Planetary Dev Diary
The past couple weeks I have mostly been working on another onboarding related feature that we’re calling help drawers. These are little UI overlays that explain what each of the 5 main tabs in Planetary do. They will be shown automatically the first time a user visits each tab, and they can be shown again by tapping the new “?” button in the top right of each screen. Eventually I would like to add links to these drawers to pages with even more information but these are a great start. (Picture of the drawer attached below)
I think the help drawers will be the last big Onboarding related feature we’ll get done this summer, and personally I’m really happy with how much better we have made onboarding over the last month. To recap, we’ve rewritten the value pitch on our first onboarding screen, added the option to skip entering a name, added some initial welcome messages in the home feed that explain what to do to get the most out of Planetary, and now we’ve added help drawers to each tab. For users who are interested in Planetary and learning more about how SSB works, there is now a lot more information sprinkled throughout the app to help them.
On the user invites front, the other theme we layed out for the summer, we haven’t made as much progress. We did get the important feature of being able to paste a user ID into the search box and follow a user who is outside your network. But this is only a stopgap, we really need a nice call to action somewhere for users to tap when they know they want to find and follow a particular person (like a new friend they are onboarding) but can’t find them in the app. I envision this as a wizard type flow that guides the user through the process of getting connected to a friend, not just to publish a follow message but also bringing awareness to the need for pubs and rooms and warning if you don't have one in common.
But for the next two weeks our attention will be on two features we’ve identified as must-haves before meeting a bunch of folks in person at #dweb-camp. These two features are EBT replication and Room server support aka gossip with Manyverse users. Manyverse removed support for “legacy gossip” around a year ago and this means that Manyverse doesn’t talk to any SSB clients that don’t support EBTs, including Planetary and most pub servers. This makes Room and EBT support necessary for direct replication with a large number of Manyverse users. It hasn’t been a huge problem so far, I think because Patchwork, which supports EBTs and legacy gossip and rooms, has been shuttling messages back and forth between these two apps that don't talk directly. It's kind of cool that the gossip protocol is this resilient, but it's time for this strange little chapter in SSB history to end.
#go-ssb has some code written for both EBTs and rooms but neither work out of the box and EBT support in particular is proving to be very difficult. We thought about waiting to implement these features until we switch Planetary to use #scuttlego, but they seemed too important to wait for. I did make some promising progress on the room front this morning, getting two copies of Planetary to exchange messages in a room, albeit in a very hardcoded manner. It's going to be a tough deadline to hit but I really hope that we can get these both done before it's time to leave. (Dweb camp is still 4 weeks away, but we are doing a Planetary retreat the week before that and I am taking a vacation the week before that, so I only have two weeks)