Almost, but not quite...

Evan Williams, he of Blogger and Twitter fame, has had a revelation. Perturbed by the “swelling cacophony of information that makes it easy to be overwhelmed and hard to know what to trust,” he aims to “gve rationality a fighting chance” with his latest venture, Medium. Points for the clever name (connotating that it is the singular “medium” among all media, digital or otherwise, that provides trustworthy journalism). Additional points for a return to the old school (i.e., print) notions of the need for an editorial team, even though his business model still incorporates algorithims to try to figure out what news might be important. Let’s give him a benefit of doubt and assume the algorithims are an adjunct to human judgement, a necessary tool to sift the aforementional cacophony, and not the managing precept. Here’s where I’d like to have given out bonus points, but, alas, Evan doesn’t quite get it. While some writers are paid, Medium relies primarily on staff working for free. Now, I realize that fundamental to capitalism is the exploitation of workers (see slavery, sweatshops, corporate downsizing while head honchos receive hefty bonuses, third world outsourcing, take your pick), and the Internet model exploits the seeming noble idea that information is free so as to justify not paying people for their efforts to create, interpret and distribute information. But if Evan is really serious about creating something that is akin to serious journalism, here’s a newsflash: serious journalists expect to get paid. Medium is a commercial venture. Evan no doubt expects its success to further pad  his billionaire investment portfolio. In which case, he ought to be willing to pay the people who help him achieve that. As well as recognize that people who are willing to work for nothing, might be producing work that is worth the same.


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