Thoughts spawned by trying out Trello

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Today I tried out an online task management/collaboration system called Trello. I had read about Trello before, in an interview with Fog Creek Software CEO Joel Spolsky. It looks really nice, visual and flexible. I was curious as to whether it would meet the needs of a few of us at work, not always on-site at the same time, working together to get a piece of equipment up and running.

I took my Android device into the lab to get down a few tasks and notes. I created some “cards” in the very pleasant Trello Android app, and then tried to edit one to add some details. Trello didn’t allow me to open it because, the lab being just out of wifi range, this card had not been “synced”. I immediately understood that Trello isn’t useful to me in its current state. I’m still curious as to whether the overall system is well-designed, and whether it suits me, but the need for constant access to the net stops the show for me.

I see the cloud becoming more and more ubiquitous, and there are already those who don’t see a whole lot of difference between the complaints “I can’t see my data when I’m offline” and “I can’t see my data without providing electric power to my computer/tablet/phone.” However, leaving aside issues of control over our data, there are still those of us without uninterrupted net access.

In fact, if Trello’s creators are banking on massive adoption of a free version making it possible to charge a small percentage of users for some kind of version control, I think they are making a mistake: being unable to even read existing cards in their latest known state while offline is going to be an impediment to adoption by casual users. I may be wrong; it will be interesting to see.

Version control in a fast-paced collaborative environment is an interesting challenge and I bet some bright minds are trying to bring solutions to current apps, like Trello, in a way that’s as close as possible to being invisible, or at least “frictionless” to non-technical users.

Childhood nostalgia

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One of the people on my internet is Jason Good. You may have come across his “Approximately three minutes inside the head of my 2-year-old” post. He’s a stand-up comedian as well as a blogger. He seems like a thinking guy, and funny. And I’ve got a lot in common with him: if nothing else, then by dint of being currently immersed in the intense and ludicrous experience of raising two very young children.

Yesterday, Good posted on the topic of nostalgia for idealized days past, and it triggered some thinking on my part, starting with the objectionable “You hated Max Headroom; we all did” statement. I loved Max Headroom. In my defense, I’m a bit younger than Good, enough that the difference would have been significant when that show came out. I also loved Sledge Hammer. Was that one awful? I don’t remember.

Going back farther: Doctor Who. Orange Crush cans you had to push holes into with your thumb. The unmatched intensity of the childhood summer sun in the metallic blue of my parents’ 1981 Jetta. KITT. Green popsicles. Christopher Reeve as Superman. Cap guns (can you still get them?). Smurfs. Battle of the Planets. Ringing, dialing phones who live on in Fisher-Price toy form – and in the Martian Sesame Street sketch on YouTube. Non-CGI Yoda and Jabba the Hutt (obligatory link to the best earworm since “Wind the Bobbin Up” — and it shows just how much of a geek? nerd? sub-rock-dweller? I am that I heard this before the thing it spoofed*). Silly putty — I can just about invoke the nauseous headache by recalling the smell. The playground in our subdivision, engulfed in flames in the night and blackened and smoking in the morning.** Was that down to the same kid who asked to borrow my bike, ridiculed me for being hesitant, and then took off with it (my dad went to his house and got it back)?

Yeah, I wouldn’t trade the internet or my digital camera to go back, but it sure is fun to remember.


*Which thing I’m now able to identify when it presents among ambient sounds, e.g., emerging from a car window as the vehicle draws alongside at a light; belted out in a passionate falsetto by a passerby on a bike.

**It was structurally OK, so they left it there, a jolly play structure of charred and shrivelled wood, because that wouldn’t give the neighbourhood six-year-olds nightmares for years to come, would it? (Continued smoke generation the next morning may be a product of my imagination.)