I Made a Mistake

I have a lot of sympathy for Jeff’s computer problem. How do you juggle multiple devices in a workflow?[1] I have gotten past this problem only by specifying a particular domain, best suited to each machine and choosing the only one that can do the work. My iPad is my main machine for writing, responding, developing (remotely), etc. and my Mac plays second fiddle based on a very, very specific set of usecases. I use the desktop only for large scale design work and website testing.[2] It took a long time to work out those uses cases but I just had to keep bashing my head against it.

The tougher problem for me was the discipline required to keep from replicating all of the workflows I have on the iPad on my Mac. I wonder if Continuity wasn’t the best feature for iOS and Mac. I mean, what people needed was a shared files platform, which we have now with iCloud Drive, and apps that can access those files. If you can get to the work, then you can get working, right?

Yet, as soon as we had apps that could share the exact same workflows, then we pushed developers to include the exact same features and functions in all places. As soon as you start targeting parity across multiple platforms, then you begin to water down the strengths of all of them. So, now it is just a favourites game. You took work with you on the iPad because it was the newest, hottest release, but you went back to the Mac because, spiritually, you never left. It was just too easy to slide across when everything “looked” the same. It was too hard to pull our collective focus from the centre of the Venn diagram to appreciate its edges.

Believe me when I say I speak from experience. I have spent more money than my spouse would care to hear on technology that I ultimately couldn’t allow myself to enjoy for what it was. Buy a computer for a very specific use, spend ten minutes setting it up for that exact function and waste away multiple hours trying to hack together that “one thing” that would make it even better: rinse and repeat.

  1. I am definitely projecting here—I have no reason to think I speak for Jeff, nor anyone else—but I wonder how often, hidden behind the question, “How do I juggle multiple devices?” is the sentiment, “I am sad I can’t use my favourite things?” I love computers. I love software. I feel better when I can think of clever ways to use them. But that flies in the face of a tool’s job, to sink away, to be an invisible extension of the person doing the work. The joy of fiddling for productivity’s sake and the reality that George R.R. Martin can write his novels on DOS present a psychic pain that I have yet to really acknowledge. ↩︎

  2. These days, I could probably hire a SaaS for each of those problems, like Figma and Browserstack. ↩︎


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