The Productivity Paradox
Steve goes off on a mini rant about some of the reasons that productivity tools don't always make us more effecient.
Steve Dotto here. Today instead of giving you my normal great productivity tips showing you how some software works, I want to talk to you a little about something that’s been bothering me increasingly lately: the productivity paradox.
Now I am admittedly stealing that term from Eric—I can’t pronounce his last name—who first published a paper back in the early ‘90s on the concept that advancing technology does not necessarily mean increased productivity. It was true back then with simple PC’s and simple tools. It’s even more true today in the world we live in, the app and the connected web 2.0 world.
I’ve been wondering why. Why do we lose so much? Why does the pursuit of productivity so often get in the way of actually getting things done? I think I might have figured out one of the reasons. One of the reasons is freeness. I’m not a big fan of things being free. Come with me for a moment. Let’s examine what happens with freeness. Let’s go into Apple’s app store, shall we? It’s exact same in the Google Play Store and in all of the other different stores.
Here I think I might need a new note taking app. I want to be able to more effectively take notes on my tablet which seems to me a reasonable thing to do. So I head on into the Note area or search for notes and what do I find? I find 2,915 iPad note-taking apps just through the iPad, and there are like 5,000 if I include the iPhone note-taking apps.
Admittedly, some of those aren’t necessarily pure note-taking apps but there are a goodly number of them. If you go in and take a look at any of these note-taking apps, they tell you just the basics. They basically give you a little bit of a picture about what you might want to be interested in the note-taking app. Then comes the insidious part. They give it to us for free. They say go ahead, download it, try it out, and see if you like it. If you like it, you can upgrade to the premium version.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that model. In a lot of ways that model makes tremendous sense but where it doesn’t make sense is in our own personal productivity because free is not really free. Oh no. Free is my time being spent trying to figure out which app works and because I’m also slightly cheap, I end up with something like this. That’s how many note apps I tested out before I found a note-taking app that I like and I’m not even sure I like the one that I have. It’s terrible. I blame Apple and Google for a lot of this freeness and this open access, all this hippie dippie free love stuff.
Here’s the problem. When Apple released their newest versions of their software they kind of really got going on the desktop, they decided to incorporate the essential apps, apps that we needed to use every day. They identified some productivity apps in that mix. They identified calendar app, they identified email, and contacts. Those three apps or those three functions, they determined they were going to give away for free to entice people to move over to the Mac from the Windows world.
On the surface again, that seems like a brilliant concept: Free software, free email, we don’t have to pay. We don’t have to buy Outlook because we’ve got calendar and we’ve got contact. Consequently, it was very popular with the users but here’s the issue. Apple iMail, iCal, and Apples Contacts suck. They’re terrible applications but because they’re given away for free and they’re ubiquitous, everybody has them. That means that there is no competition. Nobody builds a really killer email app that we can buy for $99 or $129 or $199 or $399; I don’t care what the price is. Nobody builds a killer email app because they can’t compete with free!
Now while I applaud Apple giving away software for free and allowing us to use it, if you do that, if you kill the market, then you’re beholden to produce excellent software. You have the ability. You certainly do have the ability. It’s proven in your desktop operating system, in your iPhone operating system, that you know how to build good tools but because you’re giving it away for free, I’m not sure that the commandment is there for email. Consequently, we all suffer. Productivity is lost as result. Here is a perfect example of the productivity paradox.
While there are options, for instance they do a pretty good job with Gmail. They’re constantly improving it but Google’s doing the same thing. They’re giving this stuff away for free so nobody is able to compete with them. Consequently even though Google seems to be pushing Gmail ahead a little bit better and in some areas it does a better job than Apple iMail, it’s still not a complete solution.
So what are we left with? What are the people who are trying to be productive using these tools left with? A bunch of free stuff that’s only sort of free because we have to spend all of our time figuring which one works for us, poorly documented, poorly supported, because they make very little money from it. So we’re given inferior tools with a superior platform to work on. We’ve got this fantastic phone, this tablet, the computer, this wonderful platform to work on and then we’re left with all of these inferior tools like Apple’s iMail and iCal and note-taking apps that only sort of do a half-assed job. There lies the productivity paradox.
If you have comments on it, if you want to set me straight, if you agree with me, why not drop by at our website? You can comment or you can comment here on the YouTube channel, as well. I’m Steve Dotto and next week, we’ll get back to giving you some real productivity tips, I promise.
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