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by Jacob O'Bryant

Merging Findka Essays

Hey! If you're reading this, you're probably a Findka Essays user. I recently launched a new product called Yakread, and I'd like to eventually merge Findka Essays into it. I'll share some details below, and I'd really appreciate any feedback you have. Send me an email.

First a brief timeline: I worked on Findka Essays primarily from October 2020 to February 2021. It got up to 400 or 500 subscribers in that time, mostly from getting lucky on Hacker News.

(Findka Essays, by the way, was the successor to Findka, which was a general purpose recommender that suggested not just essays but also movies, podcasts, books, music, etc. I had worked on a few other startup ideas before that as well. I've been doing the startup thing for a while...)

Anyway. In February 2021 I was thinking about how to grow Findka Essays, and then I got the idea for (of course) a newsletter recommender. I decided to go ahead and build it, and thus The Sample was born. Before too long it already had more subscribers than Findka Essays, so I decided to continue working on that full-time. I haven't worked on Findka Essays much since then. 

Fast forward to a couple months ago. The Sample has grown to 10,000 subscribers and makes anywhere from $1k to $3k per month. But unfortunately it doesn't have good long-term retention. It hasn't grown in a year. I've finally reached the point where I think the most promising path forward is to work on something else.

And that's where Yakread comes in! Findka Essays and The Sample were both focused on discovery—for essays and newsletters, respectively. With Yakread, I'm tackling the entire reading experience. Discovery is part of that, but mainly Yakread helps to manage all the stuff you've already discovered, which I now think is a bigger problem.

So theoretically, Yakread could subsume The Sample and/or Findka Essays, or they could remain separate and integrate with Yakread in order to provide discovery. My plan is to leave The Sample as a standalone service and integrate it with Yakread, but for Findka Essays I think it'd be better to merge it with Yakread. The two products have similar formats: by default you get a daily email with 5 links, chosen by an algorithm. The difference is how the links are chosen: with Findka Essays, the links are submitted by other users; with Yakread, the links come from your own newsletter/RSS/etc subscriptions.

But even that difference is a little tenuous: if you haven't added any subscriptions to Yakread, it will instead suggest links that were bookmarked from other users, very similar to what Findka Essays does.

So I'm thinking the most expedient thing to do is to take all the data from Findka Essays, import it into Yakread, do a bit more work on Yakread's discovery algorithm so it's at least as good as Findka Essays' (which to be honest is not a terribly high bar), and then move all of Findka Essays' subscribers over to Yakread. After that I would shut down Findka Essays, perhaps redirecting it to a blog post that explains that it's been merged with Yakread.

If I did this, the two main changes everyone would see are:

  1. The emails would say "Yakread" instead of "Findka Essays."
  2. When you click on a link, it'll display the article within the Yakread web app instead of taking you directly to the original article. However on that page there is a "view original" link you can click.

Besides that, obviously you wouldn't have access to the Findka Essays web app anymore. But all your data would be imported to Yakread, so you could still see all the articles you've liked/favorited.

Findka Essays currently has an API for retrieving your usage history, and it exports an RSS feed so you can get the daily emails in your RSS reader instead. Yakread doesn't (yet) support either of those, but I would be fine adding them. But I don't want to bother with it unless someone actually cares.

So, my request: could you give Yakread a try and let me know if it's missing anything that would be important to you? I'm aiming to merge Findka Essays into it within the next several weeks. Any feedback you've got would be helpful (including things that fall outside of the scope of Findka Essays/discovery), especially since I actually have time to act on it now 🙂.

Published 19 Sep 2022

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