Thoughts on a Developer-Centric News Feed

A few weeks ago the internet celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the so-called “News Feed,” which was universally popularized by Facebook.

For those who were late to the party, this technology and experience was hated when it first came out but eventually it forced its way into our daily user experience through cunning, iteration, mass adoption, and perhaps a little peer pressure to boot.

And, to be honest, it got people to stick around, engage, and it became a fairly copacetic relationship between the users and Facebook, as a business. And today, regardless of what you think about Facebook’s News Feed, we all can heartily agree that it’s here to stay. And, it has inspired many other companies to follow suit.

FB hasn’t stopped evolving it’s tooling and technology either as it’s become much more intelligent and even, as some would say, clairvoyant and spooky; everyone has a story (or two) of how a news article or status update (or advertisement…) has been surfaced on their feed that, outside of the hand of god, shouldn’t have made its way into their feed but is somehow magically there, waiting to be clicked.

But how did FB know that the News Feed was actually going to work? They did what great product companies do: They used it internally (i.e. “dogfooding”) and it became an integral part of their daily experience:

We’d already been using it for six months before it launched externally. When you’re building something, a lot of what you’re relying on is your own love of something. We loved it.

Now, they expected that everyone else would immediately love it but they didn’t, which we can all laugh about today but at the time was a painful reminder that good and innovative things can take time to be accepted by the general public. Their conviction paid off:

We had this conviction that if people used it, they would learn to love it.

And so they did and the world would never be the same. Now, the largest and most trafficked sites have “News Feeds” and even the largest are redesigning their systems to highlight a more News Feed-like system. For instance, in LinkedIn’s latest press event, they shared their intent to redesign their core experience around the feed, optimized for both desktop and mobile.

The new design coming later this year, 2016.

The new design coming later this year, 2016.

But, the News Feed isn’t perfect (yet) and there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially in the niche communities that exist online.

This is why I’ve spent much more time thinking through the developer and software graph than I ever have been and, more explicitly, how we can better create a “feed” for the technologically-inclined (e.g. software developers and engineers).

And, as you can imagine, there’s a screenshot for that:

A news feed for developers.

A news feed for developers.

Organizing data in such a way that surfaces valuable content and resources for the active developer, on-demand, is still a problem that desperately needs a solution. If you think about your own behavior throughout the day you’ll discover that there just isn’t a canonical developer-centric resource that you goto multiple times a day.

In fact, you have multiple tabs and windows and sources to ping every single day. This is compounded by the fact that our professional and personal lives are so fluid now that we’re finding personal and professional updates on the same platforms (and then a host of other updates that aren’t in either camp) which ultimately creates too much noise and not enough signal.

This is personally why I gave up on Facebook and why LinkedIn as a resource never made any sense. But what if we built something for the developer, for the technical teams, and something much more specific to the fast-growing technology-centric world? That would be a problem worth solving.

But to what end? As Mark Zuckerberg shared regarding the 10 year anniversary, his hope is that the News Feed continues to evolve positively in a way that allows more diverse thought to be shared, even if it goes against our natural inclinations and biases:

But by giving people access to more information and helping promote diversity and a plurality of opinions, we can build stronger communities.

The hope is to build stronger communities which I am 100% in agreement with. Our greatest asset when building new technology, especially with open source communities and practices, is our access to a variety of tools, technologies, and perspectives and opinions, all the time.

If stronger communities can build better software then that’s what we’re going to do.