This post was originally published on Hatch, our internal version of Medium, as a project proposal after our Hack Week in July. See Hatching Inside Medium for context on this collection.

Mixtapes — Project Brief

Mixtapes were originally thought of as a new conceptual unit in the Medium system. They would live alongside users and collections as this awesome new content form that anyone could create and share. Blah, blah, words. If you care, you can read more about our idea and what we did during hack week here.

But for the remainder of hack cycle, introducing an entirely new primitive isn’t realistic.

So what problems are mixtapes actually solving — and how can we address these leveraging our existing system?

  1. Publications have no way to package content on Medium — content creators have limited control over how their stories are displayed and consumed.
  2. There’s no way to curate content. Since we moved towards publications and removed submissions from our collections model, users don’t have any way of collecting and organizing stories other than recommending. However, recommending only applies to Medium stories, and there isn’t a great way to link to external content.
  3. There’s no vehicle for curator commentary on existing content. Even in our old world of collection submissions, there wasn’t a way for users to say “I liked the author’s sense of humor in this post and that’s why I’m adding it to my ‘What I’m Reading’ collection.”
  4. There’s no cohesive reading experience. This touches on some of the problems addressed by Compass — basically, there are no paths on our website. If you go to a collection and want to read all their stories, it’s a pretty terrible experience of clicking on a post to read, and then hitting your back button to click the next one in the list. Read next doesn’t do a great job of preserving navigation context, and it’s only designed for one next story, as opposed to more forward/back navigation options in a list context.

One of my first thoughts during hack week of how to quickly prototype mixtapes and test whether it was, in fact, a compelling way to consume content was simply to create a metapost — a post with links to stories and a small note about why I was linking to them. This addresses (1), (2), and (3), and is a good starting point for mixtapes.

Proposal

Extend support for link embeds in our existing editor. This will allow users the ability to include stories (both Medium and external!) and their own annotations.

Goals

By July 25:

  • Re-appropriate followup-type embeds into our editor, adding to our inline media controls (the big plus button)
  • Add stats for this new control so we can see who’s using it

By August 1:

  • Visually distinguish embedded links in a post — render them similar to Bento blocks. This will make the content feel more like a cohesive mixtape, as opposed to a straight list of links.
  • Add some education for the new embed button/create some examples of how people can use it for curation, or how publications can do a series
  • Add a help desk guide to creating a mixtape, so someone can easily follow along and create their own awesome stuff
  • Add support for tagging posts
  • Hook up tags as a Bento post section, so these can be displayed on a publication page (so “mixtapes” could be tagged, and then featured)

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