2021-03-27(2 min)

Developing a reading list for programmers: First steps

This is the second post about ReadingDragon. The first one, about the motivation and vision, you can find here.

ReadingDragon was created out of frustrations of existing reading lists, that they missed many features I wanted. After I decided to develop my own, I thought of countless valuable features that now the vision is a lot larger.

The vision of ReadingDragon is to become a central hub to manage information consumption. Which means a product that contains a reference for everything one would like to read/watch/listen to, helps find high-quality content and most importantly, also helps remembering worthwhile information.

Initial product

That vision is big, and will take a long time to realize. The first steps are a lot simpler.

The basics of a reading list are adding, archiving, favoriting, and listing articles. After that I'll add more and more features to it, and the current version already has a few more features. This includes adding notes to articles, showing if an article was read before, and search.

All of them with good reason.

Notes on articles is a low-key solution to store insights from articles. It's quick and I don't have to think about where to put it in my note-taking system.
It doesn't look too good yet. It's just there so that the feature can be used, and will be improved soon.

feature notes min

Showing if an article was read before isn't obvious, but is a feature I wished for quite often. Sometimes it happens that I add an article to the list that I've read before, maybe even a few years ago. I usually remember it after I'm halfway through it. Seeing it immediately saves quite some time, because then I can just skim the article again.

feature read min

And why search is helpful is obvious I guess :D

feature search min

Getting articles

People who want to use a reading list likely do so already. It was the same for me, I used Pocket. The cool thing about it are the many integrations to save articles in the list. From the browser, Tweetbot, share menu in iOS and much more.

To kickstart ReadingDragon it was important to have an easy way to save articles. So the first thing I built was a syncing mechanism with Pocket. This let me keep all my workflows while still getting all articles into ReadingDragon.

pocket sync min

After authorizing ReadingDragon to access Pocket articles, it automatically syncs them. When a new one is added to Pocket, it automatically appears in ReadingDragon. Incidentally this also helps with showing information about articles, like the title and reading time. Pocket parses them and returns structured information.

Developer focus

Since I myself am a developer, I image that many features I cook up are only useful for other developers. People like me. That's why I decided to simply focus on that group, at least at first.

The list of features I believe developers will value more than average users is

  • Markdown in article notes
  • Public API endpoint to add articles
  • Showing HN and Reddit comments next to articles
  • Remove tracking parameters (e.g. UTM)

And I'm always open for new ideas. Should you have any, please let me know :)

Next steps

The next steps are implementing the features I listed here. While doing that I will also continue to blog about the process and technical architecture, and improve the product in other ways that come up. Like fixing bugs and adding an account view. That'll likely be necessary to include settings.

Til next time!