Monday, July 27, 2015

Build Your Own

I'm a chronic do-it-yourselfer. I love shows like Fixer Upper and Yard Crashers. In fact, I'm certain that the DIY network and HGTV have my picture on some internal memo of a customer profile sheet, along with details like my age, income, and "likely to buy more tools than he needs" or "willing to try any project to avoid paying someone else to do it." So naturally, when things go wrong (whether actual construction or otherwise), my first instinct is to see whether or not I can fix or build a replacement myself. I also won't hide that my wife, who is much smarter than I am, occasionally has to convince me that some things are best done by a professional. When it comes to projects other than the house, though, I have to do some of the evaluation and convincing myself.

A few years ago, I was using what I still think is one of the best to do list apps to ever hit the market, Astrid. You can still Google "Astrid To Do" and find some pretty positive reviews of it. The squid character that installed with the app was, albeit cheesy, the perfect combination of annoying and charming that it positively encouraged me to make my way through the to do list. Combine that with a pretty powerful scheduling interface, and I had a perfect app for me. Unfortunately, Yahoo purchased the app and for some bizarre reason just shut it down. I searched through so many replacement apps that I strongly considered building my own, even if I ended up being the only user. But I did not build it myself, because I chose not to spend my time on it, there were sufficient numbers of apps that were "good enough" to replace my to do app, and I did not have a need for it.

Recently, Buffer (an app that I can't do without to keep the social sites updated) announced that it was killing its Suggestions feature. The feature basically suggests content for you to push into your various streams. I have used it once or twice, but I've also found some extremely stale content in the list, and stuff that wasn't relevant to my target audience (that's you if you're reading this). Buffer even noted as much in their explanation of why they were shutting down the Suggestions feature. In this case, though, when I considered building a replacement (for myself), the story was a little different. I already had other content suggestion mechanisms in place (mostly Feedly, Flipboard, and Twitter), and simply needed to augment my Feedly with a couple of extra RSS feeds to be able to pull similar and likely more relevant content to share, which I thankfully can still do with Buffer. Problem solved.

At a fundamental level the question truly is whether to build or buy, whether new or replacements. It's not an easy answer. When you buy, you are hostage to the whims of the creator, who may destroy the product whenever he or she wants. When you build, you must have invested in the necessary tools and be ready to spend the time to make it succeed. Certainly building is easier if you are already halfway there.

What criteria would you put in a build it or buy it decision? Leave a comment and let me know.

Image credit: stephanrinke via Pixabay