Reflections on 1 year building Lurnby.

The future is now.

Sometime soon, you will read a book, you will enjoy it, and a week later you’ll still remember more than just the highlights.

But unless you’re a specific type of person who actively works on retention and personal knowledge building - that time is not now.

In the near future the top skills anyone will need to have are the abilities to learn and to adapt. Things are changing super fast and we’ll need to get a lot more people thinking about how to make things better than currently have a seat at the table.

In many ways, it’s the greatest time for learning - if you want to know something, there’s literally a device in your pocket that has the ability to find those answers for you.

But generally, we suck at learning. And we’re overwhelmed with noise.

I’m trying to change that with Lurnby. I believe that with the current technology we have, it’s stupid to not create systems and tools that maximize human potential. I believe that we can save the planet and ourselves as long as we do what humans do really well - empathize and innovate.

Lurnby is a tool for better reading. Specifically, it aims to help you understand the underlying principles of what you read and to cement those things in your memory. So that you don’t end up in the situation where you read something and forgot 98% of it a month later. And you can then apply your badass skills to tackling important problems.

But Lurnby also kind of sucks right now.

I’m still figuring out how to build it better and learning to code to do so. I’m constantly reading a lot about how other people learn, how the brain functions, and how some of the most successful people are able to connect and master ideas. It’s not the simplest thing to figure out how to build that into the application. But I’m making progress.

So far, I’ve achieved something amazing - massive complexity 😅 and a long roadmap.

I’ve had 37 people sign up to use the app - and a whopping 0 have kept using it after a few days. Most people (33) never even made a single highlight in the application.

Some things have become super obvious - I need to massively simplify some of the key components to make it simpler and less cognitively demanding. Thankfully I never imagined that I would get it right the first time I built it - so my ego is intact :D

I’m not in a rush. This isn’t the sexiest problem to solve and it doesn’t seem like it will be disappearing any time soon. So I plan to slowly make things happen over time. Although I’m pretty open to people who want to help me speed things up.

But I have a pretty solid plan a plan, assumptions, and questions. And I believe sharing these helps me learn faster by exposing me to the ideas of others.

What I think Lurnby needs to do to be successful.

  1. Find the right audience and get them to the site.
  2. Get them to add reading content (via url, epub, or copy-paste)
  3. Get people to highlight and take notes as they read
  4. Get people to organize their highlights into meaningful groups
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Then the app can help people with reminders, spaced repetition practice, recall practice, and other fun stuff that I have yet to build.

But so far I’m not doing too well at most of these.

  1. I don’t quite know where to look for my audience and I don’t believe I have enough value in the app yet to really win over some of the existing super learners in the various learning communities.

Also I’m not sure if I should focus on the people who are already actively working on improving their learning or if I should aim at people who have not discovered the problem yet.

In the interest of goals, I believe more people should upgrade their learning. In the interest of business it’s easier if people are already aware of the problem and actively working on solutions.

  1. People have added some things to read - but they seem to be caught unaware of it when they first end up in the app. So they don’t really add a lot of articles to read.

Not quite sure yet how to solve this - but maybe it’s also a matter of just creating an email flow that reminds people that they signed up for this and slowly introduces what they can do.

  1. No-one highlights. Maybe the reading experience is shit. Maybe I’ve coded it like shit. Maybe I’ve not attracted the right audience to the app and the people who came aren’t highlighters. But maybe I just haven’t made it clear that you can highlight. I’ve got an idea for how to make that significantly more obvious.

I have a few assumptions too.

  1. I believe that since this is an app whose primary purpose is to help you read better - the reading should be sexy af. I’m a bit far from that. I’ve got clunky af at best.

Also, I don’t quite know what a sexy reading experience could be. Also, there are dedicated tools for stellar reading experiences that only focus on that. I’m trying to focus on the process of reading and on the process of note taking, and knowledge making. Feels like it will be challenging to get through that hurdle.

  1. I believe that this will have a hard time going anywhere without native mobile apps. I’ve done what I can with my current skills to make it mobile responsive - but it’s painful sometimes even for me to use. It works, but it doesn’t work great. Most people won’t have as much motivation as me (I made it). And realistically, I believe most reading happens on phones.

  2. I believe that it will be hard to convince some of the super learners because many of them prefer reading physical books. Others have already built their own systems that work for them. Might be a hard sell.

  3. I believe that people who don’t feel the issue strongly enough won’t be willing to put in the work to stay with the app longterm unless I can really show them how it’s working for them.

  4. I believe it will be important to support a multitude of learning content such as audio and video and imagery - but I have no idea how to really approach that at the moment and I’m super concerned about losing focus.

The process so far.

It’s been quite incredible. I’ve learned a lot - about so many things and in so many ways. Even if no-one else ends up using Lurnby, it’s created a qualitative improvement in my own learning. I eat my own dog food. And I’m really psyched about finally building some of the other things in my roadmap.

But it’s hard. Along the way I need to learn to do sales (scary), and marketing (confusing), and design (paralyzing), and coding (frustrating, relaxing, imposter-syndrome-making). But hardest of all is learning to sustain and just make progress.

Obligatory recruiting message.

Come hop on board this rocketship walk-mobile and help me speed things up.

  1. 1

    Great work Rostislav!!

  2. 1

    Everything before the following sentence sounded so salesy that I wanted to stop reading:

    I’m still figuring out how to build it better and learning to code to do so.

    In fact, I only skimmed the article due to the introduction.

    Tell me about your progress. That will be interesting. Don't try to sell me your product directly. Hearing about the progress means that there's a good chance that I will check it out on my own.

    1. 1

      Thanks for looking. Sorry it wasn't what you expected.


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