I suspect we can agree on this: We are both making assumptions about how this system will work, and neither of us knows for sure. My assumptions are more optimistic than yours, but I am not suggesting it will be the perfect measure of quality. I am suggesting it’s pretty different than anything else, so to extrapolate from previous learnings would be shortsighted.
Also, to be clear, in all our statements, we’ve said payout will be based on “engagement,” not just claps. This is so we have the ability to account for additional factors. However, we hope for claps to be the primary metric, because they give the reader agency on what they reward.
As for your data point about those two posts: Claps has been out for a week, system-wide. I’m pretty sure the two posts you’re referring two are significantly older than that. So what is now labeled as “claps” for each of them are really recommends. The more-viewed post has more recommends (although not a lot more), which is what you would expect from a binary system — it essentially measures popularity. It would be very interesting to see what would happen in the current system starting from scratch.
The other thing I’d point out is that payment will only be based on the claps (and potentially other engagement metrics) from paying subscribers. With knowledge that claps are their primary way to reward quality — which, we know our subscribers care about — it isn’t unreasonable to assume they will behave differently than non-paying users.
Also, you say your first post, “is the kind of indepth analysis that needs subscribers and a community…” I think you (well, writers who use the system) will find that it works very much like having subscribers and community — because that’s what you do have. People who follow you on Medium will see your locked posts and engage, which means (part of) their money goes to you. In addition, you can be discovered by many more people than already know about you. I believe this will work much better for most writers than building a subscription base on their own.
As for your point that, “its easy to get lots of strangers to these stories who have a fleeting interest in a microphone for their pre-existing beliefs…” There is risk that people will clap enthusiastically for things they agree with (i.e., that reinforce beliefs) more than things they don’t, so playing to those beliefs will be a strategy. But I think almost every publication and media outlet does this — even if they are subscription-based. It would be nice to figure out a way around that, but it doesn’t mean quality-be-damned.
I know you hate paywalls, but I know you love quality and believe it should be paid for. I hope you’ll keep an open mind on what this system can do.
Thanks for the feedback.