Jacob O'Bryant
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Findka: project management, new UI, on-demand recommendations
13 May 2020

With the migration to Biff finished, I’ve gone back to feature development for Findka. I thought I’d share some details. For one thing, I’ve found a lightweight project management solution that seems to be working pretty well.

This is a Kanban board in Notion, but I’m not using Kanban. Instead of grouping tasks by status (i.e. a column for “Not started,” another column for “In progress”), I’m grouping them by category (core features, UX, knowledge, user acquisition and sharpen the saw). During my planning sessions, I sort the tasks within each column by priority, and then I sort the columns by priority as well. Then I start from the top left and mark the next handful of tasks I’m going to do as “batched.”

I try to keep each column to about 7 tasks max. If there are too many tasks, I group them into subtasks.

So far this system has helped me to juggle all the different things I need to work on without spending too much time on project management. I also like that it doesn’t push me to try to plan too far out in advance.

As for what I’ve actually been working on—I’ve mainly been doing a design overhaul. I’m not much of a visual design person; I prefer to work on functionality. But Findka is far enough along that some polish is warranted.

First, I updated the weekly email template:

This was much less of a pain than I thought it would be. I found a free email template editor (beefree.io) that was surprisingly good, and they had a template for real estate listings which I modified for Findka.

When I was on Firebase, I used their email sending extension which comes with Mustache-style templating out of the box. Now that I’m on Biff, I’m using Selmer instead. Hiccup et. al. is great for when you’re writing the HTML from scratch, but Selmer works a lot better for this since I already have a huge HTML file and I just need to add templating to a few parts.

Since finishing that, I’ve been overhauling the site’s UI. Here’s my progress so far:

It’s based on Twitter’s UI (cheap alternative to hiring a designer: rip off an existing site). On small screens, the side bar collapses into a hamburger menu. Also, it’s built with Bootstrap. I’m a big fan of Bootstrap. The main complaint I see is that you end up with a site that looks the same as every other Bootstrap site. But at my current stage, I don’t care. I just want to make things look non-crappy with as little effort as possible (example: Findka’s primary brand color, #343a40, is just Bootstrap’s dark color). At some point after I’ve raised funding, I’ll hire someone to redo it all with Tailwind CSS.

I need to figure out a better name and icon for the “Train” tab. A more descriptive phrase is “Improve your recommendations” (which is unfortunately a bit too long). That tab will have the search bar so you can add content items you already like. Later on I’ll add some integrations too. For example, I’d like to do a Pocket integration so you can import your favorited articles from Pocket and export your recommended articles from Findka. Compared to the other content types, very few people add articles (which makes sense, since right now you have to paste in a URL instead of just searching). So I’m hoping an integration or two will fix that. Maybe a Reddit/Twitter/Hacker News integration would work as well.

Eventually I’ll probably add integrations for more content types, like a YouTube and a Spotify integration. I already have a ton of integration code I wrote for a previous version of Findka. It’s funny actually: my original strategy for getting content into Findka was to write a bunch of integrations first. But then I thought, “What if I just made a search bar and let people add items manually instead?” It’s lower friction since you don’t have to link any 3rd party accounts, and it means that the items we do get are more likely to be the user’s favorite items. Now that the latter strategy is in place (and it’s actually working), I can start adding back in some of the integration code as needed.

I’m also going to split out “Your content” into three separate tabs: “Likes,” “Bookmarks,” and “Dislikes.” Items you haven’t rated yet (i.e. your recommendations) will be under the “Home” tab. (Currently, everything is kept in a single feed).

With that change, I’m adding one more critical feature: the Home tab will continuously replenish itself with new recommendations. It’ll have a list of 5-10 items. As you rate or bookmark items, new items will take their place. If you want recommendations for a specific content type, you can choose the type you want at the top of the screen.

This’ll solve an important bottleneck that Findka has right now: we’re not getting enough rating data. Users have been adding lots of new items with the search bar, but since you can only rate at most 10 items per week, Findka’s algorithm isn’t getting enough rating data to keep up with all the new content. Once on-demand recommendations are in place, users who want to can rate as many items as they like. (As of writing, Findka’s DB has 1,014 items—maybe someone will even rate them all :) ). This’ll help Findka get much, much better at recommending content.

I’m hoping to finish the core features quickly so I can focus more on marketing and creating a targeted ad system (like Facebook has). Once Findka is growing consistently and we have some data showing it can be monetized effectively, I’d like to raise funding and then spend most of my time training other people to continue Findka’s feature development while I work on Biff.

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