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Use technologies, not services

There's a huge problem about almost every task or notes manager I've ever seen—the most important one, the root of all other ones like being slow, designed badly, or hard to get used to.

They can do too many things.

Say, I need a note-keeping app. The basic set of things I want to do is: open the app, type in some text, hit OK, have my text saved, close the app. I want to note something else, I repeat. Then I open it on another device, read, if unneeded, delete. That's it. Nothing more.

But no! Developers have done everything to make it highly likely that I'd be doing keeping notes but not what I need to keep notes for. I can tag my notes. I can sort them by creating date, date last edited or, certainly, alphabetically. I can make lists out of notes and notebooks out of lists. I can shove images, audio or, for some reason, embed a video from YouTube (not just include a link). I can write my notes in fifteen different fonts or format them with Markdown (or both). I can publish them with a single tap, protect with a passcode or send to a friend who use the app as well. Or, if my friend doesn't know (yet) about how great it is and how much use he can make of it, I can generate a link giving him 10% discount for the first month of use. No doubt, I can do eggs with it, the only reason I can't is I haven't found the doing-eggs button yet.

All this stuff is pure garbage. It does not help me with anything; instead of use, it brings longer load time and lower speed. The best known notekeeper is Windows' Notepad: you open, you type some plain text; having finished typing, you save it in a .txt file and put it in some folder. Notepad could be even better being able to show me the first three lines of each file in a folder. I haven't found a notekeeper doing this and not the rest. Since that, I use Standard Notes: it does only three things from the aforementioned garbage list; I feel like it's a good compromise so far. One of my Russian readers gave me a link to Workflowy, but I assume it's more for archiving notes than making them. I got to use it only in that way.

But notekeepers are not the most painful pain in the ass. Say, I need an app for managing my to-dos. The basic set of things I want to do is: open the app, type in a line of plain text, added a date right there and (if really needed) some priority. If hugely needed, put it into a particular to-do list. Hit OK. Saved. Close. I want to note more, I repeat. I don't need priority, date or anything displayed anywhere but right where I typed them in. I don't need to create five subfolders for each project and dig into them every time I want to tick a task done. I don't want a logo of the app flying out from the screen edges or nowhere. I just need to create a to-do, then, after a while, tick it and never see it again. Then I need to open my to-dos on another device, tick another task and never see that one again. That's it. Nothing more.

Unfortunately, almost any task manager you pick offers a big bunch of functions and logos flying out of different places, slowing the app down in return for nothing. Some amount of actual use could be right here, where I put the word “nothing”, but the truth is, sorry, I don't need all that. With all of it present, actual using of app turns from a way to achieve something into an end in itself, and you get fed up with it faster than make any use. That's the reason for so little amount of people who really use them.

So, here's the way to solve the problem: use technologies, not services.

A service is a piece of pure technology along with some interface created by service developers. It's a ready-to-use solution that, in most cases, brings problems rather than usability as it wasn't you who determined the set of its functions. What I propose is to search for a pure piece of technology and then, as you found one that you like most, look for a client that has function set suitable for you and let you feel good using it.

Let me give an example. Facebook Messenger is a service. You can't log in it if you don't have an account on Facebook. This neccesity is a restriction and it follows up:

  • not being able to change the set of functions given to you by Facebook developers which was gathered not by you;
  • strict depending on Facebook's creators will: if Mark Zuckerberg stops caring about what shareholders of Facebook think and decides that Facebook should be terminated, all your friendship, texting history and contacts will be deleted, not anyone having asked you about that. You'll not be provided with another Facebook to keep them. All your friends will have to switch the way of communication (doesn't mean they'll pick one that you will like), get used to new interfaces and fill up their friend lists again, as it's impossible to export contact lists from Facebook and import it somewhere else.

Instead of Facebook Messenger we've got a great piece of technology: email. Email can perform the one and only function: exchanging rich text messages written with code. There are many clients for it that have all possible sets of functions: sorting, filing, notifying at any time, etc. Pick one that you like; they all work for email. Also, it's impossible to terminate email as a piece of technology. They can shut down the server it goes through. Although, if that happens, I'd just sign up on another one, open my email client (which is Mozilla Thunderbird), type my old address in “From” field and send an email to all my contacts: “Hi, my new email is, add it to your address book”. I won't be able to do this via my old interface which my old server provided—via the old service—but I will use technology packed in a client of my choice.

This can be applied to everything we do on the web. If you use a piece of pure technology and a client of your choice, you are freer than if you use a service which is pure technology and a client of not your choice as you can customise your experience without switching the technology.

Use technologies, not services.

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