I Want Grass-Fed Software

Don’t you?

Organic Slack, No-Hormones-Added Facebook, and Whole Wheat WhatsApp. Yum! Organic food is finally mainstream. People are choosing to pay more for foods that are healthier for them and better for the environment. It’s time we start talking about the confining cages, fattening feed and unsanitary conditions of the technology we use everyday.

So what does grass-fed software mean to me (hint: I’m not talking about computers eating grass)?

Producing a product that prioritizes the health of the customer and society, over production cost and market opportunity.

In tech, doing the healthy thing for customers may come at the expense of user engagement and revenue. That should be fine.

Moving beyond engagement

Social

Tech companies are never satisfied with engagement. If you work at Snapchat and your average user interacts with your app 50 times a day, you know what you’re going to do? Try to grow that to 60 times a day. I can hear the brainstorming now: “What if we email users a curation of the best snaps of the week?” or, “What if we notify people when someone posts a snap in a location near them?”.

Let’s be real—50 times a day is disgusting enough. Why are you trying to grow that? Is growing your engagement beneficial for society or is it just beneficial for your advertisers?

Look Snapchat, there’s nothing wrong with you existing. But let’s be honest, you’re dessert. I love dessert, who doesn’t? But being a dessert comes with a responsibility. You shouldn’t want people to consume you all day everyday, because eventually you will kill them!

If you’re craving something sweet, at least choose a flourless dark chocolate cake with coconut shavings and a pinch of integrity.

“Productivity” Software

You’re at work, about to dive in to solving a juicy problem for your customer.

You’re getting some momentum, ideas are flowing… PING
Bob: “Hey, can you send that file you showed me yesterday?”. 
You: “Here you go”. 
Okay, where was I… PING! 
Bob: “Thanks”.

Our software has no problem interrupting us. Real time communication looks empowering on paper but in practice I fear it’s destroying our ability to produce great work. Teams across the country are using software that forces them to be always available and connected.

The cultural expectation to respond has gone from 24 hours to 24 seconds.

In the era of information workers, deep work is a requirement for delivering great work and meaningful outcomes. Yet, companies with some of the best and brightest are using software that has adopted the social media paradigm of “look at me right now” instead of respecting the importance of focus and flow.

If you create productivity software, increasing engagement shouldn’t be your goal—it should be the opposite.

Organic movement for software

Organic foods are big business these days (hence Amazon purchasing Whole Foods). But that wasn’t always the case. Decades ago, organic foods were produced by a few idealistic farmers that had the grit and integrity to turn away big checks in order to produce foods they could stand behind, and was only purchased by the “hippies” and the “health freaks”.

Well now it’s software’s turn. After all, we use software more often than we eat. Shouldn’t it be produced with our health and well-being in mind? I think so. But don’t listen to me, I’m just a “health freak”.

Learn more about how Backpack is creating grass-fed products for teams.