Lessons learned from the demise of Astrid, Catch, and Orchestra
With the death of Astrid, Catch, and Orchestra, I’ve taken a bleaker and more pessimistic outlook on the vitality, and long term sustainability, of so-called task managers in the marketplace. We invest so much time into organizing all of our next actions into, what we believe to be, our trusted system. We spend hours, sometimes days or weeks, in categorizing each of these next actions, creating our project index, defining each of our projects, and what people and resources will we need in order for us to successfully complete the project. We define our life goals, our 5 to 10 year goals, and our 3 to 5 year goals. We look at where we want to be at the end of each calendar year.
We spend all this time, hoping that the app which we have called our trusted system will always stick around, be financially viable, and have a sustainable business model. But we never really think about the, “What if?”
The “what if” is a very scary notion. What if the company, to which I have trusted my most precious information with, shuts down? What if they become financially unstable? What if their business model suffered from unsustainability? What if they lose our data? What if there is no clean and clear way of exporting our data to another app? These are the questions that thousands of people, who were users of Astrid, Catch, and Orchestra, have to, suddenly, ask themselves.
And so, I ask each of you, do you really trust the company that created your to do app, and that you have called your trusted system? Do you know what the exit strategy is if you ever wanted to export your data? Do you know what the import strategy is with other to do apps in the marketplace? What can you really do with a JSON or HTML file? Do you know if you really own your data or is it stored on that company’s servers? I hate to paint a doomsday-like picture for all of you, but in the aftermath of three very popular apps shutting down, I believe it is time to reassess and reevaluate who owns, and where are we storing, our most precious data.
Let’s be clear about one thing – free is not a sustainable business model and our investment of our most precious data – our next actions and projects can ultimately be an investment in a fool’s stock. From the moment the venture capitalist revenue stream dries up, with no premium or ad revenue streams in the foreseeable future, or export strategy that provides you with data you can use elsewhere – your productivity will take a nosedive into treacherous waters, leaving you worse off than you were, before you used the app. Paid apps are not free from my merciless plight, though admittedly there is less for concern. At least, with a paid model, you’re funding the financial viability with a steady revenue stream.
So, what is the answer then? Where does that leave us, besides the murky swamp like picture I’ve painted for you? Do we revert back to paper as I have done before with my Evernote Moleskine? Perhaps not, as it is not practical for everyone. Well, do we use simple text files that sync up to Dropbox, as I have attempted to do in the last couple of weeks? That too, may not be the best answer. Well, what about using NoteSuite for my Mac and iOS friends, as I detailed in my post earlier this week? After all, they use the iOS iCloud to sync up the data, as opposed to their servers, therefore you are the owner of your data, and not them. Do we abandon Evernote, our beloved elephant friend, because we are concerned that they may not be the 100 year company they claim? I don’t think so. I am confident that they will be around for quite a while.
This is all to say that I don’t have the right answer. In fact, I don’t think that any of us really do. But, what I strongly suggest we all do is find out what exit strategy, and the important strategy, of any app that we want to use. In the end, looks, I am afraid, are not everything. We may be attracted to the latest, shiny app because it does things that we wish one of our other apps can do, but just remember the lessons we should all have learned from the demise of Astrid, Catch, and Orchestra.
If you need help in trying to discern what the import and export strategy is with your app, let me know in the comments, and I will be more than happy to assist.