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Digital Products built like physical artisanal tools

Tobias Van Schneider in his blog talks about a new way to think about building modern software—

The advancements of our modern world mean there’s generally more of everything. The streaming age has led to a proliferation of low-quality content, churned out to satisfy the binge-watching masses. The ever-scrolling audiences and their short attention spans require news sources to up the ante, publishing throwaway articles (increasingly written by robots) like hotcakes. Industrialization and the off-loading of production to developing countries means clothes are mass-produced, designed to be thrown away and replaced one season to the next.

The majority of content and material things is not made to last anymore.

The same is true for online tools.

Startups aim to capitalize on trends and our desire for convenience, launching new apps and services every day to solve the same problems.

We are so accustomed to something new and seemingly better around the corner, we don’t commit to anything anymore. Not to clothes, to music, to online tools or physical products. Companies and publishers recognize this and see a shortcut. If you don’t care about the quality, they have no reason to either.

But the blame is on us as consumers as well. We are insatiable, easily bored, easily distracted. If your app isn’t delivering new features a mile a minute, we’re out. If a new app springs up that offers the same thing in a shiny new package (and it will), we’ll abandon your app and jump to the next one.

We’ve lost our sense of pride as producers and consumers.

The heirlooms you receive from your grandparents are treasured, passed down generation to generation. A silk scarf, beautiful in its worn softness. A piece of furniture, as solid and stately as the day it was built. A physical toolbox, carefully polished and organized after decades of use. Today, we’re satisfied with the item that will arrive soonest to us from Amazon. Where has our pride and care gone?

This is what inspired our vision for mymind. Everyday we ask ourselves: How can we take the beauty and care of a physical product that lasts generations, and apply it to a digital product?

Similar to an Eames chair, designed with love, purchased after careful consideration, placed in a prominent spot in the home, passed from family member to family member. We’ve always worked in the digital world, but we seek to build digital products similar to quality physical products of past times.

Consider a leather journal. You can touch it, smell it, hold it, feel the texture. It gets worn with use and that makes it more beautiful. You can hand it down. It’s cherished by those who inherit it.

Consider your vintage Ray-Ban glasses. You don’t throw them in your bag where they’ll be scratched, or leave them lying around where they’ll easily break or be stolen. You wear them, carefully clean the lenses and put them back in their case. You might have another cheap pair of throwaway glasses you use now and then. But you’ll always have your Ray-Bans. They were designed to last, to be loved.

While it may not be as rewarding in the short-term, we want mymind to be that kind of product.

We don’t want to stress about keeping up with other tools (many of them here today, gone tomorrow) and shipping new features to satisfy “users” who demand it. We don’t want to try to meet every need and create a monster of a product, dinging bells and tooting whistles until we spontaneously combust. We want to achieve the purest form of our tool and let it continue to be that. We want to be here 10 years from now. We want to create, if possible, the digital equivalent to the iconic chair, sunglasses or notebook. Something you proudly care for, polish, return to, count on year after year. Something you own for a long, long time.

The desperation for newness is a sickness of technology.

It’s a disease perpetuated by algorithms, desire for immediate satisfaction and the craving of dopamine unfulfilled by unhealthy lifestyles.

Refusing to succumb to that illness requires saying no. As creators and business owners, it requires forgoing the temporary rush of users riding one tool to the next. It requires coming back to our original mission, over and over again, every time we make a decision about our tool.

And we hope it leads to something meaningful. A tool built to last.

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