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The DEV Team

Changelog: Upgraded Reading List and Followable Podcasts

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・3 min read

Over the past few months, we have been adding a lot of key features to the platform—some released, some to be announced very soon. These new things have helped round the service into shape, but the opportunity and challenge now will be to pull it all together and ensure dev.to is a cohesive environment capable of connecting developers with great ideas, knowledge, and peers, without being cluttered.

With that, I spent the weekend revamping a few areas of the site that had been sitting around in an "minimum viable product" state for a long time. They needed a few touches in order to be truly useful (and scaleable).

At the end of this post I have a note about the latest in our open source project.

Podcasts

You can now follow podcasts as though you'd follow users or tags on the site. Once you follow a podcast, for example, Software Engineering Daily, their episodes will show up in your feed in a podcast section of your home feed when they have released new episodes on that day.

The podcast section has been around for a while on the site, and while always promising, it lacked some key functionality and was buggy. There are still some kinks to work out, but I hope this will give it some momentum. Being able to discover, listen to, and discuss software podcasts on dev.to is a fabulous thing.

We currently pull in 65 Podcasts from around the developer world, all with consent from the podcasters and all using original source files so the podcasters get full credit for downloads through our platform. If you know any podcasts that could be added, help put us in touch with the folks who run the show!

Reading List

I gave the reading list a fabulous makeover. You can now search and filter with ease, as well as "archive" posts that you no longer need (but still may want to retrieve later). There are additional filtering and sorting options that can be available soon, but the important part is the rewrite which will make additional features possible.

The new reading list is written in Preact and backed by an Algolia private index of your saved posts. It's blazing fast and will scale to as many posts as you care to save.

Save posts by hitting the SAVE button in the list view or the bookmark icon on a reading page. The lack of cohesion on this button is an example of work that needs to be done, but I plan on devoting a lot of time to the general usability of the site, great things to come!

It's only been a few hours, but I already find myself making much better use of my reading list. (Located on the left-hand sidebar of the home page). I cannot wait to usher in similar gains across the site.

The search functionality will be rewritten similar to the reading list. I'd describe the general effort as cohesion and design improvements. Expect a lot of great stuff in the near future—in addition to the brand new things coming soon. Improvements to the editors are also forthcoming, as are niceties like autocomplete on usernames and things like that.

While improved, these new changes may have bugs or missing features, feel free to open an issue.

Open source

The goal of "cohesion" is the toughest thing to manage in terms of our open source project. It's not always clear what the improvement should be. However, every improvement in terms of code readability, test coverage, etc. helps the overall velocity of the core team. If you can find some code and improve it locally, it is a major help.

We also continue to march forward in the "generalization" efforts of the platform. I believe this summer it will be feasible for users to stand up their own community sites if they'd like. Re-using our open source platform for a site about recipes or dogs or anything under the sun will be fun to see. I am also starting to feel like a private this platform could be a very useful internal tool for companies in order to guarantee privacy and extensibility for organizational communication and information distribution.

If you'd like to contribute to the generalization effort, the process is generally to find something that is hardcoded, and find a way to make it backed by environment variables or database tables. Many of the patterns for this have already been established, but we need to get in there and do the work.

Happy coding!

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Ben Halpern

@ben

A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.

The DEV Team

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Discussion

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As someone with... 1222 things pending to be read, the Reading List updates are 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

 

Only thing I miss is the ability to see the estimated time to read on the overview.

I'd regex anything with 1 or 2 min to read and go through all those in one swoop to get my number down efficiently. Using that in conjunction with the number of comments (since a 1 min discussion post could have hundreds of comments to read) helped me prioritize my saved for later posts, especially at work or at night when I don't have the attention span for long-form articles.

Since there's sorting and filtering on the roadmap, I wanted to share my use case.

 

Thanks a lot for the feedback Kayla!

You've commented a few times about being a heavy user of the reading list so I was definitely thinking of you in the process.

Feedback on the reading time makes perfect sense, will definitely get that in soon.

 

As someone with... 1222 things pending to be read

😱😱😱

 

It's only since October, too, since back in October I got my list down to 0.

Looks like 4 of them are yours <3

And it's at 1229 after this morning 1231 now.

I submitted my final grad school assignment ever just now, so my spare time can be spent on actually reading things now haha

Looks like 4 of them are yours <3

Ahah I'm going to summarize them here:

  • dangers of unibrowser: microsoft should have made me happy and chose firefox instead of chromium
  • you don't need to know everything: basically the title but longer
  • the new macbook pros are overpriced: basically the title but with nice tables with colors and a super long discussion underneath it (tldr; Apple has many of us locked in)
  • books i found at my parents: this is quite nice, I won't spoiler it!

I submitted my final grad school assignment ever just now, so my spare time can be spent on actually reading things now haha

Have fun! You'll need a looooot of tea to get through all of them :P

since back in October I got my list down to 0.

Would that imply that you "unsaved" the posts?

I definitely was thinking of that as an anti-pattern. Would you say the "archive" solves this?

Also: Your feedback Kayla would definitely be valuable along the way in terms of "should there be a trash"? A next-level archive for things that just can't be tossed.

I don't think we need anything like that tomorrow, but down the road you'll discover needs like that sooner than others.

Other categorization could make sense too, maybe being able to bucket stuff as "old" reads, but that you might still want to peek into from time to time.

Look out in June for when I get to reading and commenting on all your old articles :D

I try to keep my Reading List to the purest form of just stuff to read. Once read, it gets unsaved and then heart or unicorn reacted. So my end goal has always been Reading List (0) since that means I got to everything I wanted to do. Like an Inbox Zero workflow.

In the spirit of the archive/buckets, I was keeping a Gitlab snippet for me to store links and comments so I could come back to it if there was something that interested me. Like "Awesome portfolio examples", "Good use of linters", "I still don't know wtf map and filter do" (I think I saved every dev.to article on JS tips purely due to map...). All that's been moved to Pocket so it's just a button click away, but I need to figure out how to comment in Pocket (I think Recommending it would do that).

Functionally, I could see me moving my Pocket stuff back to dev.to and archiving those as things to be saved but not in my face to read, but having played with that feature with your post on the Social Network soundtrack, seeing it still bookmarked is going to bug me. Especially since I think I have probably 100 things from the dev.to domain in Pocket.


My current Reading List workflow, as arguably a power user:

  1. Go to Reading List
  2. Open a handful of articles in new tabs, prioritizing new articles in tags I mod or short things that may need a comment to help boost them up :)
  3. Read article
  4. Remove bookmark reaction
  5. React appropriately
  6. Comment if the article isn't too old for the comment to be relevant or helpful
  7. Move on to the next tab
  8. When done with those tabs, refresh Reading List
  9. Repeat

So it's not like I'm unsaving from the Reading List view -- I'm removing the reaction that no longer applies since I now have a new reaction to the post, all in the article view.

 

Love it! Great work Ben!

Are you planning to get the "comments" view in the reading list back as well?

I'd understand if it were a goner, in a sense it was a separate feature from the actual "bookmarks".

My use case for it: save an article, go to the comments view to see if anyone has contributed to the discussion under the article

 

Yup, your use case is exactly the reason for its existence.

That feature will be back soon in some capacity. The execution and locale of the previous feature never really made sense. I'm actively thinking about good solutions now. In some sense, getting rid of it is ripping the band aid which will allow us to get it right for real.

Suggestions on the implementation are definitely welcome, but I'm definitely considering some of these highly "cohesion"-oriented features to be more my responsibility these days.

 

Really great! I agree, the feature wasn't in the right place but I can't think of a better place right now.

It could be part of a larger "save comments" feature in the future: as a user I'm able to save/bookmark a comment and see the replies to the comment I saved, but if I save an article to the reading list I can then follow all the comments of such article.

There's an issue about bookmarking comments opened by @flexdinesh :

Bookmark a comment #1038

Problem Dev has grown into an open-minded discussion platform for developers from all backgrounds. Often, discussions in posts grow organically. Some comments are worthy of being a post on its own. Some comments highlight important points and references for the reader. There were times I wanted to bookmark a comment but I ended up bookmarking the post because we don't have the feature yet. Now, when I go through my bookmarks, I couldn't remember why I bookmarked a post and have to go through all the comments (and child-comments) to figure out why. Also, if I quickly want to recollect one of the comments, I couldn't remember on which post it was.

Solution Ability to bookmark a comment and if it's not too much, I'd like to give each bookmark my own title/desc for reference.

 

My two cents:

I too use the reading list with the goal of inbox zero like @itsasine

The posts that I want to save "forever" end up in the browser bookmarks (a low-fi version of Pocket :D). I don't use Pocket or Instapaper anymore because I ended up having so many backed up "to read" posts after years of using "read later" that I literally ended up deleting all of them to keep my sanity.

Basically the reading list is my short term "read later" where later means a few days max.

Browser's bookmarks are long term: if I'm researching something specific I add it to the bookmarks, if it's a once in a lifetime obscure post I add it to the bookmarks, if the post details a super neat trick about something particular I add it to the bookmarks, otherwise I rely on the search (inside and outside dev.to) and have confidence I'll find it again if I need to. I always do, that's how good DEV SEO is, I even find comments using keywords :-)

+1 for the new UI/UX but I feel like it should also encourage "forgetting", not just hoarding possible interesting things, so maybe I wouldn't add a "trash", nor I would add user generated categories (tags are already enough).

I would also add back the button to "unsave" next to the "archive" button.

Generally speaking: if I have something saved for months and months or even years and I never actually came back to it, maybe I should just admit it wasn't that important in the first place, or that my priorities lied elsewhere.

That's just me obviously, everyone has different use cases, the hard work is to find a good balance in the UX I guess :-)

BTW: the new search is fantastic and super fast!

 

Hey Ben!! I have a podcast!! What information do you need to be able to add my podcast?

 

Email yo@dev.to and let us know where to find it (link, RSS, etc.). It's usually pretty easy to locate the appropriate assets, so we don't need much info, just permission.

 

We don't need a lot of info but any of this would help the process along:

@GaProgMan and anyone else looking to add a podcast, can you provide the following information?

Title: Feed URL: iTunes URL/ Overcast URL: Android URL: Website url: Twitter username: Pattern image: (this is the header-esque image behind the player) Image: (profile image for the podcast, displays as a square on dev.to/pod but displays as a circle in the feed so keep this in mind!)

Would it make sense to have a dedicated form for this Jess? Seems pretty inline with our other forms.

 

Love the reading list updates! I absolutely love saving things to that list, But I can also see how easily this can become a black hole. Improving the ability to manage that is a huge asset!