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Focus Requests 2021-01-08 16:10:41

I've been chatting with
brianball
again and a thing that comes with this is a flurry of ideas. I actually don't like calling his ideas feature requests since it's inaccurate to describe his ideas as requests. They're more accurately food for thought. But I'll use feature request here since that's how most people would see it.

One thing I've realized after last night's chat with Brian was that when working a project, it's our job to listen to feature requests but not implement them verbatim. It's our job to distill them into something else. I'll call this something else Focus Requests.

When a user asks for X, Y, or Z, it's not their job to reflect deeply on what they're actually asking for. They're guests who get to mention whatever comes to mind. As a creator it's on us to discern what they really want and compare that with our goals and abilities in order to find the intersection. 

For example if Brian suggests that there should be more numbers linked to the writing: instead of just  a streak count you can display a wrtiers' most popular words/ most popular words used on a Monday/ etc. If we were to take these suggestions only at face value and implement them we'd eventually burn out because we didn't know why we were doing it. However if we were to distill what Brian is actually getting at then we can implement features from a first-principles manner.

A concrete example. 

When Brian suggests more numbers we could naively think that users want to know literally all their numbers. Numbers is what matters. So give them numbers galore! But what I see here is Brian asking me to focus on rewarding the act of consistent writing. 

The streak is a rudimentary artifact of consistent writing. So why not take it further? Give writers more artifacts! As a writer shows up give them all different types of tangible -- and fun -- outputs of their work besides the literal content itself. Show them these cool quirks about their work that they wouldn't even know.
- Me imagining what Brian is thinking.

So I try to see beyond the feature request. I try to see the focus request. He wants me to focus on rewarding writers for showing up consistently through fun. In this case numbers == fun.

I'll write more about this as time goes on. I think it can help others working on user serving projects.

Caveat: the theories we distill won't always be correct. However incorrect theories will still be useful so long as you communicate them properly.

More from Abraham Kim

I usually come to the table with a request and rationale to reduce the resource needs of your distillery. 
2021-01-08 18:19:05
That's prob what makes you a writer lol
2021-01-08 18:22:32
Or just an overall badass/pain-in-the-ass depending on your perspective. 😎
2021-01-08 18:28:42
Ha! Right. Based on who's getting served. And not served in the good way but in that way-of-phrase. YOU GOT SERVED!
2021-01-08 18:29:50
This is a good way of making the users/consumers share their ideas and also follow up on their why. I image it can get exhausting to try and make everyone happy. 
I will definitely have a hard time doing what you are doing but I think you are doing great so far Sir Abe. 
2021-01-09 01:04:41
I like the idea of the focus request, after all, it is more than just lining up 1s and 0s.
2021-01-09 07:28:19
Ha thanks so much Keni! I knew that when I undertook this project that it would come with such warm support from you. 

Exactly Peter. Do you work in technology?
2021-01-09 21:24:14
Abe, I work in software, mainly management overseeing operations of product development, support and professional services. 
2021-01-10 07:42:14