There is a plague, albeit of the First World variety, that has spread online through our technology…and it simply has to stop. I’m talking about the Tinkering.
By Tinkering, I mean screwing around with something that’s working perfectly well until you’ve basically ruined it. I mean not leaving well enough alone. Remember when Pinterest was, you know, a good place to pin and share images? Now anytime the iPhone app is anywhere near functional, I won’t update it for months. Like the very handy “You’ve just switched to the app with a URL in the clipboard, would you like to pin it?” feature, which works now about 7% of the time.
Another example: iOS 10 has broken the Music App. First of all, Apple Music–which is a service I would gladly subscribe to, just for the neat effect of being able to ask Siri to play whatever and get it played–thinks it knows better than me what cover art my songs need. Not the songs I play from it, but the songs I have on my iTunes and downloaded to my phone. I am very careful about what cover art I use, so I don’t like having something forced on me. You know, like sleep.
But now the Music App has denied access to the star rating system (which, you know, some of us were using), doesn’t really have a good way to queue songs anymore, and just basically looks like it was designed by someone who has no joy in their life whatsoever. It’s almost as if they didn’t test it with anyone who actually uses it before they released it.
Why would you get rid of features that actually work? Why would you add features that no one really wants to use…or at least why would you add them and make them mandatory?
I have a theory. The theory is: if you’re an app designer working for one of these people…and you get it right, 100% functional…you’re out of a job. At least until something changes in the environment and you have to do some sort of compatibility or security update. So. You. Tinker. Tinkering is the bane of people who are trying to use an app or a website, get in, do their thing, and get out. Tinkering throws things in your path that make you so irritated, you want to find a cute little bunny and punch it right in its twitching little nose.
Now, I understand that a lot of these apps and websites and so forth are trying to make money. I also understand that the designer and coders need to keep their jobs. So here’s what I propose.
We have the freemium model, right? The one that says we’ll give you this and you can have X number of options for free, but if you pay something, you get access to the whole range of stuff.
I’m suggesting that in some cases we need just the opposite. In one example, once Pinterest has perfected how people come to their site to do the stuff they come to the site to do, they stick a fork in it. That’s the paid version. If you want the free version, however, you have to accept whatever bullshit changes that come down the pike. That way Pinterest makes money and the coders keep their jobs.
Think this won’t work? Well, I don’t know about you, but making a free service so irritating you’ll pay to make the irritation go away worked with me for Spotify (the breaking point: some ad for a nouveau country album in the middle of listening to Ministry’s Psalm 69) and also YouTube (15 seconds per video over the course of the day started to equal a portion of my life I was never going to get back).
How much would you pay to have a site or an app that just works? Me, I’d happily pay $5 a month to not have to suffer the tinkering, and you know what? Make it $10 a month to lose the terrible advertising pins on Pinterest. Hell, throw in the ability to actually have Pinterest stop suggesting pins to me, and I’d plonk down a tenner easy. I’m not made of money by any stretch of the imagination, but dammit, I’m on stimulants a lot and I don’t need the blood pressure shooting up any more than necessary.
I ask these questions now not as comment bait but because I actually want to know: would you be willing to pay for a… what would we call it? “Free-from-the-bullshit-ium” model? If so, what apps or programs or sites would you pay to make them stop? And does the tinkering bother you, or should I call my therapist? Share things below. I am curious.