If You’re Happy With Your Coffee and You Know it, Clap Your Hands

Or, how I figured out Medium’s clapping structure.

I’m a Medium newbie, so when I discovered I got the clap from a reader, I wondered if I had stumbled onto the wrong platform.

After some simple research though, I figured out “clapping” is Medium’s system of generating positive feedback for writers — a system that recently replaced a simple, “click-the-heart” Recommend system. In the latter, a reader could either “Recommend” a story or not. In the new system, readers issue “claps” to the author to provide the feedback.

Initially, I wasn’t aware that I had the capability to issue more than a single “clap” for a story. I assumed that I only needed to click “clap” once to indicate that I enjoyed the post, similar to “Like” on Facebook, then move on with my life. A single clap did seem a little strange to me; perhaps a “High-five” or a “Fist Bump” would have been more appropriate? But hey, I’m easy-going and fairy adaptable, so I went with it.

Then one of my posts received loads of claps in a short amount of time, and I determined that all of them were from a single reader. Whoa. This was new. And I was pretty sure I’d been doing everything wrong my entire life.

I suppose it makes sense though; when you applaud someone in real life, you generally clap more than once. I perform a single clap when I’m successful at killing a mosquito or a gnat on the first attempt, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count.

I learned Medium’s system allows a reader to rate a story from 1 clap to 50 claps.

Using my overthinking superpower, I began to wonder: How do I know how many claps I should give to a story that I enjoy? I was kind of stressing about it. For example, if I issued just a single clap, would that indicate that I barely liked the story? Or would it mean I hated it, kind of like a 1-star review on Amazon? Or would 25/50 claps mean I was ambivalent or even apathetic about it? Is giving 38 claps the equivalent of a teacher giving a student 76% on her research paper?

My solution was to first test it in real life, so I could gather some data about how the number of claps related to my enjoyment of a conversation or experience.

When the barista at Starbucks shouted, “Tara, your full-fat (don’t judge me), extra hot, vanilla latte is ready!” I provided 50 claps. When the stranger on the bus told his seatmate that he voted for [insert least favorite politician’s name here] in the midterm elections, I gave 1 clap. When I clapped 40 times for my friend after she tripped on a bump in the sidewalk, she gave me the stink-eye. She must have thought she deserved more claps.

Some folks may secretly think you’re a weirdo when you go around applauding what they say or do in everyday life. But I live in Seattle, so I fit right in.

According to Medium,

“When ranking stories, our system will evaluate claps users give out on an individual basis, assessing their applause for a particular post relative to the number of claps they typically give.”

I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that kind of power. So random number of claps it is. Less stress that way.

I’m just relieved I didn’t have to test a different rating system; Medium could have used “Hugs.” That would have been awkward.

Resolute over-thinker, introvert, eternal optimist, recovering procrastinator, unashamed nerd. AllsWriteWithTheWorld.com

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