We built Hex to make data work impactful. By making it easy to tell a story with data, going from an analysis to an app that anyone can use. It’s a huge improvement over sending a spreadsheet, slide deck, or screenshot, and helps data better inform decision-making.
Mission accomplished, right? Kinda. See, analyses still live as one-off stories and insights. A Data Scientist might send around a link to a published Hex app, but then it lives as a standalone artifact, and can be tough to rediscover and find. We hear from teams who have published hundreds of apps using Hex (good!) but complain they get lost in a sea of insights (bad!).
As folks keep building more and more in Hex, it’s time to focus on the next step: creating knowledge.
Knowledge is the sum of facts, accumulated through inquiry and experience. It’s the forest for the trees. The bigger picture. The whole dataset.
Creating this kind of shared understanding is the real mission of a data team, or anyone doing analytical work at all. You may set out to answer a specific question, but what you really want to do is contribute to an organization’s knowledge: the set of things known to be true about the world.
This is especially important as an organization grows and evolves. New people join. Others leave. As questions arise, how do you know if you have looked into them before? Someone did an analysis about this once... do you have that link? The lack of organization and discoverability for previous work becomes painful.
The Knowledge Library is a new set of workflows in Hex that empower teams to create knowledge from their work. Let’s take a look!
First, projects can now be organized with metadata, which can be custom-configured by a Team admin.
Categories are things like “Expansion” or “Marketing Attribution”: concepts that a given project relates to.
Statuses, on the other hand, typically include things like “Draft”, “Approved”, and “Archived”: concepts about the state of a project, which are updated as it is edited and published. These can be optionally marked as “Library Statuses”, meaning they are visible to users in the Library view (more on that in a moment).
This metadata can be set at time of project creation, or updated at time of publishing:
Now the main attraction: the Library View. Here, users only see published apps with a Library Status like “Approved” or “Production”. This is now the default view for View-only users, who are less likely to care about (or shouldn’t see at all) projects that are in the draft or archive phase.
Users can search through projects, filter by categories, and see other metadata like who created it and (soon) how many views a given project has.
Discoverability is great, but many analytic products have a finite shelf-life. You may publish an analysis about this quarter’s growth, but know it will be stale in a few months, and don’t want others to edit or re-run it.
The Library makes it easy to manage this kind of analytics lifecycle. A project can start in Draft status, move to Approved once it’s ready to share with stakeholders, and then retire to the Archive when it has outlived its usefulness. It’s still searchable and discoverable, but clear that it’s not meant for further consumption.
We built the Library to be flexible: admins have control over which statuses are included, so you can choose to include only a select few projects, or index every approved or “production” project. The Library is your space, so use it as best fits the needs of your team.
Before wrapping up, we want to acknowledge a major source of inspiration: the Airbnb Knowledge Repo. In some ways it was ahead of its time, and showed the early potential and promise of a collaborative knowledge base. We owe a special thanks to one of the creators, Che Sharma, for his advice and contributions to Hex.
Related, a while back Michael Kaminsky referenced Knowledge Repo in his excellent piece summarizing this problem, saying:
I would love to see a company tackling this and putting real resources into building a better version of the tool — I think the value that it could create should be sufficient to support a venture-backed enterprise and it bums me out that I keep not seeing it happen.
Well, here you go Mike.
If you are using Hex today, the Library is live now - check it out!
If you haven’t tried Hex yet, you can get started telling data stories and building knowledge with a free trial today.