Writing “just because” feels like one of the most innocent, humble human activities. Just like making up games to play as a kid. If you step back to view our manufactured world from the frame of what is human vs. non-human, this is clear to me.
We have our screens, and our great technology and economic systems, far removed from the natural world we came from — they’re “human” in the modern sense of the word, rather than the ancient meaning. But we also have this “old humanity” left in us, even as it’s slowly squeezed out of us with ever-encroaching modernity. We still mimic each other in empathy; we still recognize a smile and a laugh; we still gain social connection through touch.
I just updated my phone to Android 9 Pie, thanks to its endless notifying and nagging. Most of all, I'm thankful it didn't screw with the existing interface too much. But it came with this new “Digital Wellbeing” feature and, naturally, I have some thoughts.
One of my favorite things about Write.as is the way users create accounts. I've always seen account creation as a major barrier to entry for any product, and sought out reducing it from the very beginning in my own.
But unlike many products that eschew a Sign up page for a multi-step process, Write.as actually functions well with varying degrees of information about a user. The pipeline goes a bit like this:
Anonymous user (default). No cohesive account stored on the service.
Reserved username. Account is created with nothing more than a username. Only the device the account was created on can access it.
Authenticated account. Account has a second piece of information that allows a user to log in to that account from anywhere.
Once a user is at step 2, they can do everything a user can do — though only from that device. But to prevent losing access to their data, we prompt them to add authentication information on many backend pages, as well as prevent them from logging out until they add something that'll let them get into their account — whether that's an email address, password, or both.
After three months of users being able to register, we have some interesting stats. Out of all the accounts with authentication information:
74% have set a password
83% have set an email address
This shows how most new users add both an email and password, but overall, users' favorite authentication method seems to be via email, where they simply receive a one-time link to log in to their Write.as account. Many other online services have caught on to this too, like Slack and Medium. But for some switching to an inbox can be inconvenient, and for them there's always the trusty password.