Digests and Dashboards / by Nate Westheimer

Every morning, as I clear out my inbox, I find, and read religiously daily digest emails from News.me, KnowAboutIt, Percolate, and Timehop. When I'm done, I head over to New Relic to see what the worst bugs and slowest queries were in my software app overnight. What similar about all of these services is that they present small amounts of well organized information that has been algorithmically compiled and designed based on my specific interest or needs. Gone are the days of generic real-time streams, feeds, and editor-driven digests. Data Dumps be gone!

Digests and Dashboards are not everything I could know, but everything I probably should know. Instead of being oppressive, like a feed or an inbox or a newspaper, the new smart digests and dashboards are here to help -- they tell you, "It's okay that you were't paying attention at every moment. Here's what you missed."

Right now, the best digests and dashboards are aggregators. They pull from multiple sources or if they don't, they use another service's API.

In the future I think more products will want to provide smart digests and dashboards to their readers. Every blog or newspaper has a "most read" tab. Some have a "most emailed" tab. None of these tabs tie into your social graph and in order to see these you have to be on their site in the first place.

For those services who decide to make this a feature, figure out how to deliver it is key.

My favorite form to get these digests and dashboards in is email, because emails end. On a website you can get lost clicking around and pretty soon you're down a time-suck rabbit hole of the web. With a digest email I can skim through it and when I'm done I'm done, and I can move on. Smart digests and dashboards make me feel like I've accomplished something and that I've been truly more productive, not just entertained in a new medium. Entertainment is not something I need more of; I just want to be productively informed.

I'm building something right now and feeling like I'm really missing a smart dashboard experience with it. This weekend, I may start banging on a weekly digest feature for it. Could be nice to have.