2021-03-21~3 min

Developing a reading list for programmers - Motivation

A few months ago, the reading list of my choice, Pocket, made a change that I didn't agree with. A minor change, but nonetheless extremely annoying.
That sparked a thought. I love working on side-projects, why not develop my own?

Following that decision, I started thinking of other features a reading list could have.
The ideas ranged from simple, like showing if an article was already read (in case it's added a second time), to complex, like keeping a backup of the website in case it goes down or the article is removed.

Grand vision(s)

After a few weeks the idea expanded. It doesn't have to be a reading list only. It could include any kind of information that can be linked to. Books, Podcasts, online courses, videos, lectures.
Such a product could become a central hub of information.

Not only listing, but organizing it as well. Features like showing the source of an article, who recommended the article, book or video, adding notes, following specific high-quality blogs, and many more crept into my mind.

I use a reading list because I often come across great content, but don't have the time or energy to consume it in that moment. So I add it to the list for later.
That's the idea of a reading list. But it could be so much more...

What if I didn't view it as only a list of information, but as a central place to manage information consumption.
The difference being that it doesn't just list, it also helps to retain the knowledge that these articles contain. In this area I'm still a little short in what I could do. Spaced repetition is one thing, but I'm sure there's a lot more possible.

As you can see, this little project evolved into something huge. Only in thought for now, it'll probably take years until I have realized that vision. But every great thing starts at the beginning.

Opportunity to tackle societal problems?

Not being short of visions, I found two more that are important to me and I might be able to do with this project.

The first is battling fake and false news. The difference I make for this article is that fake news are deliberately presented as true, while false news is simply a mistake.
For false news I already have an idea. Articles are often corrected, and usually there's then a correction section at the end. But very few people check back to see if there was a correction. So the feature could be to automatically watch changes on articles, and if a correction appears, show it.
I have no idea yet what to do against fake news though.

The second is spearheading a move to higher quality information.
In the past years, with the commodization of content publishing, a lot more high- and low-quality content became available, but the ratio shifted towards low-quality.
It also seems to me that searching for specific topics doesn't list the high quality information. What I usually get is listicles or short articles about the topic. Long, well-researched writups are rarely found.
I have an idea of how to tackle this, but it's not refined enough yet to share. I can only say that for it to happen I need users. Many users. Which means I'll create a valuable product first.

Development

Rome wasn't built in a day, and it'll be the same with my little project.

The first step is to build a basic reading list. Then I'll add more and more features to improve the product and serve the vision.

A first version is done already. I named it ReadingDragon and you can find it here: https://www.reading-dragon.com/
It is in alpha now. You can use the code 'alpha' to get 66% discount. Or 'free' if you don't share my vision, then you can try it out for free.

Since it's a side-project, and software development is my passion, I'll also share my progress on Twitter and via articles like these (which I'll also share on Twitter).
I'll blog about product evolvement and about technical aspects, like the architecture, testing strategy and so on.

Conclusion

The whole idea developed from a small and simple reading list to a really ambitious project. It is a bit intimidating, but I like the fact that I can potentially work on it for years to come.

Wish me luck! :)