In Praise of Appigo’s iPhone Todo App

Last week after a bit of wrangling with the wife, we finally bought an iPhone. Until recently it fell under the “nice to have” category but the more I read about it and the more I played with friend’s iPhones, the more I wanted one.

The day after we purchased it I downloaded Appigo’s Todo app, a simple but powerful todo list management tool. The app was $9.99, the most expensive of the bunch which also included several free todo lists. I liked the fact that it cost money because it holds the creators accountable, at least on some level. It also indicates they think their product is valuable enough to sell and lastly, it’s always good to support fellow programmers, even if they are just getting ridiculous rich from their iPhone apps. Here’s their YouTube presentation, which sealed the deal for me:

Getting an electronic todo list has been one of the most productive decisions we’ve made (next to the Macbook — damn you Apple). Beforehand the iPhone, I would keep a yellow sticky note in my wallet and write notes on it. That didn’t work too well as I normally would lose the sticky note, forget to bring a pen, or be unable to read my own handwriting.

I was in Florida at the time, away from work, Domain Pigeon, Hacker News, this blog, and everything else that normally consumes my time. The mental unicycle was still rolling though; as I thought of things I needed to do when I got back I created a task for it. One by one they piled up.

After one day, I had 24 tasks After three, 46. After a week, 68.

At first I thought the todo list would be a backup for me, but the more I use it the more I’m relying on it as my primary source of things I need to do. It’s kind of sick, but juggling 68 things in the back of my mind is a burdensome, time consuming endeavor which inevitably has a high rate of “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

My current todo list is broken up into seven categories: Work, Blog, Domain Pigeon, General, Internet, Projects, and Research.

Work is things I need to take care of at work (“Write Thank You Notes”), blog contains things I want to write about (“Todo List is Great”), Domain Pigeon contains ideas and action items pertaining to the upcoming site (“Check out UserTesting.com”, “Register .NET/.ORG Domains”), General contains miscellaneous things (“Lexmark X2580 Ink”, “Pick up Dry Cleaning”), Internet contains random todo things, Projects is for startup and website ideas (top secret), and Research is for things I want to learn more about at a later date (“Cover Calls”, “Dairy Bad?”, “Flash Development”, etc).

After I had this all set up, I learned about Contexts, which let you categorize things on, well, context. So, for example, I could have a context for “Internet” and then for every task that I have to use the internet to complete, I could add “Internet” as a context rather than having a special group for internet items. I haven’t figured out the best way to organize it, but it’ll evolve as time goes by.

One final note: I had two recommendations for the app, so I wrote the company a quick, friendly email both because I hope they implement the recommendations and because I wanted to see how and if they would respond:

Just wanted to say great app, I don’t know how I went without a todo app for so long!

Two small recommendations: I like making all the task names title case (“Write Blog Post About Blah” vs “Write blog post about blah”). I’m not sure if this is something you can control, but if it is, I’d love for it to be an optional setting so that its done automatically. Second, and this is really a small point, if a task doesn’t have a due date, rather than have it say “No due date” below a task, maybe just leave it blank. The extra white space goes a long way.

Again, great app. I’m sure your effort has paid off :)

Several hours later they responded:

Matt,

Thank you for contacting Appigo.  We always appreciate suggestions and
comments.  We have taken note of your suggestion and have included it
in our list for future review.

Thanks for taking the time to write to us and thanks for using our Apps!

The Appigo Team

The fact that they responded at all was great (I’ve emailed some websites with questions and feedback and generally never hear a word back), though I suspect this was a boiler plate email (note “suggestion” when in fact I made two). Nonetheless, if I were receiving dozens of emails on the same subject (suggestions, for example), I might consider writing a template too…

To sum it up, if you like todo lists, Appigo’s app is a useful, well designed choice and its by a company that seems to value their customers. +1.

Meaningful Work

Meaningful work is one of the most important things we can impart to children. Meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out…

If you are convinced that the work you are doing is meaningful, then curiosity, there’s no cost to it. If you think there’s always got to be a connection between what you put in and what you get out, then of course you’ll run off with a great excitement after an idea that catches your idea.

Malcom Gladwell, via 37Signals

Preparation

“Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile, predetermined, personal goals.” – Paul J. Meyer

This was at the bottom of the RescueTime website and its one of the best definitions of success I’ve seen.

Right now I’m just preparing for the months ahead (like finally setting up RescueTime for this Macbook). There’s a lot planned and I hope to blog thoroughly about everything that’s going on. Stay tuned.

New Year’s Resolution

Yeah:

I don’t do new years resolutions, and it has been my policy since I was a kid.

My rationale: if you want to change your life or do something, don’t procrastinate – start right then. Putting an arbitrary date on things you want to do never made sense to me. You just have to write it down and then follow through.

12/16 Domain Pigeon Updates

Domain Pigeon is probably around 90% ready to go.

There are a few finishing touches I need to make before the first iteration is launched sometime in early January. The plan is to have a few friends test it, then ask the Philly.rb folks for feedback, then maybe HackerNews, depending on how things go.

One thing lesson learned from ALL IN Expert is that you can’t wait for a perfect product in order to launch. A better approach is to get something decent, launch, get feedback, then iterate over and over until you have a great product. If I had done that sooner with ALL IN Expert, I’d have saved myself several weeks of work because I would have realized that there wasn’t a strong market for the product I was building. Therefore, with Domain Pigeon, I’m drawing a line and not adding any new features until I get feedback on the ones I have.

There was a thread recently on HackerNews about this. Brian Lash sums it up pretty well:

Throw the launch mindset to the wind.

I think our preoccupation with a huge launch owes more to its sexiness than to its practical importance for a startup. You may catch lightning in a bottle with a launch that’s met with a ton of fanfare. But you can also build an enduring success by focusing your time and energy on sale #1, then #2, and so on.

Your odds are long one way or the next (and granted things change when you need to observe network effects to succeed) but it seems it’s almost always the better shot to build fast, iterate faster, and lean into whatever success you find along the way.

If anyone is interested in helping test out the initial version in about three weeks, please shoot me an email and we’ll go from there.

Happy holidays —

That Graham Guy on Credentials

I make it a point not to quote Paul Graham too often, simply because there’s a lot of good quotes and it seems a bit artificial when done too often. That being said, I found today’s article on credentials to be particularly insightful:

Large organizations can’t [accurately measure performance]. But a bunch of small organizations in a market can come close. A market takes every organization and keeps just the good ones. As organizations get smaller, this approaches taking every person and keeping just the good ones. So all other things being equal, a society consisting of more, smaller organizations will care less about credentials.

In a world of small companies, performance is all anyone cares about. People hiring for a startup don’t care whether you’ve even graduated from college, let alone which one. All they care about is what you can do.

For those unfamiliar with his work, check out his online essays, which are extremely good. Or, if you prefer book format, try Hackers & Painters.

For many reasons I hope that my career path (for lack of a better word) leads me to a startup one day.

Time will tell.

December Pub Night

Tonight was my second Philly on Rails (or Philly.rb) Pub Night. There were noticeably less people than last time, but it was better as a result. It was like going from a class of thirty in high school to a class of ten or fifteen in college. You get more time to interact and to talk and to share ideas so you wind up getting a lot more out of it.

The topics of conversation were diverse and interesting, as usual. John, an animation programmer and Ruby enthusiast, explained about this place in Philly where developers can go work in an office-like environment on free lance projects. To go work there you have to pay a small fee and in exchange, you get a quiet place to work on your projects and you’ve got lots of smart people there to ask questions to if you need it. It’s mainly people who work for themselves, but who do not want to work in isolation. Cool cool cool. If possible, I’m going to take a day off work and join them for a day.

What hasn’t ceased to amaze me is the level of diversity among the attendees. There is a wide range of backgrounds and experience among the folks who join Philly.rb each month. The ages range from 18-50 with the majority around 25. Some are married with kids, others are single and thrilled about it. Some program for a living, others do it part time. Some are startup types, others like the big-company security. You wouldn’t be able to tell that most are developers. What we do share, other than being almost entirely male, is a desire for a community of like-minded developers to socialize with.

Alan, a really smart and down to earth guy, said that he also attends the New York Ruby meetings from time to time as well. They are also twice a month and rotate locations in Manhattan. They’ll probably be some long nights, but I’m going to try to make it to a few of them too. I think he said there were hack nights, where people basically get together to write code, and instructional nights, similar to what Philly.rb did last week. Those meetings are apparently on a much larger scale though, with 30-50 people attending on average, many of whom are well known in the Ruby and Rails communities.

Should be a good time.