Studying Failre

Yes, I know. Failure is something that has been on my mined a LOT lately, mostly about my own failures. But I am curious about other big, noticeable failures. And as odd as this is, I came across one today entirely by accident: I upgraded Skitch on my work computer and noticed that massive changes immediately. A few tweets and google searches later and come to find out that Evernote really did a number on both Skitch and the old-school, fanatical user base it has in place. It wasn’t that they just changed it and made it awful, but they pushed a major change out through an auto-update tool and then pulled availability of the older version. They relented, and then even apologized and said “We’ll fix it.” I wish them luck. Broken trust is a lot like broken bones: they heal back if you mend them, but there will always be the memory that it happened. You’ll always be a little more careful doing that thing you did.

That set me out to look up yet another big failure online in the past few years: Google Reader. Google set out to pretty much make Plus the go-to social end-all be-all of their answer to all things social. Anything else that existed in their catalog was swept up into Google Plus and assimilated. None more loathed than the destruction of the Google Reader community. For a while, I never really thought this had much of an impact on me, but I have that I use Reader less and less. I have slowly unsubscribed to a great number of feeds. I only keep a bare bones set of things in there now or use it as a search tool for job hunting. I never realized how much interesting stuff came my way through the sharing features. And I never realized how much I used starring and other features now in Reader’s glorious past.

I really can only address the failure from a user perspective. Skitch and Reader both seemed to fail for the same reasons, though: integration with a larger infrastructure paid for by the user experience. The things that people loved about both of these thins seemed to be the things both companies wanted most to eliminate. It’s like making the new Star Trek and you decide that Kirk was cool and all but really the movies main characters should be the janitorial robots. (On the other hand, Red Dwarf proved that premise is actually pretty fun.) “No more Kirk. We know classic Trek fans will miss Kirk, but we thought long and hard about this and robot toys are easy for us to make more money from as we don’t need to pay any actors.”

While I am facing my own personal struggles and failures, I am examining the failures of these two silly software and information services and asking if trying to upgrade my own path in life through integration with a larger, societal and cultural infrastructure will lead me to be just a more failed version of myself missing even the smallest parts I liked to begin with.

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