Initially, Mark, I was looking at the clap system from the other side: what does this do for ME. So, when I clap a lot, that tells Medium I like it, and they recommend more like that. (Right?) If I clap a little (or none) they know I didn’t like it, and I see fewer recommends. (Right?) Sounds great! And the monetary distribution thing, yup, sure, whatever, $5/month from me isn’t going to do much for any one author.
So. Time passed.
Ever hear the story from the early days of artificial intelligence? Army intelligence types were trying to teach an AI system to spot Russian tanks in photographs, and tell them from NATO tanks. So they show the AI a bunch of Russian tank photos, tell it “these are Russian tanks,” then a bunch of NATO tank photos, tell it “these are NATO tanks,” do some test runs, goes great! Then they have the AI start analyzing photos just in from the field. Results: awful! Might as well flip a coin. So the Army guys are trying to figure what went wrong. Finally someone notices that one group of tanks was shot on cloudy days, and the other group was shot on sunny days. They had, it turns out, taught an AI to figure out if the sun was shining.
Based on my Medium feed, I have had similar results in terms of intent versus target success.
tl;dr: Your way sounds good.