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My guess is you'll get really clumpy feedback on this. You'll have people who love it just as is, because it matches their mental model of email as a to-do list. You'll also hear from people who think it would be great if you add or change a feature or two, because it's close to their model, but not perfect. And then, you'll hear from people who think it's way off, because this just isn't how they work with email.
My experience is that people—myself included—are very particular about how they do their work. Finding a productivity app that nails my preferences is hard, but it's extremely rewarding when I finally get a system that matches my brain. For this reason, I think you shouldn't try to accommodate the way everyone works. Just relentlessly solve for the one use case this works for, and let the right users find you. They'll love the product and evangelize it.
Interesting perspective Jake. Adoption is definitely a concern. We built Hiri for companies for the most part. For us, email is a commons problem. Unless everyone has a clear mental model of how something should be used, they'll use it differently. This is at the core of the email problem. Some really bad habits have grown up around email. Email is really good for asynchronous/low ambiguity communication, but it's increasingly used in place of tools that are better suited at handling realtime communication - IM, the phone or even meetings.
So we're being deliberately prescriptive to get people to change these habits. But... as you say, people are reluctant to change. Even if it is best practise. This is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night :-)
One thing that comes to mind is that I consistently prefer apps that give me a rule or two, and let me experiment with them to build my own system, rather than boxing me into a rigid methodology. Like, with Mailbox, the only new concept is snooze, and I can play that off of more familiar features to flexibly handle all kinds of situations. I don't need specific actions for every unique case; one new tool reframes the existing ones to let me build a better way of working. Or in Workflowy, the only real feature is that any bullet in my list can be temporarily zoomed to the top level. Yet that one thing allows me to build the system that fits me, eschewing all the heavy pages and documents and folders and notebooks that bog down other listing/note apps.
Best example I can think of is probably Apple's Mission Control vs the old Exposé/Spaces. Exposé and spaces were discrete, simple tools that each did one thing, and after learning how to use them separately, I could combine them to quickly accomplish a broad range of tasks. Mission control gloms them together, covering all the possible use cases at once, which feels comparatively imprecise and confusing.
Bit of a Workflowy fan myself!
Hopefully we're striking a balance. We don't subscribe to any particular methodology ourselves (and we're productivity nuts, we've tried quite a few!). Inbox zero takes quite a bit of discipline, which I don't just have. Ends up being Inbox 50-100. Anywhere we've added friction we've done so deliberately to make people think.
We have bigger plans for the To-do list, but we've kept it very loose for now. Whatever about email, To-do lists seem to be a very personal choice. We haven't added any bells and whistles to our list -WYSIWYG. Going to watch users for a while and see what they want.
Really like your observations RE: Mission control vs. Exposé. it does feel like Apple are getting more and more prescriptive - and I don't like it either. Must take a look at Hiri from this perspective. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Greatly appreciated.
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