These days we are spoiled for choice when it comes to software. Not just for the Mac, where there has been an explosion in programs since I converted in 2005, but increasingly in the mobile world where $1 and $2 apps jostle constantly for our attention. John Carey of fiftyfootshadows.net calls on us to re-examine our priorities in a thoughtful post this morning. He highlights the amount of time and effort devoted by tech sites to examining groups of apps in great detail and in a feature shoot-out that inevitably leads to bloating and a move away from the minimalism that most of us aspire to:
Take writing for example, a task so basic and fundamental, in it’s essence it can be broken down to pen on paper or a stick in the sand. Yet here today we have a plethora of various writing applications because at some point in the past 15-20 years of modern technology we have managed to damage and greatly exaggerate the basic fundamentals of recording our thoughts and feelings into the written word. We have somehow sucked the romance out of it and turned it into nothing more than a means to reach an end.
One of the more popular posts on this site was my comparison between three note applications, Plain Text, Nebulous Notes and Elements. All three set out to be minimalistic, clutter-free environments for plain-text composing. But there is a danger of first creating a minimal application and then being suckered in to add more and more features until you end up with an iPhone version of Pages. Of the three, Plain Text has remained true to the minimalistic ideal while others, particularly Elements, have added more and more features.
One developer I know, Dave Findlay, recognises this trend only too well. His excellent Notesy app—yet another contender in the plain-text editor field—sticks pretty much to the basics and he is determined not to keep adding new features just for the sake of it.
John Carey, like many of us, is suffering from review overload and wishes we could get back to basics instead of continually striving for the good to be even better. I tend to agree with him.
I am simply starting to find it daunting to read through endless reviews rambling about every negative nuance possible within a product which ends up reinforcing our driving need for more. Nothing is ever good enough anymore, even positive reviews seem to find the need to look for what is NOT there. This causes waves of developers scrambling to make new software to fill gaps that only ever existed because of newly imagined holes in our needs to begin with. If you are honestly trying to devote yourself to a minimal approach to computing and living, its amazing how simple this task really is and it astonishes me how much effort some people seem to go through in order to emulate the sometimes utopian standards projected to us online. Whats the big secret? Knowing yourself well enough to be honest with your own needs and learning to be your own you. It’s fine to keep up with the latest and greatest but you can’t let it define you. Age old advice but true now more than ever.