Ebb and Flow
I still consider myself new to Medium. I’ve been reading a lot and there’s people I am following, I’m starting to get impressions and of course there’s people whose stories I click on because they seem to always have something interesting to say. And yes, one of those people is now gone.
What I am not new to, are online communities. I have been part of some sort of group ever since I was 14. That means 23 years (give or take a few months) of witnessing the ebb and flow of communities made up from strangers who come together and share ideas. (quick disclaimer- I am not counting Facebook, since a lot of Facebook friends are actually family or in some other way connected to you in daily life, the dynamic works a bit different)
Well, on the good days anyway. On most days ‘online community’ means people trying to find sex and getting into fights. But it’s the good days when there actually is an exchange of ideas that make it all worth it. And on Medium the good days outnumber the good days of every other online community I have ever seen. You are all awesome.
People are always leaving the communities. Some people leave because something happens inside the community, some people leave because something happens outside the community. Sometimes it’s abrupt sometimes they just come around less and less until you realize they are gone. Sometimes there is an explanation, sometimes everyone is left guessing. And sometimes, there seems to be a real exodus.
It’s this exodus that is interesting in a way. They happen in times of change. Times of change are also times of high emotion. Fights break out more. A certain type of person moves in and thrives on that chaos. Call ’em ‘trolls’ if you wish. Back in the day they were ‘flamers’. A more timeless name is ‘assholes’.
The reactions of the people still in the community during an exodus, are something very much what I am reading on Medium over the last couple of days. With the one difference that here on Medium the reactions are much more eloquent. And it makes sense. Medium is trying to change the way the site works. And no one is completely happy with it. Those who want the change think it’s not happening fast or drastic enough. For those who thought everything was just fine the change is just annoying. While the Medium group is busy trying their best to make the platform better (I honestly believe they are) the assholes swoop in. I swear these people have a sixth sense for detecting when the attentions of the powers-that-be are elsewhere. And so reactions to complaints and concerns are slow and probably not as thought through as they could have been. Which will rub people the wrong way. Resulting in the understandable cries of “where are you?”. Please understand that I am not trying to make light of your anger. Your complaints are more than justified. Not getting the attention you deserve -that everyone knows you deserve- sucks beyond words. (I could be completely off here, maybe the people at Medium are all sitting around, laughing at us and having long lunches with champagne, plotting how they can use listicles to become millionaires…but I doubt that)
One other way in which Medium is different from other online communities, I have not seen the “They will be back” predictions. Maybe this group just doesn’t do wishful thinking. Maybe we’re a bit too cynical to make predictions we can’t be sure of. But maybe they will be back. Once they regained the will to deal with the assholes. I hope so.
The good news in all this is that even when members leave a community they are never really gone. The others in the community remember. Here on Medium even more so. The writing of the people who leave us, have touched us in ways that have forever changed our point of view. Their ideas will live among those who read them and work their way back into writing. Somewhere a voice will pick up where they have left off. Different, but similar. Because just as the assholes are ever present, so are authentic courageous voices. The only question is, where will they chose to speak?
If the exodus is too big, if there’s a better alternative available, Medium will fade into irrelevancy. If enough of the authentic people weather it out, Medium can be build up into something pretty damn great. Part of that is on Medium itself. The rest is up to us.