I was going to write about IQTell, but I was infilterated

IQTell is an kitchen-drawer work management tool. I use the term kitchen drawer because IQTell is actually a data-oriented platform for making IQTell applets, which share the characteristic of form-based UI and an architecture that supports nesting of apps within other apps. So, for example, a Waiting For app — for task where you are waiting for someone to do something — can be found at the top level of all applications, but also embedded in a Project app.

Screenshot 2014-03-09 12.36.28

As you see above, the top-level apps are in the left hand margin, and the panel to the right shows a particular project, Project X, being edited.

Within going too far down the rabbit hole, I will say this. IQTell shares all the strengths and weaknesses of data-centric and form-based generalized work management tools. I am reminded of Lotus Notes, which was beloved by developers who could tweak it to support almost any sort of form-based app, but disliked by users because a/ all the apps looked and felt alike, and b/ since all the apps have about as much style as a spreadsheet, they lack any notion of activity-specific user experience. It’s just an endless series of boxes that you type into, laid out like a paper form.

If you contrast this with the exquisitely effective Asana or the lyrically attractive Todoist, you’ll understand why I had to cut short my evaluation. I am certain there are advocates of IQTell or other platformish, all-in-one solutions who will argue about the power and flexibility of these solutions, but that’s akin to the programmers who argue for using assembly language instead of high-level programming language. It’s an almost religious dispute.

IQTell integrates with other popular services, like email (Gmail, Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, iCloud, Aol, and ‘other’) and Evernote, for example. After connecting my Gmail to IQTell, I realized that Google has infilterated me. What do I mean by infilterated? The new Google method of algorithmically distributing emails into a prioritized tabs makes it almost impossible to shift to a different email client. The reason is simple: because Google does such a great job of filtering I am willing to sign up for more email services now than I did in the past, since I can scan a low-priority tab — like Updates — and after opening one or two messages I can easily delete the rest without fear of losing anything important.

So poor IQTell and other apps that want to connect to my email fail at the first step, unless they emulate the tab interface exactly. I simply cannot imagine going back to a time before those filters, and I certainly don’t want to turn off all the services just to be able to tolerate an app like IQTell.

So, that brought my evaluation of Gmail integration to a quick end. Your mileage will vary if you are using Aol or other mail services, but I bet other Gmail users will feel the way I do. And the same  may be true of the Evernote integration, since power users of that service may find the emulation in IQTell falls short. I can’t really say, since I am not a power user of Evernote.

Let’s return to the first point, that IQTell is a platform on which all sorts of applets can exist and interoperate. In principle, having a flexible but broad solution in which you can do a great many things sounds good. But when you actually try to use a Swiss Army knife’s screwdriver instead of an actual screwdriver that is well-sized for the particular job at hand — like repairing a watch versus putting together an Ikea bed — you will put down the Swiss Army tool and get the phillips head from your toolbox.

I will contrast IQTell with Podio though. Podio is a work management solution with modern notions of activity streams and project-oriented work contexts. However, Podio also supports the notion of data-oriented forms-based apps, which can be user-defined or accessed from an app store. These could be lightweight CRM or customer support apps, or a hiring database. Since the app forms can be embedded on websites, they can be used to communicate with outside contacts. Given all that, though, the user experience of Podio is in general not forms-based: it feels and acts like a modern web application. That is not the case with IQTell. To me IQTell looks like something that could have been running on a CRT connected to a mainframe 15 years ago.

So for three aesthetic reasons, I cut short my exploration of IQTell. First, the form-oriented interface made it difficult for me to love it, and the Gmail infilteration problem made it hard to imagine using it with Gmail. And lastly, I am an advocate of using the best tool for the job, even if that involves using many unintegrated apps. So, Gmail is an example of the best filtering approach in email, and I am using other tools for their strengths, as well.

So as with people, so with tools. I love my friends for their strengths, but I don’t try do everything with all of them. Some I talk film with, others cook with me, and still others I work with. I’d rather suffer the occasional hiccup of moving from one great tool to another than the constant pain of using an all-in-one tool that isn’t great at anything, and never fits the hand for whatever it is I am trying to do, at any given moment.