Posts tagged Readers
If Medium wants to turn itself into a respectable publisher, it probably shouldn’t behave like a social network.
On Wednesday, the company announced it would make lists of followers public to Medium members. Writers and readers can see who’s reading whom.
Ev Williams, the cofounder of Twitter, created the site with the idea that writing can and should be social. You must log in with Twitter or Facebook to start following authors of pieces and collections of articles on the site. And Medium’s editing tools make it easy for writers to share and receive feedback from other people before actually publishing a story, who then get credit for their assistance.
That’s all well and good—credit where credit’s due, and an easy way to find people you’re already following elsewhere are sensible social features. But Medium’s latest move may alarm people—as well as the way the company announced it.
The initial post suggested that Medium would take it slowly, first displaying follower information to authors privately, then making it public. But the feature is already live, giving people almost no time at all to react—by, say, unfollowing writers and collections they don’t want others to know they’re reading.
Why Medium Is Getting More Personal
If you think of Medium as a social network with sharing features—like, say, Yahoo’s Tumblr—the move makes sense. Who you follow on Medium is largely based on who you follow on Twitter and who you’re friends with on Facebook. Those lists are public by default on those services, and Medium requires at least one social account—you can’t log in with just your email.
Up until now, the only information writers were able to see was a follower count, privately listed on a Medium statistics page. Now, there will be people and profiles behind those numbers, publicly displayed for any Medium member to see.
Displaying followers could signal to new readers which writers are popular, as well as show writers who is interested their stories—something, as a Medium writer myself, I think is quite appealing. At the very least, seeing a close friend or a big name following you can be an ego boost.
“We feel that publicly showing follow lists will encourage more of these relationships through seeing who your friends are reading, and help you expand your audience as a writer, as well as improve the discovery and diversity of stories that we present to you as a reader,” Greg Gueldner, a Medium representative, wrote in an email to ReadWrite.
That would be great—if Medium had given its members any warning this could potentially happen. In its post on Wednesday, Medium put the news about its privacy settings in the very last sentence. Any editor could have told Medium management what’s wrong with that: It’s called “burying the lede.”
(After ReadWrite inquired about the potential privacy issues publicizing followers could create, Medium edited its story to add an additional three paragraphs at the end of the post.)
When I first signed up for Medium, I followed all my Twitter friends who had done the same, some of whom I still read regularly. Eventually, I started following more writers whose work I admired on Medium. Those choices reflected my expanding interests, based on suggestions from Medium and stories I encountered elsewhere and liked. At no point did Medium warn me that these interests might eventually be made public.
Before founding the company that became Twitter, Williams worked at Google, which bought his first online-publishing company, Blogger.
Googlers know all too well just how bad making private information public could be. In 2010, the company’s Buzz product, an early attempt to imitate Twitter, launched and made email contacts public by default. The privacy misstep wound up saddling Google with 20 years of independent privacy audits.
Buzz didn’t merely scandalize privacy advocates. Google’s mistake hurt real human beings—like the woman whose abusive ex-boyfriend learned who her new boyfriend and employer were, as well as how to contact them.
Unhappy Medium: The Absence Of A “Block” Feature
Some people may not want people to know what they read. There are others who don’t necessarily want people to know what they write.
On most social networks that have a follower system, companies provide a block function that prevents people from following and reading the information they contribute. Medium does not.
“We have no plans to enable a blocking feature,” Gueldner said in an email. “While we do start your follow list on Medium based on who you follow on Twitter and your friends on Facebook who also have Medium accounts, the actions you take on Medium are independent of those other networks.”
This means, even if I block someone on Twitter, they can still follow me on Medium.
Some companies took longer to realize the importance of the block function than others. LinkedIn only implemented a block function in February of this year after complaints from members reached critical mass. Now on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, as well as across its other services, blocked users cannot read what you write.
Can Medium Be A Publisher And A Social Network?
Medium is lies in a gray area between platform and publisher. It lets people write and publish posts longer than Twitter’s 140-character limit, and it displays longer essays more elegantly than Blogger or Tumblr. But it’s otherwise hard to succinctly define, because some pieces on Medium are written for free by authors seeking exposure for their ideas, while some are commissioned and paid for by Medium, which employs its own editors.
The company features some interesting journalism. Matter, a digital magazine Medium acquired in 2013, is one of my favorite reads.
With serious journalism created at Medium’s behest sitting alongside users’ contributions, the question of what Medium is becomes crucial. If it’s a publisher, then Medium’s publication of its follower lists seems like a betrayal of a crucial trust. In the print world, magazines guard the privacy of their subscriber lists zealously. The Advocate, a magazine for gays and lesbians, used to send issues out with a wrapper to disguise the nature of the periodical.
What if the parents of a teenager discover that she’s following That’s So Gay, a collection of articles on “unstraight issues by unstraight people,” and thereby deduce her sexual orientation before she’s disclosed it to them?
Though its founder created Twitter, Medium is nothing like it. As sharing everything with everyone becomes the standard across the Web, there are fewer places where people can be themselves, without every action disclosing some portion of their identity.
Before this latest move, Medium was a quiet, well-lit place where you could explore ideas with some sense of privacy. Now, in the name of “discovery,” we’ve been exposed.
Lead image by Erin Kohlenberg
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Sellers Choice Storefronts: Readers Less Satisfied with SEO
1. Create your own website. I use Weebly but NOT the Shopping Cart option. I do not need all that functionality and monthly cost to sell my unique one of a kind items. 2. Explore cart options and remember for "one of a kind" unique handmade items and …
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Are you writing things your customers actually want to read?
The post Keeping Readers Interested: 17 Things to Write About on Your Company Blog by @YEC appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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We knew StackOverflow was different. Turns out it’s, well, really different.
The technical Q&A site looks like your standard Web developer hangout. But according to new data from IEEE Spectrum, its community has some unusual technical tastes. For instance, its readers evince a serious interest in the niche-y area of embedded hardware development—that is, programmable systems that typically live inside other gadgets and don’t expose a user interface to the average person.
On the other hand, this data doesn’t necessarily mean researchers have uncovered unexpected pockets of embedded or enterprise popularity, Maybe StackOverflow’s community preferences is simply telling us how poorly documented these technologies are—and how the right online forum can self-organize to meet the needs of developers who have to work with them.
Correlating Online Technical Communities
In response to IEEE Spectrum’s new programming language popularity analysis tool, Redmonk analyst Donnie Berkholz set out to try to uncover “commonalities and communities across all of [different] sources” so as to glean “insight into what technologies developers care about and use, and which provide mainly reinforcement of others.”
So, when comparing the popularity of programming languages as measured by jobs vs. which ones get discussed on social media and open-source code hubs, the top-10 programming languages look like this:
Some correlations he found make intuitive sense.
For example, there is an exceptionally strong correlation between Twitter conversation and Google trends. As he puts it, “people talking about programming languages in real-time chat tend to also search for what they’re talking about.”
Berkholz also uncovered very strong correlations (above 0.85) between Google Trends and search; programming language interest across different job sites like Dice and CareerBuilder; Reddit and Google Trends (developers look for information about current topics on different sites); and GitHub created and StackOverflow questions (a correlation of open-source usage and broader conversation among forward-leaning communities).
Others correlate more weakly between sources—like HackerNews with most everything else.
But StackOverflow stands out.
StackOverflow Developers: A Breed Apart?
In fact, StackOverflow developers stand alone. Completely alone, it would seem from Berkholz’s analysis. As he notes:
The weakest correlations were between StackOverflow views and almost everything else. It’s shocking how different the visitors to StackOverflow seem from every other data source.
Here are the top-10 programming languages on StackOverflow in terms of what readers actually read:
These results differ markedly from all other sources. As Berkholz highlights:
Three of the top 5 are hardware (Arduino, VHDL, Verilog), supporting a strong audience of embedded developers. Outside of StackOverflow views, these languages are nonexistent in the top 10 with only two exceptions: Arduino is #7 on Reddit and VHDL is #8 in IEEE Xplor. That paints a very clear contrast between this group and everyone else, and perhaps a unique source of data about trends in embedded development. Enterprise stalwarts are also commonplace, such as Visual Basic, Cobol, Apex (Salesforce.com’s language), and ABAP (SAP’s language).
This could suggest that StackOverflow is a leading indicator of hot new technologies. For example, the hardware bent to its audience might point to rising interest in the Internet of Things, which is going to be built on top of a whole lot of, well, embedded hardware systems.
Or, frankly, it could just mean that StackOverflow does a particularly good job of providing a home to smaller communities of embedded and enterprise developers that can’t get good documentation from Salesforce.com.
I mean, really, who wants to hang out in IBM’s Cobol Café?
But Who Are These People?
While we don’t have data from 2013 or 2014, in December 2011 someone took a survey of 2,532 StackOverflow users. A significant chunk of StackOverflow users come from the U.S., with the largest percentage (12%) in California and the second largest (8.4%) in New York, with a majority (53%) aged 25-34 and 68% having at least 6 years of IT/programming experience.
Not particularly surprising.
What is surprising, given the IEEE Spectrum data, is that a whopping 40% describe themselves as web application developers while only 4.3% are embedded application developers. Most are building enterprise applications (32%) or web platforms (33%), but the languages they indicate they know differ from the languages they view on StackOverflow:
This jibes with the enterprise developer finding in the IEEE Spectrum data. It’s still hard to see the embedded hardware developer in these numbers—though not so hard to uncover the enterprise developer.
This becomes more pronounced if we only look at StackOverflow users who answer questions (and not necessarily those that read the answers):
In short, there’s a difference between those that answer questions and those that merely lurk. For example, the top 20 most active StackOverflow participants have little to do with embedded engineering, as this data visualization shows. (Click through to see what each works on.)
StackOverflow Is Unique
Such technologies don’t have great documentation within their home communities (e.g., Salesforce.com’s Apex language), but StackOverflow has become the go-to home-away-from-home community for these embedded and enterprise technologies.
There are far more questions tagged “Java” (625,000+), for example, than for Arduino (12,000+), but according to the IEEE Spectrum data there’s way more reader interest in the latter than the former. The IEEE Spectrum approach measures both the number of questions posted mentioning each language in 2013 and the amount of attention paid to those questions. In StackOverflow’s world, people pay far more interest to embedded and enterprise than general Web development, even though its user base has historically skewed web developer.
A different breed, indeed. Or, quite possibly, an indication of mainstream enterprise and web developers looking beyond “mainstream” to tap into the Internet of Things applications or other modern applications?
Lead image by Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy, CC 2.0
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