The Feedforward.me site was created as a by-product of the 'Feedforward' concept which was started to foster a commonplace where people can come together and share interesting ideas and experiences through in-person long-form conversations.
The Feedforward community commenced in May 2021, with regular weekly meet-ups attended by returning participants. Although engagement was high, the frequency of meet-ups was bottlenecked by the need of a key-person to facilitate each week.
This led to further brainstorming around the continuity of the concept and the creation of an interactive web application that would allow users to visualise, accumulate and gift the time they spend while having great conversation.
It was through studying cryptocurrency and exploring the question of 'what is money?' that sparked the initial idea of experimenting with using time as a currency.
We all trade our time for money, a scarce resource in exchange for the thing we so deeply desire and need, but what exactly is this thing that we are trading for?
In a very objective manner, the historical track record of money has shown that the medium that becomes widely accepted as a functional currency is the one that best fulfills the following roles: medium of exchange, store of value and unit of account.
We prize money because money is a socially accepted medium that can be exchanged for the things we actually want or need. We trade time for money so that the time can be traded for anything from a loaf of bread to a boarding pass - everyone wants money, but not everyone wants our time.
Ultimately, if time is the thing that unlocks our ability to get what we want, how might we get more of it? The answer, as we all know, is that we cannot - as far as our current technology is capable of.
Then, perhaps another question to consider is: 'how are you spending the time that you do have?'
To come to the realisation of 'how you spend your time is how you spend your life' led to a deep curiosity around spending time wisely. Not just waiting or hoping for things to happen, but proactively seeking out and creating windows of high-quality and high-leverage time.
One example of such a window turned out to be sitting down at a coffeeshop surrounded by interesting people from all walks of life, fully immersed in conversation with each other.
What was clear from the initial sessions at the beginning of Feedforward is that people kept showing up, week after week, to spend anywhere from 1 - 4 hours of their precious Saturday or Sunday morning with the community.
It was a high bar, to ask people to trade the early hours of their weekends to show up in-person for an open topic discussion, but the recurring participation was extremely encouraging and just plain fun. Something was working!
One of my favourite moments from hosting these Feedforward meetups was sitting down one morning with a friend-of-a-friend, an acquaintance who I had shook hands with before but never got to know any more about, and having intense and wide-ranging conversation for 3 - 4 hours (!). It was so much fun that the time had passed so quickly, and by the end it had felt like we were the best of friends. The truly magical part was this: the engagement through conversation and the feeling of time passing really quickly kept happening over and over again in subsequent Feedforward sessions.
From this, I knew that there was something within that was waiting to be dug into. I knew that this was something worth doing, even if it was just for myself.
The Feedforward community was plowing along, with regular participation and frequency, but was disrupted by the fact that, at the time, I was working a full time shift roster as an engineer. Feedforward was typically scheduled for an 8AM start on Saturday mornings, and would have to be postponed to accommodate for my own personal commitments. This was disappointing for me, because I was consistently having so much fun through Feedforward, but also for the other regular participants.
How might this be improved?
Straight away, I went ahead to secure a domain name and started building what I saw in my head.
The design intent was to create a minimum-viable-product that would focus on functionality, a 1-page landing page with basic sign-up / login functions that would allow users to view and interact with the timer mechanism as quickly as possible.
The site was not intended for a mass-audience. The first thing visitors see is a bold, single sentence statement of what the Feedforward community is all about, but it is not made explicit what the purpose of signing up or logging in would be - much of this explanation was done face-to-face when introducing the concept to existing participants. In expanding the reach to new users, there is further improvement opportunities in making the details of the application more explicit.
The archetypal user persona was as follows:
28 years old male, educated, lives in regional Australia
Full time working professional, 9-5 Monday to Friday, typically has weekends off
Fluent across mobile and desktop technologies, internet native
Innately understands the value of high quality in-person conversations but de-prioritises it to "important, but not urgent" quadrant
If not attending Feedforward, usually pre-occupied by other hobbies or commitments
Proactive seeker, curious to learn new things
Sign up / login functionality - facilitate writing to and retrieving from local storage of individual user data
A functional count-up timer mechanism and display
Users to be able to accumulate the time as well as gift time between one another
A user summary page to review login details as well as allow for account closure
Mobile friendly - temporarily disable automatic screen turn off on iPhone and Android devices while timer is running
Due to local storage of data, users are currently able to store their own accumulated time but are not able to gift time between themselves and other users. This requires further development work on the backend.
Building a tangible MVP, one that users can directly interact with, makes a world of difference when explaining a new concept to others.
People can be attracted to showing up in-person for open topic discussion, but it seems to be important to establish this intent from the get-go.
Reasonably small groups of 4 - 6 people worked well, often fragmenting further into smaller breakout discussions of 2 or 3 persons.
Word-of-mouth growth - it was difficult to attract strangers outside of the existing circle.