User Experience is a commitment to developing products and services with purpose, compassion, and integrity. It is the never-ending process of seeing the world from the customers’ perspective and working to improve the quality of their lives. […] It is the perfect balance between making money and making meaning. […] UX is mindfulness.

- Whitney Hess, UX coach

When I talk about the point of ThinkUp I often use the word “mindfulness”, a raising of awareness about how you spend your time online. A big part of our transition from open source project to consumer product was a focus on the user experience over the tech or the code or a multitude of settings or integrations, so I loved that Hess’ 200-word description of what UX is included “mindfulness.”


Start with the first moment a user might learn of your product — maybe it’s an email invite, or a text from a friend, or a notification of a forced install from their IT department, or they heard about the app from someone. Then show what that first-user experience looks like.

Better yet, invite us ahead of time so we can see it for ourselves. Let me explore, and in our demo ask me questions, delight me with elements I’ve missed, or tell me about other users doing cool things.

We think about this a lot for ThinkUp. Our assumption is that new members come to us because they saw someone share a link to their ThinkUp account, or they saw a mention of ThinkUp on a blog or a news site. And then they saw it again. And then maybe a third time. Once it’s come up enough times, someone might take the time to go to our homepage and say, “What the heck is this thing?”

We’re building toward having a good answer to that question, a path where people can discover for themselves, on their own, in the natural course of clicking around the web, why ThinkUp might be of use to them. That’s the “growth hack” we want to enable as we build our company and our product.

Not there yet, but we’re thinking about this idea a lot.

On the Hunt!

Posted by anil

Today, we’re over on Product Hunt, the great community site for people who like to check out new apps. We’ll be answering questions from the community about ThinkUp, but if you’re already a member, do us a favor and vote us up! We’d really appreciate the help in getting the word out about what we’re up to.

[Bonus: I put this pretty picture in the comments there. Should we make a wallpaper out of these colors?]

There’s got to be more than just blue.

Posted by anil

Most of the time when we’re using social apps, we’re stuck with whatever shade of blue a particular social network has picked as its only splash of color.

But we’ve been working on ThinkUp for a long time, and realized we wanted something that was a little more fun, something that had a little more soul. Perhaps no set of choices helped define ThinkUp for the better than the rich palette of super-saturated colors that define its user interface. Since you seldom see them all in one place in the app, here’s a look:

The colors that make ThinkUp look like no other app were smartly chosen by Matt Jacobs and Khoi Vinh, and they picked some fun (and mostly pretty tasty) names to go along with them. (We use these names we’re planning out parts of ThinkUp’s design, but they’re mostly arbitrary.)

We also spent a good bit of time debating among the team whether the individual colors should be assigned to particular meanings for the insights ThinkUp displays. Right now, the colors aren’t tied to any specific meanings. Or are they? Hmmm…

llo0o0oll asked:

Regarding the "enough about me" feature: perhaps consider only tallying tweets which aren't tweeted to other users? Talking about one's self is obviously normal in conversation, but talking about yourself to no one is what's off putting.

Great point! We’re definitely looking at ways to make insights like this smarter. The goal with giving you insight into how much you mention yourself isn’t to make you feel bad (as we talked about in “Our best feature is our worst feature”) but to give you enough information to make a decision.

Maybe what we can move toward is letting you know if you were talking about yourself in a response to someone else or just unprompted. The key is just to offer you the perspective you need to make your own choices.

A thousand no’s

Posted by gina

Over on Quora, a user asks, “Why doesn’t Chrome have an option to put tabs on the bottom?” Chrome developer Evan Martin answers:

Broadly, “why doesn’t Chrome do [x]” can almost always be answered by “because [y] and [z] were considered more important and we don’t have time to do everything.”

We don’t have time to do everything. This is the toughest thing. When you’re making software, the possibilities around what you can build are endless, but the list of things you must build is what matters.

Apple’s product marketing puts it a different way:

There are a thousand “no’s” for every “ yes.”

In order to ship an app, you’ve got to be a ruthless editor. Intellectually I knew that, but launching was a special challenge.

With five years of development behind it by almost 100 open source contributors, ThinkUp is made of hundreds of thousands of lines of code and dozens of plugins. Instead of deciding what to build and shelving the rest in the planning stages, we had to cut actual, working code—features that had been discussed, built, tested, and that I’d personally pored over, approved, and deployed.

In other words, we had to kill my darlings.

It wasn’t a short list. doesn’t have search, export, invitations, user role management, per-user dashboards, RSS-based crawling, reCAPTCHA, thread embedding, crawl pausing, browser notifications, reply filtering by most frequent words or ordering by geographical distance, a Chrome extension, Twitter search keywords, or Facebook page tracking. doesn’t have Google+, Foursquare, YouTube, Instagram, Bitly, or Google Maps support. doesn’t have a free trial or monthly pricing.

Heck, for the first few weeks, users weren’t able to change their passwords when they were logged into We cut as far down to the bone as we could.

In Lean parlance, we launched our Minimum Viable Product. Then we listened. The funny thing was, the things our members wanted—like richer email notifications and better stories—didn’t overlap with the features we cut. Other items—like a free trial and monthly pricing—are getting attention in the coming months.

From the start, Anil and I knew that to turn the open source project into a consumer product, ThinkUp had to undergo a massive redesign and simplification, a brutal pruning of every single thing that wasn’t absolutely core to the most useful, simple, and delightful experience.

We’re proud to have shipped on time. Still, it’s not easy to hear users say they like your app but wonder why it doesn’t have something and speculate why. For the most part, the reason is simple—we didn’t have time to do everything.

So, our promise to you is twofold. First, every single thing you do get in ThinkUp represents a thousand others we omitted or delayed after thinking long and hard about it. Second, we’re using the time we do have building ThinkUp to make the insights, add the features, and fix the bugs that matter the very most. We’re not near done—in fact, we’ve only just begun. In the meantime, we’re always listening.

If you haven’t already, join ThinkUp and let us know how we’re doing.

Heartbleed and your ThinkUp data

Posted by gina

Two days ago, the OpenSSL project announced a very serious vulnerability in OpenSSL called Heartbleed, which can expose visitors’ personal information on web sites that use https. ThinkUp uses https, so we wanted to update our members on what we’ve done to protect you from Heartbleed.

ThinkUp’s user-facing web server runs a version of OpenSSL which was not affected by Heartbleed. Several of ThinkUp’s backend servers, which are not exposed to users but do exchange information on a closed network, were affected by Heartbleed. We patched these servers on Monday evening, immediately upon hearing news of the vulnerability.

ThinkUp doesn’t collect or store credit card numbers (as Amazon Payments handles our subscription processing), and it does not store Twitter or Facebook passwords, just keys that grant ThinkUp read-only access to your social data. You can read more about how ThinkUp handles private and sensitive data here.