Essays on Technology and Culture

Solving the Same Problems

It’s not that email is broken or productivity tools all suck; it’s just that culture changes. People make email clients or to-do list apps in the same way that theater companies perform Shakespeare plays in modern dress. “Email” is our Hamlet. “To-do apps” are our Tempest.

Paul Ford, "Doomed to Repeat It"

An interesting point of view from a programmer on the prevalence of new apps that try to solve the same old problems we thought the last set of apps solved. The problems aren't the same, and neither are the solutions, at least to a programmer. More importantly, and what Paul misses, is that the there is never going to be a one-size fits all solution for how any of us choose to work.

What's problematic about the glut of email apps and to-do lists, is that they have a low barrier to entry (at least, for to-do lists), and to the average end user there's not a lot of difference between Wunderlist and Things, or between Dispatch and Mailbox. It's why I'm glad something like The Sweet Setup exists, to carve through the glut for us. But that glut is so large that it looks like, at least to outsiders, there's nothing groundbreaking happening. That's a dangerous image to have in a crowded market of undifferentiated goods.