What message should I take from Medium?

Because there’s not enough places for people to be published without getting paid, we now have Medium, “a better place to read and write things that matter.”

Medium has been on my radar for a while thanks to the occasional mention in my Twitter feed, but it was only recently that I visited the site to read an article written by an industry peer.

I really enjoyed what she wrote because it was personal and original, but otherwise I wonder how Medium is different or better than any other online platform. After perusing some recent Editor’s Picks, I can’t say the content is any more compelling than what I’ve read on other digital-first / digital-only media outlets or on traditional, main stream media sites. Much of it reminds me of the link bait I come across on Twitter.

Contributing content to Medium is limited right now, even if you do register. What the criteria is for being allowed to publish on the site is a mystery to me; it’s certainly not quality of writing because with rare exception, of the 10 articles I read, most were either  self-indulgent, pointless ramblings or poorly written grammatically and structurally. Overall they lacked depth.

I also encountered the same voices from elsewhere. I’m not sure why Facebook’s product design director needs another platform to post a profanity-laced and ultimately empty rant about design. I don’t want to read another blog by Jeff Jarvis. He gets enough attention already. And I definitely don’t need yet another blog post by a self-described entrepreneur giving advice about growing a startup.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy any articles because I did find one or two, but even those were on topics or concepts I’d read about plenty of times before and these just provided someone’s personal perspective, not new knowledge. One could argue that’s valuable in and of itself, but to me it represents a larger frustration I have with online content: for every one real article that delves into something in a meaningful manner there’s at least a dozen articles or blog posts that have summarized it or “curated” it. I suppose that’s better than an opinionated blog masquerading as a news article by a writer who thinks linking out to other articles is an adequate substitute for picking up the phone and interviewing a source.

What also struck me about Medium is that I’m not sure who the target audience is. “A better place to read and write things that matter” is nebulous and ultimately meaningless. When I was in journalism school we were always reminded by professors to remember who the audience was when pitching and writing stories for the student newspaper. That rule has stayed with me to this day. Who is supposed to be reading Medium? Entrepreneurs? Artists? Application developers? I have no idea and I’m unclear if I should be taking the time to browse through it.

Online content is a lot like cable TV, which I recently cancelled: there’s hundreds of channels but nothing on, and Medium strikes me as just one more place that adds to the noise I have to “channel surf” through to find the occasional gem. Unless it really defines what it is, and soon, Medium could easily find itself the flavour of the month in a sea of online soapboxes.

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and content strategist storyteller.

6 Important Life Lessons I Learned from Ballroom Dancing

A year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to try ballroom dancing. I have no idea why and it doesn’t matter because it was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I learned many dance moves, but it also offers some broader lessons on life.

Dance Like No One Is Watching: When you’re on the dance floor, it’s easy to worry about what others may think of you, whether it’s your partner or an audience when you’re performing. In life, there’s always going to be someone watching you and there’s always someone who feels the need to critique you. Sometimes other people’s opinions may have value and can help you improve, but there’s always going to be someone who feels the need to judge you and put you down if only to make themselves feel better.

You Need To Trust Someone: Some of us trust others more easily than others. If you’re a cynic, you may feel the need to question everyone’s intentions. There are a people out there who really want to help you because it’s in their nature. Ballroom dancing is about trusting your partner. If you’re the lady, you need to trust your male lead (and yes, ballroom dancing is somewhat sexist). If you’re leading the dance, you need to trust that your partner is in your corner and wants you to succeed.

Don’t Be Afraid to Step on Other People’s Toes: When I first started taking lessons, I was terrified that I would crush the toes of my teacher or dance partners. And it did happen. The more I danced, the less it happened. We all want to be liked and sometimes we worry about taking action that may hurt someone’s feelings. It’s going to happen, accept it. People who truly care about you will forgive you and move on. Those who don’t hopefully will get over too, but if they can’t, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Live In the Now: Whether you’re taking lessons, dancing socially or performing in front of an audience, you need to be in the moment, focusing on what you’re doing, not worrying about the horrible day you had at work or dreading the challenges, real or imagined, that life has in store for you tomorrow. It’s not easy when you’re in a bad head space, but it’s important to focus on where you are now and what you can do about it, and not worry about what could have been and what might be.

Make Mistakes: Even the most experienced dancers flub a step here and there, and we’re all afraid to fail. It’s natural. Sometimes we let that fear keep us from trying new things and we miss out on some wonderful experiences or opportunities to learn.

Keep Moving: We’ve all had the winds knocked out of our sails at one time or another. When we make a mistake or get thrown a curve ball in life, our first instinct is often to stop and get upset at ourselves or someone else. If you flub a step on the dance floor, the best thing to do is keep going. In life, you need to keep at it and be persistent.

A friend of mine once told me that if I could learn to ballroom dance at age 35, I could learn to do anything. I try to remember that whenever I doubt my ability to take on new challenges.

Gary Hilson is a writer, editor and digital media specialist for hire. He lives in Toronto.