Getting Apps Done (c.f. Getting Things Done)

Watching 37Signals building out their Backpack app-to-be and Danny O’Brien and Merlin Mann organizing up a storm for their rumored ;-) Productivity Hacks book for O’Reilly, I’m continually struck by the similarity of approach.

As Tim wrote in his “Designing from the outside in” post:

[37Signals] try to design the usability and function of the application first, and that drives the implementation. And if they can then extract a re-usable framework, all the better. For example, basecamp wasn’t built on top of Ruby on Rails. Rather, Ruby on Rails was extracted from basecamp. This approach seems obvious and commonsense.

Terrie Miller, The O’Reilly Network’s Production Manager, wrote in an email thread (excerpted by permission):

There’s some sort of interesting intersection between things like BaseCamp and the whole GTD/43Folders/Productivity Hacks space. … [T]he same people who are interested in how to manage projects using tools like Basecamp are also interested in ways to get all their stuff done using techniques like David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) workflow, hipster PDAs, or even Post It notes. … I’m not sure what this grouping of concerns would be called (it isn’t all online, it isn’t all projects, it definitely isn’t all management — and maybe all of it lumped together is too big to be useful), but it feels like there’s momentum behind it.

(Sampling of hyperlinks inserted.)

While David Allen‘s “Getting Things Done” meme has, over the past year or so, piqued the interest of alpha geeks left, right, and center, most I know almost immediately run into a bootstrapping problem. While Allen’s system is carefully thought out and explained in his book, there’s little real guidance for just how to work it into an existing iCal/Mail.app/Treo/Moleskine setup. For us hax0r5, it all gets very geeky very fast.

Both 37Signals and Danny and Merlin are chipping away at that bootstrapping problem: the former with their elegant applications and resultant frameworks, the latter with their (often inelegant but highly effective) hacks involving gem clips, note cards, and not a little bit of string. And in the process, they’re laying down a set of design patterns applicable as much to getting things done as getting applications written.

In these days of highly-overwhelmed, information-soaked geeks, it’s hard not to look to such quests with hope of some relief and (and, as you’ve no doubt noticed) provide them much link-love.

Aside: In the course of writing this entry I ran across — utterly tangentially, mind you — the following list of blog posts (listed in original reverse-chronological order):

  • Building of Basecamp
  • Custom 3×5 Cards!
  • Are you into XP Pair Programming – seriously?
  • Tools I Use