Super short Nozbe review

Nozbe is a web app that allows you to organ­ise your to-do’s Get­ting Things Done style. This morn­ing I spent a lit­tle while giv­ing it a spin. I decid­ed to sit down and enter a bunch of actions I have in my Hip­ster PDA (a Mole­sk­ine Memo Pock­ets and a bunch of blanc index cards) into Nozbe. First impressions:

  1. Nozbe is a cool con­cept. I have real­ly been wait­ing for a mul­ti­di­men­sion­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty web app. They got this part right! (Projects and con­texts are included.)
  2. I like the book excerpts that explain the dif­fer­ent GTD con­cepts such as projects, con­texts and actions.
  3. I’d real­ly only con­sid­er using Nozbe if it’d include a mobile vari­ant (oth­er­wise my actions are only acces­si­ble when I’m online behind a computer).
  4. Nozbe forces you to enter each action in a project up front. This is, I think, a mis­read­ing of Allen’s ‘gospel’ and increas­es the cog­ni­tive load when quick­ly enter­ing an action. I’d have actions be forcibly linked to a con­text but give the user the option to add it to a project. (I worked around this by cre­at­ing a ‘No Project’ project and adding actions to it before reorganising. 
  5. Con­texts are fixed, which is a shame. Please, please, please let me cre­ate my own con­texts, tag­ging-style. So I can have actions linked to mul­ti­ple con­texts (which again reduces cog­ni­tive load).
  6. Don’t show the dura­tion menu by default when enter­ing an action, keep it clean. I’ll add dura­tions when I want to, but don’t force me to.

Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty apps are hard to get right because every­one has such a per­son­al work­flow. A good app takes that into account and offers many ways to do the same things. So again, Nozbe guys: the app is a good start, con­grat­u­la­tions on the good effort! How­ev­er it could ben­e­fit from some more user-cen­tred think­ing and design. Try to get a feel for the con­text of your users and tweak the inter­face accordingly! 

Update: For those who had­n’t noticed, I found this tool via the excel­lent Life­hack­er blog. Nozbe have their own spar­tan blog too.

Anoth­er update: The excel­lent GTD blog Black Belt Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty does an in depth review and comes up with some of the same points as I did plus a whole bunch more.

Google Reader improvements

The new Google Reader trends page

I had­n’t touched Google Read­er since tak­ing a brief look at its ini­tial launch in Octo­ber 2005. I’m now using it as my pri­ma­ry read­er, hav­ing grown tired of Rojo’s poor per­for­mance and fre­quent inter­face over­hauls. There’s a few things that have real­ly improved since that first release. I’ll sum them up briefly here:

  • Unclut­tered, sim­ple inter­face. They’ve gone back to basics and mim­ic a plain desk­top appli­ca­tion UI. Hard­ly any super­flu­ous web 2.0 fea­tures demand your attention.
  • Trends page (I’ve book­marked a few arti­cles on this); which allows you to look at the feeds you’ve been read­ing the most but, more impor­tant­ly, allow you to weed out the ones you nev­er look at or have died. Essen­tial for some­one who has over 200 feeds to track.
  • Mul­ti-fold­er organ­is­ing, not quite free tag­ging (which is a shame) but still nice for the folk­so­nom­i­cal­ly inclined.
  • When scrolling through a list of expand­ed new feed items, Read­er auto­mat­i­cal­ly marks items you’ve scrolled past as read. Which great­ly reduces the excise oth­er web-based read­ers force on their users when want­i­ng to mark a feed as read. 
  • Per­for­mance is accept­able to good. It’s not as fast as Gmail, but vast­ly supe­ri­or to Rojo for instance, despite the con­sid­er­able use of AJAX.
  • There is an unof­fi­cial Mac OS X noti­fi­er that uses Growl.

Most of these fea­tures are not includ­ed in one or both of the pre­vi­ous two web-based read­ers I used for a length of time (Blog­lines and Rojo). Google have real­ly come up with some­thing nice here. I won­der when it’ll move out of the lab.

Why am I not using a desk­top based read­er? I’d like to (Net­NewsWire’s great for instance), just as I’d love to use a prop­er desk­top email client, but my mul­ti-plat­form, mul­ti-machine per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al use does­n’t allow me too. I work on at least two sep­a­rate PCs at work (a desk­top and a lap­top) and have a cute lit­tle iBook that I use at home. This all means I am a real web OS user. Fire­fox as brows­er (with Google Brows­er Sync to keep it the same across all installs), Google Read­er for RSS, Gmail for email and (until recent­ly) Google Cal­en­dar for, well, my cal­en­dar. Is it coin­ci­dence I seem to pre­fer Google prod­ucts for these things? Prob­a­bly not, Google seems to be doing a very good job at these kind of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty appli­ca­tions (just as Yahoo! seem to be lead­ing the way in social applications).