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by Jacob O'Bryant

Some personal news

Our first child was born on Monday (a girl). So that’s the biggest news I’ve got from the past few weeks. Feel free to ask me for parenting advice since I am now an expert.

(This setup worked for approximately six minutes until she woke up and informed me that it was unacceptable.)

I’m hoping to resume working on Findka gradually—perhaps I can get in an hour per day and work up from there. I’m glad that Findka is in a working state. It’s been getting 50-70 daily active users (we got another signup spike!) and currently requires almost zero maintenance. The next big thing I’m planning to do is make it better at recommending niche articles. Currently it recommends more-or-less mainstream Hacker-News-type things. In the feedback survey, several people lately have brought up the need for more diversity, and I agree.

I’ve been in contact with someone who was interested in using Findka to filter through PubMed articles (especially given the recent-ish addition of RSS subscriptions to Findka). From our discussions, I came up with a simple design that I think will work great.

I’ll make it so you can create special Findka invitation links. You select a number of RSS feeds which you’ve already subscribed to on Findka and then generate a link. Anyone who clicks the link and puts in their email address will be subscribed to the RSS feeds you selected (and they’ll be signed up for Findka). Then Findka will use a divide-and-conquer strategy: each person will get a different set of articles from the feeds, and then the articles that are clicked or favorited will get recommended to more people.

So if you want more content from some niche (like medical research papers), just gather up some relevant RSS feeds and then recruit a bunch of associates to help you sift through them. They don’t even need to understand what RSS is.

There are a few UX decisions I need to figure out (if you click on someone’s link that promises medical research papers, you might not want to also get random blog posts from programmers—but “anyone who signs up via a link only gets articles from RSS” isn’t nuanced enough).

If this works well, it might be all we need to improve Findka’s diversity, since those niche RSS articles can also be recommended to the entire user base. It could also be a good viral growth strategy.

There’s another thing we could try that came out of a Zoom chat I had with someone a little bit ago: we could use Reddit to source niche recommendations. For example: you submit an article. Findka looks up which subreddits, if any, this article has been highly upvoted. Then Findka recommends a different article that’s also been highly upvoted in one of those subreddits. (We’d normalize for different subreddit sizes of course).

The super appealing thing about this strategy is that it would require zero changes to the user interface—you wouldn’t even need to know it was happening.

Anyway, those are my current plans at least. With my new baby responsibilities, I can’t give any ETAs—but at least Findka is now extremely resilient to feature creep :).

Published 31 Dec 2020

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