One Medical

I started using One Medical a few months ago since my primary care is back in Boston and it was free as part of Justworks' benefits plan

They just closed a massive round today to continue scaling the business.

I'm not convinced that the in-doctor's-office experience is significantly better with One Medical, but outside the office is quite a ways better. The app makes coordinating everything much more efficient. Instead of calling a receptionist and trying to schedule an appointment, you can see all the openings and book asynchronously.

It's interesting to think that the primary service One Medical is offering (healthcare) isn't even the most compelling reason I will continue to use the service. The prospect of returning to a system where I have to talk on the phone to schedule an appointment is too painful to stop using them.

Sometimes when you're designing products, eliminating pain points caused by competitors, substitutes, or the status quo is a stronger differentiator than than trying to create something entirely new.

Dark Sky

One of my favorite apps, Dark Sky, got a major facelift today with the release of 6.0. If you haven't heard of it before, Dark Sky is the most magical weather app out there.

It tells you when and how much it's going to precipitate (rain, snow, golf ball-sized hail, etc.) up to minutes before you're caught outside unprepared. I was skeptical at first, but it's saved me many times.

The app isn't free though. It costs $3.99. That might seem like a lot, but it will pay for itself the first time it alerts you of incoming rain. Also, it's hyperlocal weather forecasts make you feel like you have superpowers.

If you're on iOS, you can check it out on the App Store here.

Instapaper

I started using Pocket half a decade ago.

By today's standards, that's a long time to use most non-social media apps. Yesterday though, the run ended as I switched to Instapaper and became a paying subscriber. I can't remember Pocket changing significantly at all over those last five years, other than being purchased by Mozilla. Perhaps that's the problem.

It felt old, and my perception wasn't being delighted anymore. Instapaper seemed really fresh. Because they had been in the news recently (albeit for mostly unrelated reasons), I decided to take another look.

When I started exploring Instapaper's features, all of them were clear improvements or additions over Pocket's feature set: Highlighting text, send to Kindle, no ads in the feed. I felt the same excitement about Instapaper that I did when I first started using Pocket. I get to carry around all these wonderful stories with me all the time.

Near the end, Pocket became an article graveyard. I wasn't even excited to open the app to read these wonderful stories anymore.

All that said, Pocket introduced me to the concept of read-it-later apps. (I never used Delicious.) And much had changed since I started using it. Today, the content I consume looks largely different along with my reading habits. I also have a Kindle. This combination of things could have been the main reason.

Most likely these things were just the tipping point though. Pocket didn't do anything majorly wrong to lose me as a user. But, they did not do enough to keep me either.

Notion

A few months ago, a couple friends kept insisting I try Notion. It almost seemed like a coordinated effort. But they were persistent, telling me how they used it for everything from organizing work to taming their personal lives. Managing my life in an app, or at least just jotting down notes, is never something that appealed to me. I need to ascribe specific, narrow purposes to the tools I use. Otherwise, it's hard to understand when to reach for one. Tools that try to do too many things often fall short of doing anything particularly well too.

After using Notion, I'd still much rather keep taking physical notes, but it's undeniably an elegant product. It's very clean. You're welcomed by a simple homepage. They aren't begging you to sign up. They tell the story of Notion, and why you may be interested.

I started using the product as a personal CRM to keep track of relationships. In the past, I used Google Sheets, which is great for listing things out, but doesn't allow you to provide any depth. The cool part about Notion is that you can link records (in the spreadsheet setup) to pages, where you can add extra information that doesn't show up in the global CRM view. (I briefly tried Airtable and think they do this too.)

A few other nice touches are several helpful templates that get you started (including a personal CRM template), an offline mode that actually works, dark mode, and "/" commands that keep your hands on the keyboard. Plus, did I mention how clean the interface is? Notion is free to get started, and you only pay once you hit the free plan's cap of "blocks" or file storage. I'm not even close to the limit yet, but the pricing seems extremely fair. My two friends that use it, pay for it. They usually don't pay for stuff like Notion, using free alternatives instead.

My one gripe is that while keybindings exist, they aren't very intuitive: cmd + p for search?

Last time I was out in SF, I was fortunate to meet up with Ivan and the rest of the Notion team. We had lunch and talked about how they build products. Often you never get to see behind the curtain or meet the folks that make the tools you use. Meeting the team, I got a good sense that the product will always be clean and provide utility. They are all users of the product so I can see why my friends will continue to be too.