On Content and Context, Signal vs Noise

As most things go, context can change everything, from the way that you and I see the world and how we interact with it and, most importantly, how we ultimately make decisions.

Encountering someone we’ve never met at 2:00 in the morning is entirely different than encountering someone we’ve never met at Whole Foods during lunch hour.

You see, the event is still the same, at least from this particular angle and for this example: We’re encountering someone we’ve never met before. But, our reactions, our emotions, our instincts, and our decisions change because of the context.

The same thing applies in the digital space as well but most people don’t take the time to consider how important the element of context is when building systems and digital experiences. Most people forget the visceral power of context when it comes to architecting user experience and the data that is presented to our users.

And with that in mind, as we’ve been quickly iterating on our core design and product we take every UI/UX decision that we make with a very serious look.

We, like many of you, try to take our design decisions around our product with the utmost of care, knowing that the right emotive response will create fans (and customers) and the wrong one will generate abandonment rates that’ll sink us.

With that in mind, we’ve started adding additional artifacts and signal data into our own technical newsfeed and timeline(s) with surgical care. And, like any good early stage startup, we’re dogfooding our own product.

Optimizing rich signal data

For instance, we know that for our own small team we created consistent, weekly content on this blog and we’d love to see that in our own individual and collective streams. So, we added our most recent post into the feed as you can see above.

Sure, this isn’t radically different than other social feeds that we’re used to seeing but the pressure is on to add the right data to create the highest level of signal and value. We have to add the right signal into the right context.

Why? Because our feed is full of data that really matters. It’s not full of random “listicles” or retweets of Trump or a random marketing article (or two) but mission-critical updates that the individual and team need to know about. To interrupt the mental and visual flow for the end-user would spell obvious disaster.

So we’re doing super-light tests with our own team, with our own feeds, seeing what works and how we feel about adding outside, potentially foreign signal data into a context-focused environment around the individual and team’s engineering activities.

Remember, it’s about the already-existing context in which the user sits! We can’t interrupt the flow here.

The stakes are unusually high, for a number of reasons, so we’re testing our hypotheses thoroughly, carefully, and as with much intellectual honesty as we can muster.

But, I won’t lie: I am incredibly excited about the potential of creating a powerful and super-useful technical newsfeed, that is built intelligently from the ground-up. As far as I can tell, no one has really done what we’re attempting to put together; and this is why I get up in the morning.

We’ll keep you posted.