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DailyMuse

A 6 post collection


The DailyMuse Facelift

 •  Filed under DailyMuse, Posts

Development of my DailyMuse service has been lagging in the last year. Sure I've shipped a few features for users, but other than that I've just not had the urge to develop it further.

It's still a valuable service to me and is to others as well. People are paying good money for it so why not improve it in any way I can?

In the last three months, I've been silently shipping little improvements and updates to DailyMuse in preparation for a big application update. Last night I shipped the latest update for DailyMuse which includes migration to Rails 5 and the use of Bootstrap 4 for the front end.

These two big updates have been on the DailyMuse backlog for a long time. In the last few weeks I've been chipping away at both of them to get them production ready.

A More Welcome Landing Page

The final result is a much more professional and welcome landing page.

Gone is the stark landing page, replaced with an interesting background and a better description of the DailyMuse service.

There's still room for improvement here though. I still think it's looks basic and could do with an illustration or graphic to accompany the description of the service. Also the form sits on the right hand side of the page as more of an afterthought. Would it flow better if the form naturally followed the product description?

Lots of to think of here and it will change over the next few weeks.

Application Foundations

Within DailyMuse itself there's be a big update to the look and feel of the service.

Instead of the two column layout I had before, it's now three columns with greater scope for adding contextual information in the far right column. It was always a problem trying to fit everything into two columns, but after looking at a number of other web applications, three columns proved to provide more space when needed.

Bootstrap 4 now includes the card component which I thought was a great way to highlight cards in DailyMuse. Not only does it offer a great way to encompass the card, but it also allows me to add extra information to each particular card.

There's still a number of changes to make to the front end though.

  • Gradually migrate away from the obvious Bootstrap 4 look with my own look for DailyMuse.
  • Make better use of the three columns with widgets for today's card, upcoming cards, and cards sent on this day in the past.

Let's Not Forget Features!

There's also a number of features due to be shipped in the next few months.

  • Card delivery by RSS. Email isn't everyone's cup of tea. RSS was the next obvious choice to receiving DailyMuse card.
  • Promote cards in the queue so that you can decide what to send in the foreseeable future.
  • Better randomising of cards to reduce the possibility of a card being repeatedly sent over a few days.
  • Collections being an idea where you can add cards to a collection of cards. These can be added to your DailyMuse email so that receive multiple cards at a time.

I'm not worried if DailyMuse doesn't make it as a service that has millions of users, but it would be nice to make it to the thousand user goal. It's a great service for me to exercise my Ruby knowledge and also hone a few other skills and certainly helps with it's daily email. I’m certainly looking to expand it into a better service over the next few months.

Some Ideas for DailyMuse

 •  Filed under DailyMuse, Daily Post

It’s been a while since I updated my daily email service, DailyMuse. It’s a year old now and I’m finding it to be a great start to the day. If you’re unfamiliar with it, then here’s the gist.

DailyMuse emails you single snippet of text from your own collection of snippets. Think of it as your nudge for the day. In the past year I’ve collected a number of quotes, lists and nudges that I keep here. Every day I get an email from DailyMuse with one of these snippets.

For the last year thought the service hasn’t unchanged. It’s not through lack of work on my part. I’ve built three different features and trashed them on the basis that they’re not suitable or too complicated for DailyMuse. The last thing I want to do is complicate DailyMuse but I do want it to be a more powerful nudge in the morning, and not just for me.

Here’s a few ideas I’ve been pondering on for DailyMuse.

The Daily Mantra

I recently read Paul Graham’s Top of Your Todo List post in which he talks about 5 commands that sit at the top of his todo list. It’s a nice idea but I don’t have space at the top of my todo list, but getting something like this in all my DailyMuse emails would be a nice idea.

Rather than having the commands at the top though, I thought about including it in the footer of the email. That way once you’ve read through your nudge for the day, the last thing you’ll read will be your commands.

Call it commands, a daily mantra, a motto. It could be anything, but lots of people live by this in some form and a daily reminder of it couldn’t hurt.

Categories

One of the trashed ideas for DailyMuse was adding the ability to organise snippets using tags. The daily email from DailyMuse could then send a snippet from a specific tag on different days. After testing the idea though I realised that tags allowed for a huge number of ways of organising your snippets. It was overkill.

Tags was too granular for organising snippets. I needed something broader, something simpler. Rather than organising snippets into tags, how about organising them into categories? One category per snippet is much simpler and with a limited set of categories to play with it means that people have a simpler way of organising their snippets.

Cards, Not Snippets

There’s one thing that has irked me since I built DailyMuse and that’s the use of the word snippets. I don’t like the word snippets, but it seemed like the best way to describe the information you collect for your DailyMuse emails. Maybe it’s my developer background that swayed towards this, but it isn’t the right word to describe what these snippets are. I had to get away from the programmer influence for this.

If DailyMuse was a paper-based service that didn’t rely on computers then how would it work in the real world? Well, every day you receive your snippet in the post, but it wouldn’t be on a letter because that’s for long form writing. DailyMuse is all about getting a short burst of information every day. It would need to be on something smaller. A card. An index card.

What wasn’t obvious in the past when I built DailyMuse now is. Rather than using the term snippets, I should have used cards.

This is one change to DailyMuse that is happening. A change in the terminology should simplify what DailyMuse is and encourage more people to sign up for it.

Find the Right Features

DailyMuse is still a side-project. While it does have a number of paying customers, it’s just enough to cover the hosting costs for most of the year. I’m taking my time with it and allowing it to a grow at a steady pace.

Not everything I build for DailyMuse get shipped. I’ve trashed more features for DailyMuse than I’ve added. I’m trying to keep it simple and easy to use. Burdening it with features isn’t going to make it anymore useful but it does have some space for improvement. I just need to find the right features that fit that space.

Supporting Features in DailyMuse

 •  Filed under DailyMuse, Posts

In the time it's taken me to get DailyMuse up and running, I've noticed that a lot of the code that I have written for this product is code that supports the product. The amount of features that I've added or expect to add is rather minimal. Yes, there's new features arriving soon for DailyMuse like scheduling snippets on particular days and tagging snippets, but in the past few weeks I've been writing code to support the product.

This idea of supporting the product with code could be thought of as a feature, but I see features as something that directly benefits the user. As an owner of the product I also need my own features. It's these supporting features that I see as being code that supports the product.

Commmunication with users of DailyMuse is important. They could be getting their daily email every day or almost every day of the week depending on their needs. Bombarding them with additional emails on top of this to notify them of features or changes in DailyMuse isn't in their best interests.

I wanted to notify users of changes to DailyMuse, so I added the ability to add one or two lines of text after their snippet that they receive on a particular day. I've used this short messaging idea only a couple of times so far, but it's value to me by being able to bring something to the users attention is without bombarding them with more emails is important.

I've got a number of other supporting features planned for DailyMuse in the future. They'll help me to administer DailyMuse, communicate with users and help maintain DailyMuse as a product and service. New features are nice, but having a stable product that improves gradually for its users is better.

DailyMuse: The Today View

 •  Filed under DailyMuse, Products, Posts

Email is great. It's a reliable form of content delivery that can reach a multitude of devices and it's platform independent. Who cares if it's Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS or Android you're running? Email is the cornerstone of any platform, which is why it's the preferred delivery method for DailyMuse.

As great as email is though, I also like having alternatives to email, something as flexible as email but also accessible. I would open my DailyMuse email a couple of times a day, but quickly it became lost amongst other emails. I needed a way of seeing my DailyMuse message for the day without opening my email.

For a few weeks now there's been a Today view in the DailyMuse application. If logged in and you visited it you would see the last snippet that DailyMuse sent you. Fine and good, but it was rendered within the context of the application and I quickly realised that it became lost amongst the rest of the elements of the application. I needed a view of my snippet that was free of the context of the rest of the application.

This morning I added a link in the DailyMuse sidebar that will address this issue. At the top of the sidebar is a Today link that will render a colourful view of your snippet for the day that is free from the rest of the application so that you can have your snippet front and center on your web browser.

Here's my snippet for today:

{% img middle http://s3.matthewlang.co.uk/2015/dailymuse-today-view.png "The Today View" "A screenshot of the today view from DailyMuse" %}

Rather than sticking with default font sizes for all snippets, I've also tweaked the font size for snippets that vary in length. If your snippet is small in length the font size for it will increase so that it becomes easier to read.

This has been a planned feature for a while, but viewing the snippet within DailyMuse has never felt right. With this in place now, I'm happy with being able to view my snippet for the day in both email and in my browser.

Interesting in using DailyMuse? It's free for 30 days after which it becomes a budget friendly $2 per month to use.

Uses for DailyMuse

 •  Filed under DailyMuse, Patrick Rhone

Great to see DailyMuse making a positive change.

Those are the two things I’m using it for so far but I can think of many others — daily exercise ideas, healthy snacks and recipes, writing prompts, study of scripture or philosophy, etc. Basically, anything that would be good to have a daily reminder for would be a good fit for this.

How I Use DailyMuse by Patrick Rhone

Interested in trying it out?

Say Hi to DailyMuse

 •  Filed under By Me, Products, DailyMuse

It's been quiet of late on my blog and for a good reason. While my daily posts have ground to an almost complete stop, I do have a good reason for it.

Today I'm officially (and nervously) announcing a micro-service of mine, DailyMuse. So what is DailyMuse? Well, let me first take you back to a post that Patrick Rhone made on App.net.

Maybe something like this exists but, if not, someone should build it: I want to type a bunch of things into a place and then have that place pick a thing at random and email it to me once a day.

I made a note of this post with the intention of building something, but I never got round to it. Patrick's tweet in October was finally the nudge that I needed.

"Making cool stuff for our friends that they would like" sounds like a solid, successful, business plan to me.

on App.net by Patrick Rhone

Now while I don't know Patrick personally, having not met him in person, he is someone who is a great influencer on how I work. His books are great source of reflection and I've long been a fan and user of his Dash/Plus system. So having established that I'm not friends with Patrick in the traditional sense, I still wanted to make this "thing" for him.

Having toyed with a few ideas before the end of last year, I started putting something more concrete together that Patrick could use. After a couple of weeks I had the basics of the service working. After a brief introduction by email, Patrick became the first user of DailyMuse.

That's the story behind the idea, but what is it? I think it can be best summed up as this:

DailyMuse is your own personal email subscription. You're the curator and audience.

Using DailyMuse you can collect quotes, phrases, lists and links in your own collection of snippets. DailyMuse then sends you one of these snippets at random, once a day.

Snippets are written in plain text or using Markdown. You can tell DailyMuse to pick a snippet at random or to pick from a queue of previously unsent snippets.

Receving the same snippet on consecutive days doesn't offer much value, so I added the ability to pick from snippets that hadn't previously been sent. There is still a lot to be done with it, but with the it's core value in place and working, it didn't make sense to hold on to it and never ship it.

So if getting the right start to the day sounds like your thing, and you don't mind curating your own collection of content to start the day with, then why not give DailyMuse a try? It's free for 30 days after which you can subscribe for $2 per month or £20 per year.