:

The 10 most-read stories in January

  1. The 5 paid subscriptions I actually use in 2024 as a software engineer” by Jacob Bennett in Level Up Coding
  2. 2024 Predictions” by Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business
  3. My MacBook Setup for Development (2024)” by ScriptMint
  4. The secret life of people with high self-control (it’s easier than you think)” by Riikka Iivanainen, content designer and user researcher
  5. Apple Outclasses ChatGPT with Ferret” by Ignacio de Gregorio, AI researcher, in Towards AI
  6. The Symbolism of ‘Saltburn’ That You Probably Missed” by Ibtisaam
  7. Rebuilding Netflix Video Processing Pipeline with Microservices” by Netflix Technology Blog
  8. High-Level System Architecture of” by Talha Şahin, computer engineering student
  9. The 11 craziest and most advanced Apple shortcuts I’ve ever seen” by Nikhil Vemu in Mac O’Clock
  10. Starting with No: Why Most People Shouldn’t Be Managers” by Sivan Hermon, leadership coach, in Code Like a Girl

Most popular stories from the Medium archive

Some Medium posts stand the test of time. Year after year, you return to these enduring stories (many of them originally published several months or even years ago) to find wisdom. Here are a few of the most popular archival stories last month:

How VPNs Really Work” by Hussein Nasser, Software Engineer. Originally published in October 2023.

VPN is often explained as this magical encrypted tunnel that “protects” your identity. But these descriptions are very abstract and often sometimes misleading.

I made a prototype. Elon Musk didn’t like it. Then the internet went nuts.” by Hans van de Bruggen, product designer and author of Learnability Isn’t Enough, in UX Collective. Originally published in January 2022.

I have seen the internet get excited by Tesla news, but I’ve never seen anything like what happened next. The pushback was enormous. Replies came flooding in to defend my proposal and to give examples of how and why they wanted to be able to control things themselves. It was written about in Inc. Magazine. Even former presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig weighed in. The prevailing sentiment: “Automation should assist users, not tell them what they get.”

Shadow Work: A Simple Guide to Transcending the Darker Aspects of Yourself” by Kimberly Fosu, coach, in Big Self

When we deny an aspect of ourselves it doesn’t disappear. It just fades away from our conscious awareness. The shadow — with a life of its own — can affect our actions and life experiences heavily if we don’t pay attention to it.

Finding My Fighting Words: How I Learned to Have Uncomfortable Conversations” by Daniel Shiner in Human Parts. Originally published in May 2020.

I had 50 painfully uncomfortable conversations with strangers to practice being assertive under pressure. Here’s what I learned.

The four types of people Daniel Shiner encountered at work, via “Finding My Fighting Words: How I Learned to Have Uncomfortable Conversations.” EQ = “emotional quotient”; AQ = “assertive quotient”

Stories by new writers

As requested by G. K. Hunter, we’re featuring stories by writers with under 1,000 followers on Medium. Many of these writers are publishing on Medium for the very first time. Let’s give them a warm welcome!

A Stranger Walks Into the Bar” by A Slacker Looks At 60

If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it one thousand times. I’m in a new town. or an old town, or any old town, and I walk into a bar. Alone. The bar might be new to me. I could have been here a dozen times. Even then, I am mostly a stranger. The bartender might be recognize me. I might get a nod from another drinker. They have no inkling of who I am or what I’m all about. But they think they do. I have that face that everyone thinks they know.

Outside of the therapist’s box” by Alissa S. Yamasaki, PhD, therapist & entrepreneur

It’s an impossible task to connect with people when you are trying to be someone you aren’t. Only when we understand and value who are can we find the types of connections which feel natural and are compelling.

Reflections on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was a few weeks ago, and many of you shared perspectives on his life, legacy, and philosophy. Policy analyst Araya Baker, M.Phil.Ed., Ed.M. added depth and nuance to the conversation around Dr. King’s struggle with depression, reminding us that King grappled with “existential questions around the futility of his activism.” GIPHY shared clips from his last speech. And, from deep in Medium’s archive, illustrator Ben Passmore shed light on Dr. King’s radical approach to nonviolent protest and his economic critiques of American society. “It was not enough to integrate society if society itself was insufficient,” Passmore writes of King’s vision.

Original illustration by Ben Passmore, “Martin Luther King Jr. Was More Radical Than You Think

What else did you write, and read, this month? What would you like to see in next month’s roundup? Let us know in the responses.

For more notable stories, writers, and publications, head over to “What We’re Reading,” Staff Picks, and the Medium Daily Edition.