3 Jan 2023

Replies and referrals

I'm Jacob O'Bryant, maker of Yakread and other tools for online speech. I write about practical ways to make the internet better.

Highlights:

  • Mike Masnick: The Opportunity To Build A Better Internet Is Here. Right Now. Reminds me of Robin Sloan's piece which I've now shared three weeks in a row—there's a movement brewing!
  • Thoughts on a "Web Follow" protocol by a member of the Chrome team. It describes a way to provide a regular "subscribe" button for e.g. an RSS feed on your website that will redirect to the user's preferred RSS reader, or show a default page if they don't have one. Kinda huge if you ask me! I want to implement this in Yakread.
  • Check out Refind if you aren't already subscribed! It delivers personalized article recommendations via email; sorta-similar to the various things I've built. The founder Dominik is one of my internet friends.

Feel free to send me a link. Highlights are whatever I feel like sharing, not part of any sponsorships or cross-promo.

Merry holidays to everyone. I hope you had an acceptable new year and complied with all reasonable laws. I'll just share a couple things I built last week, and next time we'll be back to more meatier posts, maybe. 🎅🏻

First up we've got a super simple feature that I nevertheless love. I have removed the "Comments" button at the end of articles in Yakread—which displayed any discussions for the article on Twitter, Hacker News, or Reddit—and have replaced it with a "Reply" button, at least for newsletters.

One of the nice things about email newsletters is that they can be conversational, and in a personal, 1:1 way instead of just leaving a comment on Twitter or such. A downside of using a separate reading app is that they generally don't send email—building an app that receives email is a piece of pie, but sending email is much more hairy if you want to stay out of people's spam folders.

I had a "eureka"/"oh duh" moment recently: I could just throw in a mailto: link which will open an email in your regular email app, with the To and Subject fields prefilled.

The contents of the email you're replying to aren't there, but, eh!

Also, about removing the comments button: I'm kinda feeling like linking to relevant discussions should be left to the post author. Then they can give emphasis to wherever they choose to have a discussion. The old method of looking up discussions on HN + Twitter + Reddit would contribute to centralization. If you want to retain that feature, you can always use Hallway directly. It's a janky side project I made a couple years ago. Another benefit of taking it out of Yakread is that I no longer have "improve Hallway's design" on my todo list.

Besides that, I added one more growth feature: a referral program. If you head on over to the share page, you'll see something like this:

You can share link to the landing page, like yakread.com?ref=jacob, or a link to your newsletter/blog recommendations, like yakread.com/u/jacob. For each person who follows either of those links, you'll get $4 (subject to change) of advertising credit (see last week's post about advertising).

This is Yakread's version of the cross-promotion system that I built into The Sample, basically. Handing out ad credit in return for referrals makes things simpler though.

Last week I said the ad system was the last essential piece of Yakread. The referral program was the last main not-strictly-essential-but-still-definitely-worth-doing piece 🙂. I have a couple more "non-main" of those pieces—tying up a few loose ends, adding some polish here and there—and then I'll probably shift most of my time towards writing instead of coding. Hope you like think pieces.

Stuff I read last week

Also check out my recommended newsletters.

Practical steps towards a better internet.
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