Hi Greg, thanks for responding on behalf of Medium. Using your analogy about music, Medium is just like a massive record store the size of the Pentagon. Your algorithms are the store’s buyers, and since they’re determined that disco is the hottest selling genre, it occupies 5,999,000 square feet of the retail space. The remaining 1000 square feet, distributed in various utility closets, holding rooms and wall safes hold every other genre of music.

First let me say that I don’t want to block anyone. I have read a few of Jon’s articles. At first, I appreciated his passion (symbolized by his now legendary use of coninuous f-bombs) and his interest in inspiring others to pursue their dreams. I didn’t find much of what he wrote particularly original, or personal to his own life, and it started to blend into all the other life hacking articles I read at the beginning. But after a while, I stopped reading those articles, as well as all the listicles that innundate Medium. I think the point where I became aware of this whole exchange with his critics was when I read Jon’s article on how to get 500,000 views in a month and Morgan’s hilarious response “Get 500,001 Stats On Medium In 29 Days!”

Jon is in the business of selling consulting services for content marketing and building social media brand awareness, so he has a very real need to show he can get 500,000 views in a month, in the hopes of selling his services. He proved he’s got the chops. But he also admits that what he is doing is data driven and aimed at getting clicks, which runs counter to what Medium was intended to be, isn’t it?

I don’t know why you haven’t commented on the work of Morgan Rock Loehr and Henry Wismayer. They have parodied Jon’s work and all the other self-help life hackers who dominate Medium as it’s currently programmed, and they have made me laugh hysterically. If you don’t understand the issues, read Henry’s response to Jon here. And if you have read those works, do you refrain from criticizing them because they generate significant traffic to your site? Just asking, because I don’t think I have written anything close to the level of personal attacks.

I do share their concerns about how the trending articles and top stories are dominated by listicles and click bait. So I started writing on the subject of data driven content marketing being the antithesis of the writing 98% of us found when we first came on Medium.

This article analyzed 10,000 data points to explain what makes an article popular on Medium, stating “Everyone’s success is determined by the strength of their writing, not their following.”

I strongly disagreed with this point, and disputed that statement by quoting Medium’s own product science team analyzed popular content which said:

What does matter are two things:

How much effort you put into writing something engaging

How many followers you have

Then I started writing parodies that follow the rules set forth by the “what makes an article popular on Medium article” with the intent of publicizing the writers I’ve found on Medium who mean something to me (as well as clearly stating my own personal agenda for world domination and TV appearances):

3 powerful secrets to write powerfully

33% more powerful writing secrets than Australia’s leading writing secrets post!

West Coast leading-edge power user writing secrets that blow away the East Coast!

(Since you probably won’t read them, they are essentially the same article with modified headlines and subhead, but scheduled for publication on Tuesday for three different time zones)

Then I parodied those criteria in response to Henry’s “Open Letter to Jon Westenberg and Other Self-Help Blowhards” by writing

I’m sorry, sir, but you have violated six of the eight Commandments of popular writing, digitally inscribed on the virtual tablets and handed down by the Gods of data driven marketing as described here:

Finally, I have responded to Jon’s “I Accept Your Challenge” in two ways.

The first was, in retrospect, a little too harsh. I was irritated that Jon completely ignored our criticism of Medium and made it about how people were jealous of his success, leveraging his audience, and trying to tear him down personally. I certainly don’t feel that way and I never criticized him personally until I responded here.

While I complimented him on his new goals, and said he seemed like a nice enough guy to have over for a party, I did point out, among other things

If you have a tragic human frailty it’s your inability to see that you aren’t the center of the universe — our beef really isn’t against you personally.

Other than a small group of idiot trolls, no one hates you, your work or honestly believes Medium would be better off without you. (Hating you would require that you are a really important person who has the power and chooses to destroy other people’s lives. News flash: you didn’t lie to start a war, poison the water supply of a poor town in Michigan, or commit multiple homicides.)

For that Jon, I apologize. I could have found a much kinder way to say what I said.

The second was a friendly invitation to Jon, asking him to join our party, expand his writing skills (as he said he wanted to do) and add his 200 word post about this dream sequence where the meta battle over the soul of Medium takes place in the Colosseum:

You are one of the main participants, so you have a priority invitation to write 200 words in the collaborative story, The Grammar Games. It’s all in fun, and it’s your chance to turn the tables on the wise guys. Morgan Rock Loehr was the first to fall, followed by Gutbloom, but you’ve still got a clear shot on Henry Wismayer, and anyone else you’d like to skewer.

This story parodies the parodies and tries to turn the argument into the theater of the absurd, which is what all of this really is, considering the real problems going on in the world.

I was hoping that anyone in this protracted exchange of open letters and bruised feelings would join this collaborative writing challenge and let their imagination run wild.

The only rule is that you have to create a 200 word post.

While I am disappointed that you ignored the silliness contained in 323 words, and focused only on the metaphorically absurd phrase “field of battle,” I will take what you have written to heart and try to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.


Lon Shapiro

Written by

Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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