Friday Updates: Smart Icons, Automatic Suggestions, Dealing with Spammers, Better Icon Colors


Lots of updates to Preceden this week:

Improving the UX for the AI Suggestions

When we rolled out the AI Suggestions feature last week, the typical experience for the user would go something like this:

  1. Maybe notice the new “AI Suggestions” button above your timeline
  2. Click it, hit Generate
  3. Watch spinner for a minute and eventually see the suggestions

Lots of UX issues there though:

  • No real incentive to click on the AI Suggestions button besides curiosity
  • Waiting a minute for suggestions sucks and I’m guessing a lot of users bailed before then (I didn’t set up tracking for it yet so can’t say for sure)

To remedy this, I updated Preceden to automatically kick off a suggestion request when the user loads their timeline and display the suggestion count directly in the AI Suggestions button:

That way when they click the AI Suggestions button, the suggestions are visible immediately and they hopefully get that “aha!” moment and see the value in it.

Also, one reason the suggestions took so long to generate is that it was also figuring out what icons to use for each suggestion before displaying them to the user. And at 1.2 seconds per event to figure out the icon, that winds up adding a lot of extra time. My short-term solution to this was to not figure out the icons before displaying the suggestions to the user, and instead figure out the icons behind the scenes while the user is browsing the suggestions. If the user eventually decides to add the events to their timeline, Preceden will see if it has figured out an icon for it by that point and if so, use it, otherwise just use a default circle. Still plenty of room for improvement there, but not a bad solution for now.

Smart Icons

The logic that enabled the automatic icons for the AI suggestions also made it possible to automatically suggest icons for events that users manually add to their timeline:

Some of the automatic icon suggestions are questionable though, so I’m likely going to start tracking what icon is suggested and what icon the user winds up using, and possibly using that to adjust the suggested icons in the future. For example, if Preceden suggests an astronaut for an event, but a lot of users in the past changed the astronaut icon to a spaceship, then maybe Preceden can suggest a spaceship to future users instead of an astronaut.

OpenAI costs

I did worry before all this that the API costs would be excessive, but thankfully they haven’t been:


While watching user sessions on FullStory (to see how users are interacting with the AI Suggestions tool), I saw a number of spammers sign up and create link-filled events. Here’s an example:

I wound up building an admin tool to help me identify and ban those users:

And later built a script to automatically block them.

All in all, I banned 715 spam accounts yesterday. Banning here means making their timelines private and locking them out of their accounts unless they contact support. Didn’t want to automatically delete anything (timelines or accounts) because this script could misidentify real users as spammers and wanted to make it easy to let them regain access to their accounts if that happens.

Thankfully, these spammers were easy to identify. They almost always created 1 timeline with 1 event and in the event description they added a bunch of backlinks and Vietnamese descriptions (which I used the DetectLanguage Ruby gem to figure out).

Suggestions Dashboard

I also took some time this week to set up an internal dashboard (in Hex via dbt and Stitch) so monitor usage of the AI Suggestions tool. Here, for example, are the # of suggestions it came up with by day:

The increase is due to the automatic suggestions rolling out.

Icon colors

We’ve made a lot of updates over the last few months to the timeline colors, and some of them wound up conflicting resulting in less-than-ideal icon colors:

Notice how the icons for the darker events are barely noticeable.

Wasn’t too hard to fix though:


No major updates this week.

Milan (Preceden’s front-end engineer and designer) is busy finalizing the redesign. Should ship next week, and then I’ve got a bunch of updates planned for the next phase of its journey.

Thanks as always for reading πŸ‘‹

Friday Updates: Shipping AI Suggestions in Preceden, EmergentMind Growth and Brainstorming


On Tuesday I shipped the v1 of Preceden’s new AI suggestions feature to 10% of new users:

I had planned on slowly rolling it out to 100% of users over the course of a week or two, but my OpenAI costs were minimal on Tuesday so on Wednesday I said screw it and just made it available for everyone.

OpenAI costs continue to be $0.50-$1 per day, so not bad at all.

I also set to work figuring out how to use OpenAI’s embeddings feature to automatically suggest meaningful icons for the suggested events. It wound up working amazingly well:

It works so well that after I’m done with this blog post I’m going to work on updating Preceden to automatically pick icons for manually-added events as well, though still give users a way to pick an icon if they’d like.

Also, Milan (Preceden’s designer) and I have been making lots of updates to the suggestions tool to improve the UX. It’s coming along well, though still lots of room for improvement, especially around the experience for users on free accounts (which are limited to 10 events per timeline):

Also starting to brainstorm what a stand-alone tool that logged-out users can use would look like and be called:

Funny that 6 people out of 14 voted for “Something else” but no one responded with alternative suggestions. Thanks y’all 🀣.

I think the stand-alone tool has a huge amount of potential, both in terms of building awareness for Preceden (hopefully the launch garners a lot of attention) and driving revenue (I’ll have a big CTA on the stand-alone tool to let people save their timeline to Preceden, hopefully converting a lot of them into customers in the process). Hopefully will launch it in 2-3 weeks.


No significant progress on EmergentMind this week.

Milan created some fantastic mockups for a new site design in Figma and last week I was able to implement 90% of it, but it still needs some additional work before we can roll it out to everyone. Maybe by the end of next week.

The Emergent Mind Discord is up to 27 people, and we actually had some discussions this week about the future of prompt engineering:

Also quite happy with the growth of people signing up and posting their own ChatGPT examples to EmergentMind. From the homepage right now (notice the various user names of people posting):

Still figuring out what direction to take EmergentMind though.

Candidates include:

  • Focus on prompt engineering: build tools, write tutorials, list educational resources, etc
  • Focus on Large Language Model (LLM) examples (ChatGPT currently, plus eventually others)
  • Focus on building a community of people interested in LLMs or AI more generally

Re-design first, then I’ll make a decision about what direction to take it next. Suggestions welcome!

Thanks for reading πŸ‘‹