Over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve been one of many journalists, analysts, and bloggers who’ve made a career of deciphering the impact of Evan William’s creations. From Blogger, which reshaped media as a two-way conversation, to Twitter, which supercharged it, to Medium which…
…well, in fact, amongst a certain set of media observers, Williams’ latest creation has been both fascinating and confounding. Is it just a better-looking Blogger? A Twitter-like network, but focused on long form writing? A platform for publishers? Something entirely new?
But after my most recent Shift Dialogs conversation with Medium’s founder and CEO, I think I’ve finally figured out what Medium is all about. Williams’ unique skill is in removing the friction that hinders an idea in its jump from one person’s head to another’s. Blogger was a start, but blogging platforms remain a chore to set up and maintain. Twitter was a fast-twitch alternative, but is frustratingly ephemeral and feeding that beast can be exhausting. Medium represents a new way to get ideas into the world.
The key isn’t building a clean, well-lit place for words — that part was easy, according to Williams. The tricky bit is getting the underlying network and feedback loops right — a project he admits is still a work in progress. Not everyone wants to be a publisher, or a public figure on Twitter. But just about everyone has a story to tell, and when they do, they want it to find just the right audience. That’s Medium’s role.
It doesn’t sound like that big an idea, but if you step back and think about it, it reveals itself to be quite large. Medium has the chance to be the universal platform for Op-Eds, magazine thought pieces, and personal essays — all personalized at scale. In the past, those components anchored multiple-billion-dollar publishing businesses. Of course, the question remains whether there remains a business in considered ideas. I’ll admit I’m biased to answer in the affirmative.
I sat down with Williams in July to talk about Medium, as well as his thoughts on Twitter, his venture firm Obvious (an investor in NewCo), his evolution as a manager and founder, and much more. Below is a transcript of our lengthy conversation, edited for clarity. The accompanying Shift Dialogs video has been edited for length, and runs about 25 minutes.
John Battelle: Medium is your third major company, but they’re all on a theme. The Atlantic put it this way: “Ev makes text boxes that we pour our souls into.” Tell me how Medium got started?
Evan Williams: It was one of those things that I couldn’t stop myself from doing. I left Twitter about five years ago. I was immediately thinking about this area — it’s all I think about — publishing platforms, the future of media and the web.
I didn’t necessarily want to get into that again, but I felt like there was a huge need and an opportunity that I was well-suited to pursue.
I got excited about the Internet in the first place because I thought it was going to make us smarter. It’s questionable whether or not that’s the case. Obviously amazing things have happened, but it’s not done yet. It’s not fixed. There are so many things that are disturbing and broken about not just the Internet, but media — the Internet means media today. Media is how people get their ideas, stories, narratives of the world, and how they live and how they vote and everything else.
There’s a lot to be dissatisfied with. It’s not the utopia that some of us technologists thought it would be 20 years ago when we started working on the stuff. I thought, “Well, it’s still changing. We don’t have to accept that world. Let’s work on it more.”
When Medium came out, people like me — writers, people in publishing — we were excited. It looked like a clean well-lit place for words. It still does look like that, even as it’s evolved. Was your intention to build something for writers?
The intention, at the most succinct and ambitious, was to the make the world wiser. You know that William Gibson quote, “The future’s already here, just not evenly distributed”?
The answers to most of our problems are already here. They’re in other people’s heads. The Internet’s the best system ever for getting things from one person’s brain into another person’s brain at a massive global scale.
The answers to most of our problems are already here. They’re in other people’s heads. The Internet’s the best system ever for getting things from one person’s brain into another person’s brain at a massive global scale.
That was really the intention. How do we make that happen better, faster, more effectively? How do we get the great ideas and stories out of more people’s brains? How do we help people pay attention to the ideas and stories that are actually going to help them or that they care about?
But doing that was already pretty easy, thanks to tools that you helped invent, both Blogger and Twitter. What was broken that you thought needed addressing?
When I started Medium most friends of mine said, “OK, so you’re going to make it easier for people to write on the web? That seems like a checked box at this point.” Which is true, but it felt like the system wasn’t complete.
While it was easy to write on the web, technically, and we tried it at Blogger, our vision (then) was “everybody will have a blog.” Everybody will create a website. We’ll make that one, two, three easy and that will make sense. Everyone will want to do that.
It doesn’t make sense for everybody to do that. There’s still not a default. We’re trying to create a default for if you have something to say that’s not a little nugget that will fit in social media, and it’s not just for your friends. There’s not a default to put a story onto the world, or an essay, a thought, or a perspective that you want the world to see or that you want it to change minds.
Creating a website and becoming a publisher is a different intention. That’s a way more ambitious commitment. The vast majority of people, even the subset of people who have good ideas and the inclination to articulate them, they don’t necessarily want to become publishers, which is what becoming a blogger meant.
That was sort of step one: just create the default, create the blank sheet of paper that anyone in the world can go to, to say something that they want to say. That’s fairly easy. It’s surprising that that didn’t exist. The hard part was then building the system that helped that expression get to where it needed to get.
Exactly. The network and the discovery mechanisms. That’s certainly a work in progress, but that’s the thing that didn’t exist before. It existed in forms when we were blogging earlier days. It was Google, it was the loosely connected blogosphere that were linked to each other, and it worked. It was slower than today — now it’s mostly social.
You described a place where there’s a blank sheet of paper where someone can express themselves, but I would bet that Facebook would argue that they provide that.
Facebook also has an underlying network. It may not be the right network for a new idea that you want to get out to the rest of the world — though you can always boost your post — but you’re a student of this space, and you knew Facebook already had this. You knew Blogger and WordPress existed. Now Medium is 30 million uniques and growing, and the President writes on your platform. When you started it, did you sense that potential?
What I sensed was a market opportunity. I think the last time I was on stage with you I declared to a group of web publishers that their websites were dead.
Yes you did.
That in essence is what I saw as leading to an opportunity. It’s not an anti-open web stance. It’s a view on the history of what the Internet has done, and the forces of network effects, and economies of scale and seamlessness. It will be huge properties that dominate a particular market, that exploit network effects.
If you looked at the Internet four, five years ago, Twitter and Facebook were driving more and more attention. They were driving attention still out to the web, to articles, and to content that was published on individual islands on the web. What I thought was inevitable, and still do, is that stuff is going to move to platforms.
What I thought was inevitable, and still do, is that stuff is going to move to platforms.
That will happen because it’s just more efficient — whether you’re doing it for personal expression or for commerce or to change people’s minds, it’s going to move to platforms, and there’s going to be a handful of distribution points. There won’t be a handful of voices or publishers, but there’ll be a handful of distribution points and platforms.
That because the history of technology is closing gaps, making (things) more efficient, more seamless. Consolidated unified platforms were inevitable — there weren’t by definition going to be thousands of them. There were going to be a few that really had critical mass. Facebook was a behemoth and is even more so today, and there were definitely a few major media centered networks.
It felt like there was still an opportunity to create one of the platforms that matter, if we focused on content, if we focused on deeper storytelling and more in-depth content, if we really optimize the network around that, then we can build one of these few platforms that have a critical mass. That was a clear line opportunity, (but) it was a hard thing to do.
What kinds of values guide Medium that might be either distinct from, or contradictory to either the large platforms like Facebook or the messy open web?
If you compare it to the web, it’s not necessarily the values are different, because does the open web have values? No one dictates those.
That’s one of the values.
The feedback loops are different. If you look at what’s wrong with the media or the web in general, there’re a few things, but feedback loops are what drive behavior, and drive content, and everything else.
For 20 years, people who have published on the web have learned and optimized for certain metrics that both measure success and drive revenue. Those metrics started off very primitive, because that was the technology we had, but they’ve remained very primitive.
It’s more efficient and more profitable to publish lots of things very frequently. In fact, it’s a necessity, especially if you are going to get to critical mass. From a news perspective, it undermines your ability to do more in-depth reporting. That’s just one example though, of feedback. Even from a personal perspective, if you are looking at your own website, the only metrics you had were page views and unique visitors, for the most part.
Pretty much in the history of the web, there’s never been a difference noted between someone visiting the web page for one second and 10 minutes, and that’s pretty insane. It’s pretty obvious what sort of behavior …
That’s going to engender.
I sometimes compare it to nutrition. If your job is to feed people, and the metric that you have is calories delivered, then you’re going to learn that the efficient way to drive that metric up is not via nourishment, because that’s not rewarded.
In other words, you will be creating a lot of high-calorie junk food. Would you say that Facebook is a purveyor of high-calorie junk food?
In some cases.
You’re being charitable, I think.
Facebook is very good at giving people what they want and what they respond to. My Facebook has high-calorie junk food, and also New York Times links and lots of good stuff. There’s compelling in-depth content.
In the race for clicks and page views, the open web made a lot more kitten videos than it did high-quality stuff, but Medium feels different. What have you learned about the network or the feedback loops in Medium that encourage you that there is actually a network to be built underneath that?
We’re still learning. Going back to your question about what are the values that are driving it, what we are trying to figure out is how to encourage people to invest more.
One of the statements I made a lot in the beginning of Medium is “The world doesn’t need more media.” With both Blogger and Twitter, our ethos was really “Get more voices, and we’ll lower the barrier to put in your voice, your thought out in the world. In an aggregate, that’s going to be a good thing.” There’s a lot of evidence that there’s lot of good effects of that. Come 2012, that was no longer a need.
It’s actually amazing that anyone who’s connected to the Internet can for free put a thought out there and instantly is available to the world. Let’s build on top of that.
The goal was never make it easier to put more media out there, which a lot of systems are designed to do. It’s more media, it’s more feedback loops. What’s the validation that is going to give someone to put something out there again? Get on this hamster wheel. It’s hard to resist that.
Our goal was, we don’t need more media, but we need better media. We need to reward people who want to spend time, not just on creating very simple things. Most of the Internet is driven by novelty. It’s short and shorter cycle of times. If something is not very, very fresh, it’s hard for it to get attention.
Most of the Internet is driven by novelty. It’s short and shorter cycle of times. If something is not very, very fresh, it’s hard for it to get attention.
In many of these cases, we are fighting human wiring. We’re wired for novelty. We’re wired to pay attention to what’s new. We’re wired to pay attention to what our community is paying attention to.
It’s not like we can ignore that, but you can build a system where you don’t, for example, sort anything by when they were published.
That alone has some effects on how distribution happens. I’ve been told many times that compared to even a blog, when you publish on Medium, the longevity or the shelf life of your post or the traffic over time is more substantial.
Yes, I do see a much longer attenuation or decay rate of audience on Medium. On LinkedIn everything happens within 24 to 36 hours and that’s it. Medium has an ongoing long tail, where people continue to discover it and share it.
Hopefully the feedback loop that it creates is: “I can invest more in something because it’s not going to disappear right away…I don’t have to do my hard-take on the news of the day, because that’s not going to have a long shelf life.”
That’s good for consumers as well. People (can) spend way too much time on the stuff that’s “of now,” but has no impact on their lives whatsoever. That’s an example of a feedback loop.
Let’s talk about money, specifically the advertising models that the open web engendered. It’s hard to make money as an independent publisher. An independent publisher looks at any platform, whether it’s Facebook Instant Articles, or an app, Medium, or LinkedIn — and thinks: it’s extremely difficult to do a good job on five different platforms at the same time. You recently announced that you’re leaning into being a publisher-friendly platform. How is that going? Do you think that publications will be able to make a living on Medium?
Absolutely. To frame it with the mission as I was talking about earlier — distributing the ideas and stories and people’s heads — obviously, a ton of that happens non-commercially. People are motivated to share things for all kinds of reasons.
For most of Medium’s history, we haven’t focused on those who do that professionally. It was always the intention that we would have that element as well, and that would be complimentary to the non-professional content. We started really focusing on (professional publishers) earlier this year.
We launched a couple of things. One was, we expanded this suite of tools available for more professional publishers. We made it so you could actually have a website that’s on your domain. It has navigation. It has more customized look and feel. You can have your own brand on the platform that is still connected to the Medium network.
We’ve started our foray into monetization. It’s early for that, and it’s absolutely our goal to find the models that are sustainable for professional publishers. Right now, what we have in our limited beta program is a fairly nascent advertising product that is native content, brands that are publishing on Medium.
As a publisher, you can opt-in to include distribution to those on your stories. We will work on those ad units. We are optimizing for effectiveness as well as user’s experience around those, but we started very conservatively.
The second thing that publishers are doing is they’re working with brands to create that content. They can do that on their own, and just like with the other websites, you can work with the brands who are publishing. We’re also helping broker those deals. That’s working well in a very small scale. We’re seeing a lot of interest and demand for that.
We’re also at the same time, but in a limited beta form, offering a membership or subscription program where publishers can charge money. They decide how much. We call it membership, because it’s up to the publisher whether or not it’s more like patronage, or more like a paywall. It could be anywhere in between. They can lock 100 percent on the content. They can lock 10 percent. They can time-box it. You can pay a publisher directly and they can decide what to give you. I think both of those are important. There’s probably other models that make sense as well.
Medium wants to create as big a high-quality audience as possible, so you can then sell Medium network opportunities to advertisers. But you’re going to have to walk that fine line between a publisher who wants to sell to the same advertiser, using his or her own sales force, exclusively on its own site.
The way we think about our business is in phases. Phase one is we need to get to a critical mass as a network — where more of our value comes from the network. You can get way more distribution on Medium than you can on an individual blog. Even with two million followers on Twitter, if I publish on Medium, I will get more distribution via Medium than I can get pointing to anything on Twitter. The network value proposition is strong.
For professional publishers, because they do more to build their own distribution, there’s a lot of tool value, and the network value is building.
Our goal as a business is to make the network very valuable, to really build that effect so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Phase one, for us revenue-wise, is to get publishers paid. Get them rewarded for creating better and better stuff. Obviously, we’ll take our percentages of that, but the focus is really on getting them paid and getting us to critical mass.
Let’s shift to a few things that are not Medium related. You grew up on a farm in Nebraska. But you moved to the city and you love cities.
I love cities.
What is it about the city that you think mirrors some of your observations about the way that Internet works?
A lot of it I learned from Steven Johnson — Where Good Ideas Come From — a fascinating read and so relevant to what we’re trying to do at Medium. It is really about how people and ideas complement each other. It’s not about the mythology of the creative genius in a cave inventing things.
What data shows is the more people are collaborating, and are just around each other, the more culture and science and innovation is made. That’s fascinating. That’s why I’m attracted to the city in doing what I do. It’s also a metaphor for Medium, and probably other networks bringing people closer together.
Having that “bumping into” factor sparks more ideas. The analogy extends further because there are tradeoffs to it. You do trade some peace, space, and freedom by living in the city. You trade it for accessibility, convenience, and the cultural aspects.
The same is true (in media). There are people who value having their own web server, and who want to control every aspect of that. Then there are people who’ll say, “I am willing to trade that for the vibrancy of being connected.”
And there’s another fascinating thing — the evolution of the tech industry. It used to be really (focused in) Silicon Valley, and now it’s in San Francisco. As tech became more about culture, then the center of gravity has moved to the city as well.
As tech became more about culture, then the center of gravity has moved to the city as well.
In San Francisco today, we may be going through the equivalent of the display advertising glut on the open web. A 32-year-old tech person working at a place like Medium is reviled by a large swath of people who feel like, “We’re being overrun by these tech people.” This is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. We may be losing the city’s vibrancy.
The city is screwed up and won’t let itself grow. This doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Everything should grow — there should be more art, more culture, more music, more everything else, because of the money and the demand.
We are sort of in our own way?
Absolutely, we are in our own way.
I am no expert, but when it comes to housing… Isn’t it as simple as, “Let’s just build more housing?”
We have to build more housing.
That means we have to go up?
We have to go up. The idea that development is bad for underprivileged or lower income people is the most distorted idea in the world. At this point, we’re so far behind than if you do the math, it’s like…
It’s hard to catch up.
Exactly. Had we had more forward thinking policy in the last 20 years, and not gotten so behind, my very strong belief is we wouldn’t be in the pain we’re in right now and there wouldn’t be the angst. It’s really tragic…it’s not just unfortunate because of the price of rent, but it’s making the vibe of the city get really angsty right now. It’s creating this tension between what should be an exciting community.
Do you feel like it’s the responsibility of the tech industry, which is really sprung from the Bay Area, enjoyed the fruits of the infrastructure of the Bay Area, and according to some, is it overrunning San Francisco? Is it incumbent on the tech industry to be the solution or, at least, be part of this?
I think it’s incumbent on people who have resources, and they’re in a position of privilege to pay attention to our community, and government, and the tech industry is the former, and has had a tendency to not want to engage.
The homeless problem, the housing problem, as well as other problems — we have to engage in general.
It’s incumbent on people who have resources, and are in a position of privilege, to pay attention to our community, and government, and the tech industry has had a tendency to not want to engage.
Let me switch up and you about your management style. You rather famously had a tumultuous history with Twitter as a manager, both at the very beginning and then to 2010, at your departure. When you started Medium, you started exploring new approaches to management. You didn’t adopt rigorous Holacracy, but you tried out parts of it. You’re drawn to new ways to manage companies. What did you learn as you’ve done that?
I’m drawn to new ways to do everything. Sometimes I’m willing to take on too much newness at once. Part of Twitter’s problem early on was, “Let’s build it on these completely new technologies that haven’t been proven.” That seems to be a recurring lesson.
(At Medium) we actually did adopt Holacracy. We didn’t fully adopt the spirit of it, which is why people would probably say it was the reason we weren’t comfortable with it. We adopted the rules. There’s a lot of cool things about it. I was attracted to different ways to build organizations and to help people thrive within the organization, especially creative people.
What worked with Holacracy and what didn’t for your organization?
One of the things I’ve noticed in building companies, especially fast-growing companies, is you always have to reorganize.
There’s no optimal way to organize in the first place, you’re always making a compromise. “Do these people need to talk more? How do you change groups and structures as you grow?”
What Holacracy has built in is an assumption of change, which is nice, because then there’s a protocol for change, and change is more transparent, it’s clearer how you do it, as opposed to, “Oh shit, things are at their breaking point, we need to reconfigure.”
Let’s have a bunch of meetings and figure it out, we’ll have an off site, get back to you.
Exactly, and then have a series of one-on-ones to relieve everybody. Holacracy uses a phrase called dynamic steering, which is really an adoption of principles from software development.
The really key insight was, “You don’t know everything going in, so don’t pretend you do.” Build into your process an ability to make decisions based on new ideas…
That’s almost the exact opposite of the Taylorist or the Ford manufacturing approach, where you know and can control for everything, and any change is a six-sigma problem that you can engineer away.
Exactly. If you look at what Holacracy does, in some ways, is it just says “We know these things about building products or software now, so why do we think organization building adheres to different rules?” It’s a system, kind of like these other systems. Let’s build in a protocol for and expect change.
I think that was a really cool thing, there’s some other things about how people can help figure out their role in a more flexible way than a job description.
We’ve morphed into our own system now. The thing that we found a little challenging about Holacracy — they describe it as an operating system, and it’s a very flexible operating system designed to fit any type of organization, from a condo association to a government. (But it) has a lot to it which is just complex. We wanted something more streamlined. We also wanted something more opinionated, so every time you start a new group, it didn’t have to invent its own ways of working, which Holacracy allows for.
We still adhere to some of the principles. The philosophy that you hear about Holacracy, which is very widely misunderstood, is this idea that there’s no managers and people kind of make up what they do, which is never the way we practiced. But that implication hurt us in many ways, both in terms of recruiting and internally.
Let’s talk about Obvious Ventures. It’s a different kind of venture capital firm. It’s very mission driven. Can you describe why you set it up that way what and what its thesis is?
Obvious really came from — I had more money than time thanks to Twitter, and I thought, “What can I do with the money other than just let my financial advisor (manage it), and do the occasional angel investing,” which I was generally not very good at.
There’s all these other things in the world that could probably use money, so what should I do with that? I was talking with my friend James Joaquin, (asking) “So who’s doing, particularly interesting work in climate and environmental investing?”
Well, no one was really focused on that. There was a bunch of clean tech investing, and there was a bust, but now might be a new time, so we created a starter firm. We have two other general partners who are awesome. What’s a little bit misunderstood about Obvious Ventures is “world positive investing,” our catchphrase. It’s not social impact investing. There’s a whole class of social impact investing that says, “We’re not optimizing fully for financial returns, we’re for-profit, but we count also the impact that a company is going to have.”
A public benefit corporate approach to investing.
Yes, there are multiple things that matter. Finance is one of them, but our perspective is slightly different, which is, it’s more of a filter. We say, “There’s lots of investments that might make money, let’s narrow down the ones that we invest in to those that we legitimately and honestly think will have positive impact at scale.” And it’s easy to eliminate those that you think would have negative impact at scale.
There’s a ton that could be great investments that, at best, would be neutral at scale. The full theory is that those (which could have positive impact at scale) are going to be more profitable because they address real needs and long-term societal issues.
I think it’s a longer term, and ultimately, a more sustainable approach, because if you chose companies that are addressing real problems, ones that will have the most impact, then if they get that right, that’s a huge deal, and they should be a profitable company. That’s the philosophy.
Were this thesis true already, we’d see more money focused on mission-driven companies that are trying to make significant change, but I sense we’re early in that shift. What’s the time horizon you’re looking at?
I think it’s necessary that we think long term. Obvious Ventures is structured as any other venture capital firm, it’s not just my money — we have other LPs, because we want to be held to real returns.
Like any investing, I like the fact that we’re contrarian. That’s where investors make the most money, if they’re contrarian. I do think there’s something interesting and intriguing about the fact that, even the way we talk about it, it turns a lot of pure financial investors off. I think that’s a good thing. I think there’s some sort of automatic, “If it’s good, it actually can’t make money.”
I like the fact that we’re contrarian. That’s where investors make the most money, if they’re contrarian. I do think there’s something interesting and intriguing about the fact that, even the way we talk about it, it turns a lot of pure financial investors off.
There’s a surprising number of people in the world who think that way. I think they’re just wrong, and we want to exploit that wrongness, but I also think that it’s just a matter of being smart. Obviously there would have been a time where investing in solar, for instance, wasn’t good and a lot of people lost a lot of money in solar.
Having this philosophy doesn’t make us right about everything that’s good for the world, there’s a ton of things that still won’t work or that are too early.
What’s awesome right now is there’s so many technologies that are a tipping point. Solar is one that’s obviously exploding, and we have a bunch of investments in that. Plant-based protein, a lot of healthcare. It’s exciting.
I can’t let you go without asking you about Twitter. You’re still on the board.
Twitter is the journalists’ favorite thing to talk about, which means that you get a lot of stories that are, I suppose, speculative is the fair word: what’s its future, whether it can survive as a standalone company.
Paint me a picture of the long term impact of Twitter. We all understand its impact to date, but how do you think it’s going to change, and what’s the bright future that you see for Twitter?
I think part of the reason there’s a lot of angst around Twitter is because, for those who use it and love it and understand it, there’s a sense that it can be more, and everybody can use it and love it and understand it.
If it’s reached its potential, which obviously some people believe, then it it’d be like, “OK, good job, you’ve reached your potential.” But it can be so much more, and it’s so cool.
Why doesn’t everyone get it? Why can’t it be bigger? It’s huge, for one thing, but that’s another story. I think that potential — the way I think about it, and have pretty much always thought about it — is as a six sense, almost, an awareness about the world that can benefit our lives and can connect people together.
It’s an information layer we didn’t have before. We’re always going back to the mythology of Twitter at South by Southwest in 2007. Lots of Internet people had been participating in this event for a few years, and then there was a new layer to it (that Twitter created).
That new layer is now in the world, and we’re used to that. It’s not optimal — there’s so much information and data in there. The goal is to get that to people in a way that’s helpful and entertaining…
In the race for online clicks, @ev's @Medium offers an alternative. #publishing via @NewCo https://t.co/Olh3ZBRiqO pic.twitter.com/wRCDxbboKX
— NewCo (@NewCo) August 10, 2016
It’s a massive information processing problem.
It is massive, yes, for sure. I think about it a Google-like opportunity, and a Google-like problem, in many ways. You look at the value that Google adds to people’s lives and there’s the utility value. I think that’s where we can really tap.
Many people would argue that it is a Google-like problem and it should be Google who solves that problem.
Twitter has lots of incredibly smart engineering and product teams as well. To round out though, it goes back to utility. It’s not just its limits, its potential, (or) “How do we get people to check the timeline more and be amused? And Like, and get that dopamine effect?”
There’s so much potential for utility that makes people’s lives better. That’s where we have to focus.
Back to Medium: I’ve always wanted to ask you about the name. Did you name it Medium because it was in between the long form of blogger and the short form of Twitter? Is it because of Medium, as in “of media”? Is it both, or is it something else entirely?
It’s kind of all the above. Biz (Stone) and I were talking one day about a publishing platform, and we had become big believers in constraints, because of Twitter.
We talked about having a constraint that was shorter than Blogger, although we actually didn’t implement the constraint. But we were talking about that idea, and long, and short, and I wrote on the board “Medium,” I circled and I said, “Whatever it is, we should call it that.”
Then I looked up to see if the domain was available, and then bought it for lots of money.
I imagine it must have been.
Yes, it was lots of money. Then I started looking at the definition of the word, and it’s not only media, and “not short, not long,” but also something through which you do something. I loved all of those connotations.
Last question. If you could teleport back to the days when you were starting Blogger, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself twenty years ago?
The biggest lesson for me, continually, has been, “Trust yourself.” It’s where I’ve second guessed myself that I’ve screwed up the most.
Do you have an example of that?
Actually, there are two things. It’s trust yourself and pay attention to people. People matter, people’s feelings matter, and try to understand them and talk to them. Blogger — slightly less so, because I was more doing that on my own, I had a small team, but I was very close to the metal on Blogger. In fact, what worked was when I kept going.
Even when you were out of money…
Totally, yes. With Twitter, a lot of the (time) I was overwhelmed, I was clearly in way over my head in running a company, when it comes to hires or product decisions, or getting kicked out by VCs. I was second guessing myself.
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