"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together - Van Gogh"
With the launch of Medium's new "Series" offering, conventional wisdom compares it to SnapChat's Stories, that the rest of the social web just happens to have copied. My immediate reaction, however, was that it was similar to Hardbound.
(Maybe it's just that I don't use SnapChat.)
Somewhat ironically, the first promotional quote on the Hardbound website comes from none other than Ev Williams.
Nathan Bashaw, the mind behind the company, noted the comparison some people were making between Series and Hardbound and graciously tweeted:
"We believe this format is bigger than any one company, and it might not be obvious now, but our goals are very different from Medium"
Whether there is even the slightest annoyance at the launch of a similar product it must still be a vindication that what Hardbound is doing is considered worthwhile.
Nathan has described discovering how tapping through a series of quick steps helped people learn more easily than reading a longer, drier piece.
They connected with it far better.
There are echoes of this in the description of Series:
It’s a new way to tell deeper, more meaningful stories
The title is a quote from Matthew McConaughey. It is a perfect articulation of how we don't live our lives in isolated chunks; everything flows from one event to the next and this is what Medium is trying to bottle.
The goal is for readers to drink it in and connect with these ongoing story arcs in a way that single, episodic posts could never hope to achieve.
Rather than omnipresent, grandiose think pieces Series feel like reclaiming the normalcy of the old web when weblogs and journals lived up to their names.
Creating a captivating series, however, is a far cry from writing an effective blog post - the skills required are different, tricky and complex even when the tool is quite simple.
It may seem strange to say when we are swamped with social networks that include a "stories" feature but we will, no doubt, be subjected to many failed tests while people try to find their feet with the new format.
Medium just has to hope that this doesn't cheapen the feature leaving users to abandon it as a neglected experiment.
After my previous comments about Twitter homogenising "live" it was interesting to see a piece from The Verge end with the following statement:
"Series starts looking less like a big swing and more like a commodity."
Whether you compare Series to Hardbound, SnapChat stories, or any other network's variant, it becomes just another option in an already crowded space.
It's only natural.
The feature du jour becomes the "social norm" irrespective of being the best. It will become the de facto standard (for the time being) and users expect it or, at least, a semblance of it.
The pressure is on but any implementation only has to be good enough to deter a move away to another product or network.
In this context is Series a viable addition to Medium's toolset or just another "me too" feature added because every other service has it?