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by Jacob O'Bryant

Sharing and notifications in Yakread

For everyone trying to grow a newsletter, why not take some inspiration from Joseph Smith and try some divine intervention?

it is my prayer to the Lord that three thousand subscriber[s] may be added to the Star in the term of three yea[rs].

Anyway. I took a short break from working on Yakread so that I could make some updates to Platypub, the publishing software I use. That ended up taking all week. But now it has a great theme system, I've made the tools-for-online-speech website more spiffy (including moving it from blog․thesample․ai to a new domain, tfos․co), and I even got my personal site migrated into Platypub, which means I can actually make updates to it again without having to touch a crusty old codebase. I've put enough work into Platypub now that hopefully it won't ever become crusty 🙂.

So this week I'm back on Yakread. I'll stick to working on that Mon-Thu (with Fri-Sat dedicated to Platypub and Biff) either until it grows or until I give up. Stuff I'm planning to do next from the roadmap:

  • Add support for importing OPML files, since it was requested
  • Make a real landing page
  • Maybe add password authentication
  • Fix a bug with connecting to Pocket
  • If you haven't connected sources yet, recommend articles that were liked by other users, or recommend newsletters from The Sample. (I'll probably start with the former because I bet I can implement it faster.)
  • Set up a daily Yakread newsletter that'll send you your current 5 reading choices in an email. (You can disable it of course, and I'll also make the frequency configurable as it is with The Sample.)
  • Add product analytics with Mixpanel

I'll try to finish that all within next week. At that point I think Yakread's funnel will be pretty solid, or at least much more solid than it is now. So then I can go buy some ads or something and see what the initial conversion and retention rates are like.

During this past week I've also been thinking more about additional core features to add to Yakread. First is notifications, second is sharing.

For the vast majority of things I subscribe to, I don't need to see them right away. That's why Yakread does its algorithmic ranking thingy. You don't even see new stuff that comes in; you only see it when the algorithm puts it in your recommendations. And that's good because the algorithm gives you reading recommendations in measured doses, so you never get overwhelmed and stop reading stuff altogether.

However, if Yakread tries to be your one-stop-shop for reading stuff, it would be nice if you had the option of doing a bit more manual curation. I'm thinking we should structure it as notifications. You can go in to your newsletter/etc subscriptions, and if there are any that you definitely don't want to miss, you can check an "enable notifications" box. I'll add a notifications tab to Yakread like the one in Twitter or any other social app, with a little superscript thing so you can see when you have new notifications. Whenever you get an email from one of those newsletters, you'll get a little notification with a link to read it in Yakread. Similarly to other notifications pages, when you look at the notifications, they'll all be marked as read automatically, but they'll stay there so you can go back and see them if you want. But there's no pressure to click on them all; it's not a queue that you have to go through.

Whenever you sign up for a new newsletter and we receive the first email from them, we can show you one initial notification that says, among other things, "You just got an email from a new newsletter. [Click here] if you want to enable notifications."

I also would like to import notifications from other apps. e.g. if someone replies to your comment on Twitter/Hacker News/Reddit, we could show you a notification in Yakread. Again, it plays into having Yakread be the only place you need to go when you have a few spare minutes to read something.

Second, sharing. I had a small epiphany about how Yakread could help not-already-popular writers grow their audience. I could bake sharing into the core Yakread flow. We already connect with other services like Twitter. After you hit the thumbs-up button on Yakread, then if you've connected to Twitter, we could show you an embedded tweet form prefilled with the article URL. (Maybe for the v1 we just send you to Twitter though.) We could do similar things for Hacker News and Reddit and possibly other services that I add in the future. e.g. if you've connected your Reddit account, we could show a list of the subreddits you're already in, with "Share to r/whatever" buttons.

This would go well with another planned feature: discussion aggregation. At the bottom of an article in Yakread, I'd like to display any discussions we were able to find anywhere on the web. I built something like that a while ago called Hallwayyou give it a URL, then it looks up all the discussions for it on Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker News, ranking them by how many likes/upvotes/comments they've received. So on Yakread, if you hit thumbs-up on an article and we see that there aren't many discussions for it already, we can give it extra emphasise.g. "not many people have seen this article yet! You should share it, and then everyone will heap glory and honor upon you for being such an excellent curator."

(By the way, I decided to stop using Discourse for comments and instead stick to Discord, especially since apparently the latter will have forum channels at some point. So the "View comments" button now is an invite link for the Discord server.)

Published 4 Sep 2022

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