New on Booklet: A new domain, public groups, and a surprise launch

Posted 12 months ago.
This is a cross-post from the Booklet Updates pop-up newsletter I've been writing about building Booklet. Check out the archive there for past posts!


Are you tired of constant chatting?

I’m building Booklet to make forums as slick as Slack or Notion. I aim to bring back calm, asynchronous communication — and to get rid of distracting pings, chats, and push notifications. Booklet uses threaded, long-form discussions and slow, bundled notifications to bring sanity back to communication. 
In this update, I’m sharing three pieces of news: A new website domain, a feature for public groups, and the story of a public launch. 

New website domain

I originally bought the domain for Booklet. What a great find!
But, I had a problem. I couldn’t get the site to show up in Google search results. I double-checked the settings, and everything looked right. So, I figured it was a temporary error, and decided to wait to see if it would resolve. I kept waiting, and double-checking. And waiting. And double-checking. And, waiting. 

Eventually, months passed - and Google still refused to list Booklet. So, I decided that it was time to go all-in on fixing the problem.

I contacted experts in SEO, DNS, and web hosting. We reviewed server logs, reverse-proxy settings, and firewalls. And . . . nobody could figure out what was going on! We could see Google successfully accessing Booklet in the server’s logs - so nothing was overtly broken. And, other search engines were successfully indexing the site. So, the problem seemed to be on Google’s end.

I kept searching the internet. And, eventually, I located a thread in Google’s support forum where somebody else was having a similar issue for the site 
Reviewing the discussion, it turned out that the Ethiopian telecom company that runs the .ET domain was limiting Google. So, Google seems to have gotten frustrated and outright banned all .ET domains from their site. 🤬

I weighed my options (including flying to Ethiopia), but decided that the best decision was to get a new domain. 

Alas, please welcome the new home of Booklet: 🎉 😅🤷‍♂️

Within minutes of the change, the new Booklet domain was indexed by Google
The conclusion? If that Google support thread had been in a Slack or Discord channel, then I may have never discovered what was happening. Long live forums!

Public groups

Booklet originally supported private groups only. But, so much knowledge on the internet lives in public places - such as the Google support forum post that solved my domain issue. 

So, today I’m launching support for public groups in Booklet. Now, when creating a group, you can choose whether it should be public or private. Public groups will be visible to anybody, get submitted to Google, and don’t require an invitation to join. Private groups are hidden and are invitation only.
Select the privacy level for new groups
Want to try it out? Come join Booklet HQ, the public group about Booklet!
I plan to transition this newsletter to that Booklet HQ group. That group will serve as a public home of announcements, ideas, and discussions about the Booklet product. But, before I do that - I need to incorporate some feedback from . . . 

A surprise public launch

Last week, I was browsing Hacker News - when I stumbled upon a post titled “Can Slack-mania be cured with systemized discipline?”. The author talks about methods to make Slack’s real-time chat more calm and asynchronous. 
Channeling Jason Fried’s idea that “tools have defaults”, I left a comment on the thread:
I'm tired of constant chatting.Slack encourages quick, stream-of-consciousness, short responses. Plus, it's hard to find past discussion, and it's hard to jump in after being gone for a few days (or, even a few hours).Threads are absolutely the answer. But, the defaults matter - Slack isn't encouraging threaded, long-form messages. Instead, it makes all messages feel urgent - and it makes the cost of sending a message way too cheap.I'm on a mission to bring back forums, where threading is the default. Inspired by YC's Bookface software, I'm working on a project to make forums as slick as Slack or Notion [1]. I think that long-form discussions and slow notifications are the key to bringing sanity back to discussions. And, I think the key is one amazing email summary per day - and few (if any) other notifications.If you're interested in this problem - please reach out![1]

Pretty quickly, the comment blew up - and before morning more than 1,000 people had visited Booklet, a few had signed up, and many sent feedback via replies and email. 

I learned some good things:
  • People are tired of constant chatting
  • Google Groups are clunky and people want something better

But, I also received some critical feedback:
  • People didn’t like the idea of using a phone number to sign up
  • People wanted to see the software in action before inviting people to a group
  • People didn’t understand the software from the homepage

The data supported these comments. Specifically, the signup page asking for a phone number had an astronomical bounce rate. 📈

I thought that people would prefer phone-based login. But, this hypothesis didn’t stand up to reality! Ultimately, my goal is to make something that people want - so I embrace the feedback, and will iterate quickly upon it. Expect phone-based sign-up to go away in the next week!

But wait, there’s more . . . 

Here are some other things that shipped this week in Booklet:
  • I tweaked light-mode colors and some shadows to make it look cleaner
  • When you write a post or respond to one, you get email notifications about any new comments
  • The daily summary email now shows “active discussions”, which are posts that have new comments - so that you can keep up with what’s trending
I read some good articles, too:

What’s next

I’m incorporating feedback from our surprise launch by:
  • Removing the requirement to use a phone number to join Booklet
  • Redoing the homepage
  • Making invitation links work a little better

Have questions or comments? Leave them here in Booklet HQ!

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Philip Thomas


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