[Design] What's the 'pony in the product'?
andre_mueninghoff at fastmail.fm
Thu Dec 27 19:33:48 PST 2007
Thanks much for your message. I think I understand better now your
points, and mine, for that matter. It seems to me that significant
proportions of the "pony" discussion are supported by assumptions and
the projection of our few personal and professional experiences and
preferences (and the projection of the feedback and preferences of those
interviewed by OSAF awhile ago) onto the many potential Chandler users.
For example, it seems to me that Mimi assumes that many people have
trouble sticking with personal organization tools (for which she
proposes Chandler as a solution for stick-to-it-ness). My differing
point of view is that generally it is more costly (in effort) to switch
between tools and systems than it is to evolve further ones personal
work flows with current tools. An example of high switching cost is the
challenge of taking a Life Balance outline over to Chandler's flat
lists. (Since I use Life Balance on Windows, I don't have available to
me the sync services with ical in the most recent Mac OS release build,
which possibly simplifies this challenge.) I used Life Balance for all
of my GTD implementation for a considerable length of time, and still
use it for some projects. My point being that the whether it is easier
to stick with Chandler or not, the cost to switch, even from less
functional tools, is fairly high.
More comments inline...
Phillip J. Eby wrote:
> At 02:06 PM 12/27/2007 -0500, Andre Mueninghoff wrote:
>> Hi Phillip,
>> I, and I would suspect many others, really appreciate your valuable
>> insights in this thread about how to position Chandler. I am not quite
>> following what you've written about Chandler and its suitability for use
>> with the religion of GTD (love the analogy) and wanted to offer some
>> thoughts. Echoing one of your comments, perhaps I also have a profound
>> misunderstanding of GTD or Chandler (or both). You mention a LifeBalance
>> application, and I'm assuming you mean the Life Balance app by
>> Llamagraphics. Having used the Life Balance application for many years,
>> I don't understand how either the Chandler app or the Life Balance app
>> actively discourages (or encourages, for that matter) turning stuff into
>> action according to the precepts of GTD any more than or less than a 3X5
>> card does.
> Lifebalance and 3x5 cards don't collect your email messages and
> encourage you to turn them into tasks without first defining the
> action to be taken or goal to be accomplished.
Perhaps we might need to agree to disagree about whether Chandler
"encourages" one to turn email messages into undefined tasks. I don't
understand quite how the mere existence of email integration in Chandler
provides such encouragement exactly. I would agree that Chandler makes
it quicker to do this via stamping as Kind, but as you point out, one
could just as well (and nearly as quickly) scribble on a 3x5 card the
subject line of an email message and have the same poor effect.
Likewise, in Life Balance, one could create a task, leave it in the
Anywhere place, and leave it be wherever in the outline it happens to
exist. There is nothing in Life Balance that requires one (nor in my
opinion encourages one) to do any further GTD-type front-end processing.
My point is that I believe that those intent upon implementing GTD will
> While it's true that you can enter ill-defined things into all three
> tools, LifeBalance at least nudges you in the direction of defining
> what place and aspect of your life those things fit into, along with
> relative ordering and importance. Chandler and 3x5 cards have only
> the dimensions you define, starting from a clean slate.
>> Might it be that a kind of philosophy/religion of Chandler Triage is
>> what is diametrically opposed to the philosophy/religion of GTD as
>> compared to the product of Chandler?
> Yes, that's where the most dramatic opposition occurs, but even the
> smallest of practical barriers (e.g. hiding something in a menu vs.
> making it easy to access, let alone just not including a feature) can
> be a significant discouragement in practice.
I agree about practical barriers, though my bar would seem to be lower
than yours and others with regards to Chandler and GTD. Nonetheless, I
would not suggest the current release of Chandler as a GTD tool for a
new GTD acolyte. (still milking your analogy...) (I haven't used F-C in
so long, I hardly remember the rituals. GTD was my antidote for F-C.) I
do use Chandler with GTD, but I have several hard-won work-arounds that
permit me some sanity. (If I had such a magic wand, to make Chandler
more "GTD-Compatible", I would add "@Waiting For" as a triage status,
and add (searchable) tags at the item level as a mechanism for assigning
Is not, however, much of this discussion about trade-offs? In support of
the USP you suggest, I find the calendar integration in Chandler to be a
practical advantage. In spite of all that is truly wonderful about LB, I
began to migrate away from Life Balance when my needs for better
calendar support outgrew what was available in LB during a time when the
developers of Life Balance had other priorities. Also, seen as a
practical advantage by large numbers of LB users, outlines became a
practical barrier to me. It was becoming more and more difficult for me
to find tasks and projects. Buoyed by seeing an explanation from David
Allen about the advantages of simple flat lists over outlines, I was
already migrating my GTD implementation in LB to flat lists when I first
discovered Chandler. (Please know that I am not bashing the feature-rich
Life Balance application, and that I am indebted actually to the
"Llamas" [an affectionate name for the developers]. Nearly all of my
top-level outline items in LB are Chandler collections now. I'm going
into such specifics about LB in the interest of clarity in this
>> Chandler Triage that has influenced the design of the Chandler product,
>> for me, to date, the religion of Chandler Triage is separable from the
>> product of Chandler.
>> Assuming even a religion of
> Indeed - and this is certainly the case if you use Chandler primarily
> as a calendaring tool. And that's a key reason why I'm suggesting a
> positioning centered on calendaring applications, as that positioning
> doesn't require a new religion to be developed and promoted.
More powerful in my opinion is to go beyond only calendaring
applications and to position Chandler for small-group collaboration
(which was one of the original USPs that had attracted my initial
interest). Positioning initially for group calendaring would seem to be
a solid step in the direction of small-group collaboration, but seems
like "leaving money on the table," so to speak. When I explain Chandler
in my own terms, I have yet to find others failing to have interest in
the potential of sharing items of all kinds, events included.
>> It may be that as I use Chandler with GTD that I
>> would be graded as failing to apply Chandler Triage.
> Yep. Of course, you will also have no more dimensions to work with
> than you would've had with 3x5 cards, and you will only have the
> minicalendar/preview area to serve as a visible "hard landscape" while
> switching between next action lists. Personally, if I were doing GTD
> and using Chandler, I think I'd use Chandler strictly as a calendar,
> because I don't see that it provides any compelling reasons to enter
> tasks versus just writing them down.
OK. However, clearly our preferences are different. I much prefer
capturing a task into Chandler over capturing a task on a 3x5 card
because of the practical advantage of being able to search more easily
and quickly my large stack of Chandler "cards" as compared to a large
stack of 3x5 cards. As I documented and sent to the Chandler-Users list,
I use a consistently set of abbreviations for GTD contexts in the bodies
of items. This enables me to use Chandler's Lucene search to quickly,
easily, and dynamically view a list of next actions by context.
>> However, similarly,
>> when I use Life Balance with GTD, I fail at making any use of the
>> application's namesake, that is, at using the Balance tab to balance my
>> efforts across the top-level-items (LB-speak) in my Life Balance
> Sure. But LB, in contrast, provides lots of other incentives over
> plain paper, such as place-nesting and place-hours, which can be quite
> useful for a GTDer. (For that matter, priorities and lead times, too,
> even if you completely ignore the effort and balance aspects.)
I'm sure the very clever place-nesting and place-hours features in LB
are quite useful for many, and they were for me for quite awhile. (They
were somewhat fun and satisfying to set up in the beginning.) However,
over time, I found that the match between my actual real-life context
and the calculated-context-based list of action items presented by LB
was at best about 50%. In short, it wasn't worth the maintenance. For
me, the tidy compartmentalization of contexts such as @Home and @Work
just didn't match my real life. So perhaps I should seek counsel from a
GTD coach, but that was my experience. My point being that sometimes a
multiplicity of features that have arisen from the experiences and
preferences of a few can become collectively themselves a practical
barrier to adoption and stick-to-it-ness. It's interesting to me that
the Llamagraphics team protects their vision of LB's design model with
the same tenacity with which Mimi does so for Chandler (using Mimi as a
proxy here for all that has gone into Chandler). The Life Balance user
forums have their fair share of "since not this <feature>, thanks and
bye" type messages, similar to Chandler user list messages along the
lines of "no <feature> yet still? then not for me."
>> When I was using only Life Balance for day-to-day GTD, the most
>> significant selling point for me was that my information was accessible
>> from the tools I predominantly used then, Windows-based PCs and a Palm,
>> not the innovative tools intended to aid the balancing of one's efforts
>> across different arenas of life.
> Which is why I think that Chandler's useful selling points are in its
> on/offline+web, cross-platform, multi-protocol, open-source goodness,
> not in its organizational religion.
Notably, if someone wants a feature that will enhance the support of
their particular organizational religion, open-source goodness provides
them the opportunity to build and contribute it.
>> I like and use (in my own way perhaps)
>> the Chandler triage features, but the current, most significant selling
>> point for me for Chandler is the CalDAV-based workflows for sharing of
>> items regardless of kind, that is, not only calendar items, with or
>> without the rites of Chandler Triage, or GTD for that matter.
> Yep - which is why I think that's at least one leg of the pony, right
Yep. Well, heck, I sure seem to use a lot more words sometimes than
might be necessary, but I appreciate the opportunity to weigh in, and
thank anyone who actually read this far. :-)
More information about the Design