A friend recently suggested that I look at Evan Williams’ new enterprise, Medium. He’s the guy who started Blogger, which was absorbed into Google, after which he moved on to create Twitter. I took a quick look at Medium and decided to pass. It requires that participants sign in through a third party, e.g., Twitter. I thought, oh yeah, here’s another way to track everything I do.

It’s a pretty dense site: you can’t begin to figure out how it works without first submitting to connecting. This message appears on the home page:

“We see you have Do Not Track enabled, or are browsing privately. By signing in to Medium, you are agreeing to allow us to override that setting to personalize your experience. For more info, please see our Privacy Policy.

I still don’t get this medium. More than a few friends (real friends) admit that they don’t either. All this data tracking is apparently meaningful to someone. I’m inclined to resist simply because I resent the effort to follow everything I do, however mundane it is. If cookies were guys in cars, I’d be calling the police. There’s something creepy about tracking.

At the heart, what’s it all about? Advertising and selling.

Maybe I’m atypical, but I ignore ads. In magazines, on television, and on the internet. I click them closed when they obstruct my screen. On Facebook, I now close all boxes related to advertising. They aren’t relevant to me. And that’s what this is all about, just as television was and is. It’s all about advertising. A medium for selling products. These free platforms. We shouldn’t mistake that they’re about free speech. They’re not.

When Evan Williams offers to personalize my experience, I understand what he aims to do. He wants to identify the neural pathways that will create that zing of interest, the one that goes straight to the unconscious part of the brain, the part that motivates us to buy without thinking, to acquire without reasoning, to participate without reflection.


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