Organize All the Things!

I was on the train in to work this morning when an article came across my Google feed. The article is just one of many over the past few years that talk about task management tools and why Trello is inadequate, and decided that I’m tired of Trello being lumped in with apps that are specifically designed around application development and team/task management.

Which brought to mind the mantra that Trello started with:

Trello is probably the simplest thing in the world: it’s a web page where you make a bunch of lists.

That’s it! It’s just a web app that allows you to organize stuff.

While most people use Trello as a kanban or scrum board, it’s really more generic than that. I think that’s why so many people tend to shy away from it. Starting a new board, you really get… nothing. It’s up to you to decide how you want to organize your stuff, which is what makes it so great.

Yes, there are other apps that can do app development management better, but those apps are specifically designed to manage one thing: application development.

The intent

Trello was originally designed to provide the most basic, generic organization of anything. Some time ago, they posted the winners of a contest they held on who had the best uses for Trello. The winners really thought outside the box:

  • Task and team management for a project (yes, we’ve covered that it does this)
  • Planning and managing a novel (plot, characters, locations, etc.)
  • Real estate sales management (complete with automation)

I myself have used Trello for a variety of things.

  • Task management for Manatee.Json and Manatee.Trello. These are open-source libraries that I created. I started boards to manage my feature ideas, tasks, and bugs. I’ve since moved these things away from Trello to the GitHub issues list because it integrates with the repository better, but Trello is where I started. (Note that I used Trello to manage my .Net API wrapper for Trello. How meta is that?!)
  • Task management for my family’s move to New Zealand. I had lists for stuff to research, documents I needed, job opportunities, inventory (what to keep/sell/donate/trash), timeline, etc.
  • Blog post ideas.
  • Development project ideas.
  • Places and things my wife likes.
  • Recipes for meals my kids will actually eat.
  • Books I want to read.

Just off the top of my head, you can also use Trello to organize contacts (business and personal), your schedule, or your favorite colors.

Most of these don’t fit into the standard to-do list; it’s just lists of stuff.

Also, for those times when what’s offered just isn’t quite enough, they’ve opened up the application so that third party developers can make add-ons. There are a bunch of integrations that other people have written to combine Trello with other services and sites to make some really cool functionality.

My point is…

For any given task, e.g. application development, there might be a better tool than Trello: one that’s designed specifically for just that task. But when it comes to general organization of anything, Trello is the best.

So to everyone out there who looks to compare Trello to some other site explicitly designed for team and task management, don’t trash Trello because it lacks features it’s not supposed to have. Trello is perfect at what it’s intended to be.

That said…

In preparation for this post, I decided to take a look at Trello’s home page (you have to log out to see it). I was disappointed. It seems that they’re actually marketing it as a task/team management tool now rather than the generic organizational web app that it started as. Maybe that’s more in line with the enterprise-level offerings they now have, but it’s not in line with the original vision.

To that point, I think Trello should take a long look at its history. Hopefully, they’ll see what I see and revert their marketing to just saying what they are: a nice place to organize stuff.

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