What's better, chronological or algorithmic timelines?
As I planned last week, I've made a Major Update to Yakread's timeline. It is now mostly chronological. The most recent posts from your subscriptions will always show up first, or at least near the top. Same for articles you bookmark. But there are some key differences from, for example, your email inbox.
You can think of Yakread's timeline as two separate timelines, mashed together: a regular chronological timeline, and an algorithmically-driven "in-case-you-missed-it" timeline. Every post that Yakread might show you is first assigned to one of those two timelines. The timelines are sorted individually, and then they're interleaved together. The chronological timeline takes precedence: 75% of the items in your feed will come from there, until it runs out. The remainder comes from the algorithmic timeline (which is usually larger).
For example, you can see that the third post (from Ghost Resources) in my feed is from 13 November, which means it must have come from the algorithmic timeline:
Yakread uses a few simple rules to decide if a post should be moved from the privileged chronological timeline to the algorithmic timeline:
- If it's been in your feed for 10 days, it goes in the algorithmic timeline.
- If you've seen it in your feed previously, it goes in the algorithmic timeline. (Yakread counts something as "seen" if you click on a post that comes after it in the feed. e.g. in the screenshot, if I clicked on "The Supreme Court ...", then the three posts above it would be marked as "seen.")
- If it's a newsletter/RSS post, and there is a more recent post from that newsletter/RSS feed, then it goes in the algorithmic timeline.
This way you can keep tabs on everything new coming into your feed. You'll see posts in a timely manner, and you don't need to worry about if the algorithm is suppressing anything that you'd like to see. And yet your feed won't get overrun with too many subscriptions (or with subscriptions that post too frequently), and the algorithm will help to resurface anything that you do miss.
I've been using this new timeline heavily since releasing it several days ago, and I think it really hits the sweet spot. There's always something interesting to read.
With the new timeline in place, I now believe the core Yakread experience is "good enough." There is plenty of refinement to do for sure, but after one more week I'm going to make growth the top priority. Yakread is still living on borrowed time after all. I need to figure out if I can get it to provide a real income, and if not, figure out a plan B.
So for this last week, I'll get as far as I can on the following list:
- Add article excerpts, images, and other metadata to the links. Make the timeline look nice.
- PDF uploads.
- Generate "books" from a list of links.
- Add an "Export your data" button.
- Improve typography and other styling. Add a dark mode. Maybe add options for text size.
- Create an open-in-Yakread "action" where you can put in a URL and then Yakread will let you read it/bookmark it/subscribe to it/view comments for it/share it. Include an "Open in Yakread" bookmarklet at first; add browser extension + mobile apps later (much later—and maybe hire a freelancer).
- Notes and highlights.
- Better "Comments" button (e.g. make it part of Yakread instead of using Hallway).
However much of that I complete, on 5 December I'll switch to my growth TODO list:
- Sharing features.
- Ad system.
- Referral program.
- Improve onboarding experience (e.g. give better recommendations to help new users find stuff to subscribe to).
- Start buying ads in newsletters etc.
- Look into potential partnerships.
- Paid plans?
Once Yakread is on an acceptable growth trajectory, I'll try to get a good cadence between these and my two other TODO lists, "Bug fixes and feature refinements" and "Internal stuff so the website doesn't explode."
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Published 28 Nov 2022