Category Archives: Tools

Trello: A path to nirvana


Yesterday, I blogged about the challenges that non-geek users would face when using a horizontal platform like Trello. You can read about it here. My gut reaction being that while the “Don’t make me think” approach had been embraced vis-a-vis the user interface and design, the same could not be said about the product vision.  The problem that I see is that normal people don’t consciously plan or think in terms of tasks.  They just do whatever they have to do and if they find something along the way that helps manage their tasks, hey then all the better.  This is why I would choose something like TaskForceApp or SpringPad to Trello for tasks in its current form.  Trello simply does too much for my liking as is an in-silo experience as well.

However, it is time to check my bias at the door and ask, “what can the Trello team do to ease a non geek user in (apart from giving it away for free)”

1. Permalink boards: By enabling perma links, they would be open to the widest and most widely used form of communication – Email.

2, Integration with other platforms- Yeah, I know.  Every investor and his grandmother is shouting from the rooftops for FB integration.  However, bear with me for a sec.  Given the task based nature of Trello, it is unlikely that Trello is going to OWN the average user.  Though their stance on open standards is commendable, this might backfire.  Consider how much more useful Trello would be if I can integrate it into what I normally do on social networks.  This is a huge gap in existing social networks.  For e.g., when I host a party at my place, it would be great if my friends can

  • vote for a few potential dates (is it too close to Christmas? )
  • help each other plan what to bring (if it is a potluck party)

Consider if Trello could integrate with Facebook and I could just add a perma link to Trello from Facebook. I could create an online party invite for a potluck in a couple of clicks.

3.  Provide default templates/themes/widgets/plugins ala WordPress : This will help avoid the “now what?” problem which affects newbie users if they can see cookie cutter solutions which can be re-used for their scenario.

4. Marketplace:  Allow users to customize & publish meta boards.  For e.g., it is highly unlikely that my party plan is going to have the same participants as another user.  But other users would benefit from the structure  and design of my party plan.

5. Discoverability & search: This goes hand-in-hand with creating a market place that as an user I would like to see meta boards created by other users so I can re-use and adapt them to my specific scenario

6. Show me the money : Allow the users to monetize whatever they create on top of the platform, similar to WordPress.

7. A developer API : Enuff said.  Every social network worth its salt needs a developer API to bend the platform to support the highly improbably use case which goes on to become a sleeper hit.

8. Provide browser plugins for a more open experience: Springpad in particular has done a great job here to create a in site experience and reduce context switching

In conclusion, while the Trello team has done a great job so far, they have their work cut out for them if they are to reach the “100 million users” nirvana that they crave.

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Trello : A solution in search of a problem


Yesterday, I read Joel’s post on the recent launch of Trello & on how Trello is different.  Curious, I headed over to Trello to find FogBuzz’s take on the the “Boards concept”.  FogBuzz has a unique take on Boards.  It screams project/task management!

I arrived, ready to drink the Kool-aid.  I registered, then was met with a sample board.  I had a “now what?” feeling.  I started watching the intro videos and proceeded to play around with a board, creating notes, and trying other nifty features.  All very cool and nifty.  Then I had the overwhelming feeling, “Am I just geeking out here?”.

See, its greatest advantage (and weakness) appears to be that it appears to be a platform which can be tweaked for any simple project management/task management with good deal of collaboration & social features sprinkled around for good measure.

So I am sitting here thinking, task/project management means planning.  And planning means thinking & collaboration.  It may not be critical thinking but still more than non-thinking activities like browsing & instant messaging.  And the average Joe is not going to dream up scenarios whence he can use Trello.

If a user is already using Trello to manage his tasks, then he would feel enough comfort/mastery to try to tweak it for other purposes.  By making the platform horizontal, it is akin to telling a programmer, “we are giving you the shiniest tools on the most versatile platform running running on the fastest machines!”  And what can you build with it you ask, “how about an eponymous blogging platform which nobody will use!” Greeaaaatttt!  Unlike PInterest which has a twitter like feel where you just “pin” stuff which you find interesting, or Quora which has evolved Boards to take advantage of their core strength (Q&A and Topics), Trello leaves me feeling in limbo.

In the post, Joel’s goal appears to be reaching 100 million users.  Bully for him!  I presume that number would have to include a substantial portion of non-geeks as its user base

  • How exactly does FogBuzz plan to achieve a 100 million user baset?
  • How does he convince me as an user to think?  Unlike PInterest which can be about mindless sharing, now I have to..THINK!  Yikes, Scary stuff!
  • How is this going to escape the fate of Google Wave,which was a great collaboration tool, but failed cause it was viewed as used exclusively by geeks?
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