Do one thing…

Do one thing… I don’t want barely distinguishable tools that are mediocre at everything; I want tools that do one thing and do it well. by Mike Loukides.

From the post:

I’ve been lamenting the demise of the Unix philosophy: tools should do one thing, and do it well. The ability to connect many small tools is better than having a single tool that does everything poorly.

That philosophy was great, but hasn’t survived into the Web age. Unfortunately, nothing better has come along to replace it. Instead, we have “convergence”: a lot of tools converging on doing all the same things poorly.

The poster child for this blight is Evernote. I started using Evernote because it did an excellent job of solving one problem. I’d take notes at a conference or a meeting, or add someone to my phone list, and have to distribute those files by hand from my laptop to my desktop, to my tablets, to my phone, and to any and all other machines that I might use.

Mike takes a stick to Evernote, Gmail, Google Maps, Skype, Twitter, Flickr, Dropbox (insert your list of non-single purpose tools here), etc.

Then he offers a critical insight about web applications:

…There’s no good way to connect one Web application to another. Therefore, everything tends to be monolithic; and in a world of monolithic apps, everyone wants to build their own garden, inevitably with all the features that are in all the other gardens.

Mike mentions IFTTT, which connects web services but wants something a bit more generic.

I think of IFTTT as walkways between a designated set of walled gardens. Useful for traveling between walled gardens but not anything else.

Mike concludes:

I don’t want anyone’s walled garden. I’ve seen what’s inside the walls, and it isn’t a palace; it’s a tenement. I don’t want barely distinguishable tools that are mediocre at everything. I want tools that do one thing, and do it well. And that can be connected to each other to build powerful tools.

What single purpose tool are you developing?

How will it interact with other single purpose tools?

Comments are closed.