Tag is the elephant in the room in Medium Feed

Thanks Ian Rogers for writing “Why I unfollowed you on Instagram…” and bringing up the issue of “interest feed”. As you wrote, a true Interest feed doesn’t exist yet but it will need to come.

In Medium, we get to see articles, tips and a significant amount of content oriented towards and about writers. The updates that come from the Medium team are focused on making writing easier, and more intuitive, and finding more audience. This is great. This is needed. In comparison, the updates and texts oriented towards people who read others’ works are less focused. Perhaps in taking care of the “writer within” all of us, somewhere the priorities of the “readers” and “listeners” take a back seat. This is where tags come into the picture.

Fortunately, for the readers, we have tags in Medium. The tags work remarkably well, and when you write a post, the way Medium autocompletes tags for posts based on specific words or contexts, is almost uncannily accurate. There are also publications and articles and ideas that are nested within tags. Tags are almost parallel Medium in the way they present tag based posts and publications (Tag based reading is like reading Medium within Medium). While this is powerful enough of an idea to sort your own reading, this is also where you the reader will have to be proactive in using tags.

Unfortunately, there is little beyond this functionality of tags where the reader has to be proactive in using tags. If you are intersted to find out useful reading for your interest, a good idea would be to follow tags. But using tags this way needs or assumes that you are an active user of Medium, that you seek people and publications to go out and read. It’s not that if you use tags, ideas or posts will automagically flow into your feeds. Let me explain.

When I open Medium I see feeds of articles flowing into my Medium user page. I find three tabs on the landing page: a set of posts that are updated latest on top, a set of posts that are trending in Medium, and a set of posts that I had bookmarked or favourited or hearted at some point. On the side are trending “tags”, and tags that I selected to read posts in Medium. While this presents to me posts/articles in Medium which may or may not contains tags that I’d like to read, in this layout Medium does not show me articles or ideas or publications or posts that are dedicated to tags alone.

Considering tags are indicators of my interest in real world, these are not the first things that come into or float into my zone of consciousness of Medium reading. Which means tags are still out there for me (on the side), and I will need to be proactive to follow my tags. But tags, in this sense are also superceded by people whom I follow, or topics that are “popular” or “hearted” by a lot of people, not necessarily relevant to me at the moment. As Medium grows, this is more likely to be a challenge for some readers.

So, what could have worked for me as a reader who takes his tags seriously?

How about organising the landing page of Medium based on tags “Tags”, “People”, and “What’s Hot on Medium” or curation by Medium editors? That way, we would have the best of both the worlds — on the one hand would be interest based articles floating in, and on the other, we would have people whom I follow. At some point, we need to have this blend of merging people with interests. This is something that does not exist yet.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in: https://refind.com/arinbasu

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