I’m tired of apps


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Every morning, I wake up by scrolling through my Twitter and Facebook feeds. It’s probably the most unhealthy thing I do to myself all day.  As I scroll through, about 1/10th of the content at any given time is ads, and 90% of those ads are for apps.

90% of Hacker News is now not interesting stories but people begging other people to check out their app.

Every tech-related mailing list I’m on is full of people proud to announce the launch of their web app and you can download it if you’re on iOS.

Marc Andreessen wrote that software is eating the world, which being in IT, I don’t mind. It should. Software only makes peoples’ lives easier on different levels, allowing people to work on other problems that aren’t so routine and repeatable.  And, people as the middle layer between machines will never go away.

But I think the real problem is that crappy apps are eating the world. Because we’ve reached peak app development, with apps that also prototype and design apps, and because of the slim chance of hitting it rich,  it’s extraordinarily easy to think of innovation just as churning out apps.

But I live in technology, and even I’m tired and oversaturated with apps.  I don’t want the opportunity to “integrate my Android calendars on three different levels.” I don’t want a social app that combines my Twitter and Facebook experience into something locally-enhanced. I don’t want an app that’s the same version of the site I access in the browser. I don’t want an ecommerce app that connects me to the latest fashions. I don’t need real-time analytics on my ad conversions.  I don’t want Fruit Ninja.

While apps and their walled gardens are taking over the world, all the best parts of the internet that made no money are slowly vanishing. Television Without Pity, which had the best recaps and reviews written by skillful writers, was bought by NBC Universal. It’s still up for now, but who knows what they’ll do with the archives?  One of my friends is getting married, so I was going to send her a link to Indiebrides, a site for women who didn’t want to plan their wedding by the book and which was instrumental to me in helping me to figure out there were women like me who didn’t freak out about white tulle, and made me feel less alone when I was planning my wedding in 2008. That site, full of hundreds of useful, thoughtful people,  is now gone, replaced by HuffPo filler.

I want technology that will help me think. Actually, I don’t even want technology. I want technology to tell me how to put down the technology and connect to people. I want technology to come help teach me to plant a garden. No, I don’t want a gardening app. I want a person who knows how to grow tomatoes. I want to talk to writers, real writers, not writers who want me to CLICK THROUGH TO READ MORE. I want to talk to doctors. I want to meet people near me, but I don’t want a geolocation service to do it.  I want to be at the beach and have no desire to take any pictures or look at anyone else’s.

The strange, weird world of the internet I knew as it was growing is gone.  When I was 12, I checked out a book from the library called the Internet Yellow Pages by Harley Hahn (obviously no longer in existence.) It listed thousands of the best sites in existence that year, and aside from describing them, he also wrote little essays about what it was like being in medical school, the time he wrote to Isaac Asimov and got a response, and hundreds of other small anecdotes that, today, form my understanding of not only the internet, but American society and also gave hundreds of tips that I won’t forget. One story that he wrote was when he was worried he wouldn’t know enough organic chemistry to pass the class, and Asimov, I believe, wrote back to him and said, “If you have a good enough library at your disposal, you can teach yourself anything. I have.” That’s always stuck in my mind.

I’m tired of apps, monetization, SEO, real-time, optimization, social. I’m tired of the Internet trying to monetize from me.   I want to talk to real people and read real good stuff that’s not clickbait.  But I don’t know what comes next. Maybe just going outside.