Software: Utility vs. Joy

How many software packages do you use that give you joy? How about simple utility? How about both? My guess is there are far fewer that provide joy and even fewer that provide both. I have dozens of applications that provide utility only. For example, I use OmniFocus and EverNote constantly. Both apps have become part of my daily routine of getting things done and keeping notes on what’s happening. However, they are both far from joyful. There are times when it’s far from it — “to do” list is is too long or the EverNote iPhone app crashed again. Some apps appear to provide joy, but it’s not the app. It’s the data. If I’m checking the weekend weather, it’s not the app that provided joy. It’s the report of perfect weather that gives me joy.
Joy is pretty easy to get, but I find it usually is limited to games or streaming media apps. My personal geeky pleasures for joy are Moon Globe and Starmap for iPhone. There is no utility in knowing that the orange “star” I see every night when I take my dog out is actually Mars or that clear area on the Moon is where Apollo 11 landed, but it does make me stop and check out the night sky. It’s nice to know where the planets are or what’s up on our planetary neighbor. Yes, it is the data that gives me joy, but I also think it’s the ease with which I can get it also contributes.

The ultimate is to figure out a way to build and application that provides both joy and utility. How many of those are there? The only one that comes to mind is Google Earth. I can spend an hour just checking parts of the world out, but I also use it for gain useful utility — how far to the water from here, etc. For your own applications, you can create joy and utility by first doing something useful, and then make it useable. You still might not create joy, but you at least have a chance.

Any apps out there that provide utility and joy? Your browser is another easy example.

BTW, I’ve been away for awhile. Back in December, I started as CTO of Wimba. Wimba focuses on innovative collaboration solutions that empower educators and engage students. It’s all about collaboration in the education market. It’s kept me a little on the busy side these days, and it has greatly reduced my coding time. It has opened up several new topics to discuss, so stay tuned.







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