Less is more, or why I love email

  • Email
  • Rant
  • Wisdom

When is the last time you used software that:

  • did what you needed it do to
  • did what you might need it to do, like once a year
  • did what you would probably never need it to do
  • did what no one in their right mind would ever want it to do

Not that hard, right? It's all over the place. We're bombarded with heavy, confusing, stupid software that does nothing more than get in our way.

I hate this so much.

I hate it even more when I'm forced to be a part of the problem. How often have I not shed a bitter tear when working on a beautiful, elegant, super-intuitive application, only to find that management/the client/king-Olaf-of-Whatshisfacenburg needs-wants-needs it do to XYZ, in stereoscopic-waterproof-purple-pink 3D, with a nice Fish-in-tank screensaver if the user is inactive for more than 5s (“oh yeah, and add nice button sounds when a user clicks on something”).

Worst part: the client will be super unhappy in the end because it's too complicated, and we'll get blamed for it.

Oh, the agony.

I want/need something better

These kind of experiences make me want to start my own company, you know? A company where we would tell these kind of clients to get lost. Where we would try to attract the smart ones. The ones that look for efficient solutions, and don't mind a few extra clicks if it means cutting down a form from 34 to 3 fields.

<sidenote truestory="true" sad="true">
I actually remember a client that came to us to port a huge, custom, client-based CRM system to a web-based app. For each contact in the system, they had over a whopping 200 fields (and counting). Two-frikkin-hundred fields (wonder what we would need to bump post_max_size to for such a form). Most contacts only had a dozen fields filled at a given time (lots of booleans). They used these fields for searching and filtering (all fields are mirrored on the search form - just try to imagine the search form...)

I suggested one single textfield and a tag system, and putting up a full-text search engine. They didn't want it.

It's the little things

I love simple software. I think less is more. If it does less, it allows you to get creative. If it does less, it doesn't get in your way.

For instance: my number-one favorite software is email.

Think about it. You can do a lot with just email. I love Evernote, for example. But I don't need it. I can do 80% of what I use Evernote for with email (and sometimes do - adding notes, tagging and organizing, todos, etc). I sometimes send reminders to myself, or a link for reading it later. Sure, I also use stuff like Pocket or Google Calendar, but sometimes I like it quick and dirty.

My question to you (and myself)

is “what more could we do with email ?”

For example, Square launched a service for sending payments via email. Minimal setup: you just need an email address.

I would love to publish posts to my blog by sending an email. I use Jekyll for my blog, and write most posts on my phone in markdown. I would love to send an email with a post, get it automatically committed to my Git repo and published on my site.

I would love to save reminders (for me or others) by sending a simple email, in a loose, but standard, format.

I would love to manage my budget by sending a simple email every time I spend something.

Project management, Doodles, todo lists (these guys did it), requesting weather info...

The possibilities are endless (and some are already getting covered as we speak).

I think that, if I ever had the possibility/guts to start my own company, I would have it focus solely on building products around email. It would be a blast!

What do you think?

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