Why Remember The Milk Sucks

I saw @gumara used it a while ago and then I saw @sugree used it few days ago. It's time to try but what I found is Remember The Milk (RTM) sucks!

The crucial thing for any given GTD apps is it must be anywhere but invisible. "Be anywhere" means you can access it anytime you have something popup in your head. "Invisible" means its operation (to add/remind task) must be less obstruction for you as possible. I blogged about this in Notification Console

RTM follows this approach by trying to be anywhere and it does quite well. You can access RTM via web, mobile, email, IM, twitter and so on. But RTM fails to be intuitive (read 'un-obstructive') to use. In other words, RTM has good concept in mind but its implementation sucks. Now let see its bad points in detail. I'll divide them by interface.

Web

1. Clutter interface

RTM web interface is modern, fast and AJAXified. However, it's cluttered.

Let the picture tells itself. This is RTM main task management page. Could you find the most important 'add task' button? (It took me around 5 second to find it)

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

The first problem is there are too many objects in this page so that the 'add task' doesn't stand out. While bigger red button can help, it'd better to remove unused object.

RTM comes with several Web 2.0 features: label, sharing and map-based location. Not everyone (at least me) use these features and there is no way to remove them from our sight.

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

I don't want tagging feature nor notes. I rarely want to insert URL or location. I just want damn simple task list. Why RTM shows these information to me?

Simplicity is damn important issue for GTD application (even if it's real world object). If GTD app makes you feel annoying or need to spend more effort, it fails since you will ditch it in the near future.

2. Tab hides important information

Ok, some people might need labeling/categorization to keep their tasks organized. But Tab/Folder interface is too 90s. The weak side of tab is it shows the content from one tab each time and hides the content in the other tabs.

From the picture, you can't see the content in Inbox tab, right?

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

There are already better implementation around. Let's see Gmail labeling interface.

Google Mail - Inbox (542) - markpeak@gmail.com

Unobstructive and multi-item at once. Also easy to distinguish by color code.

3. No natural language parser for task input

This one is the main reason I think RTM sucks. It can't parse your task input for date or place. You can see from the screenshot that RTM threats my input as normal text.

If you don't want to bother clicking and typing to edit date/place information later, you need to remember RTM syntax first. It can't handle natural phrase (even simple phrase like my case).

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

It might be ok if you don't have this feature in 2000. But now it's 2008 and competitors like Google Calendar set the bar high. See the screenshot.

Google Calendar Google Calendar

And the irony is RTM Twitter interface can do this job, while RTM web interface can't.

4. It breaks free tagging convention

RTM tag adding follows Web 2.0 free tagging convention (like Flickr or Delicious, you don't need to create tag before use, just do it on the fly). Good but it works only for tag, not the location. (But these two fields look like similar!!!)

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

Most of the time, you know where your location/destination is (e.g. "Uncle's house" or the only 7-11 next door) but in RTM, location must be geographic coordinator. You need to find the exact place from the map first, save them and then you can use them in RTM.

This breaks the behavior of simple post-it note taking.

5. It doesn't know how to deal with date

Please see this screenshot and imagine what will happen after you click on the calendar icon.

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

What do you expect? A popup calendar like normal travel website, right? (Example from Kayak.com)

Cheap Flights, Airline Tickets, Cheap Airfare & Discount Travel Deals - Kayak.co.uk

But sorry, you're wrong. This what happens actually. A Simple TextboxTM.

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

Dealing with date/time format is extremely difficult. How can I know the way to put my date in this box?

Let's try easiest thing first, time only.

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

Ok, quite impressive. But In Thailand, we use 24-hrs clock system. Let's try it too.

Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

RTM folks. The world is not limited only USA and several western countries.

IM

I use Gtalk for this job. Unfortunately, RTM Gtalk can only 'remind' you the task. You can't add new task via GTalk.

For Twitter user like me (who ever used Twitter two-way IM interface), this is unacceptable and makes RTM GTalk useless.

Twitter

Unlike IM, you can both add/remind task with RTM via Twitter. The process is easy: just follow @RTM, send the verification code and then send @RTM direct message to add new task.

Twitter Remember The Milk - Isriya's Tasks

It can't parse the location but still can recognize the date/time (it's wrong date anyway due to above problem). Why web interface can't ?!!!! Do they come from the same company?

I'm impressed with RTM Twitter. The only downside is a bit delay (~1 minute) for the task from Twitter to appear in web.

Email

It is possible to add task by email. However, RTM email gateway can't parse your natural query too (even the simple query). You need to remember its format. This is from RTM Help page.

Remember The Milk - Help / FAQ / Sending Tasks / How do I email a task into my Inbox?

Remembering special format code means more cost of participation to use it.

Others

@sugree told me the RTM's Gmail web extension is killer solution. But as I wrote in Notification Console, why I need to install something while I can do it with my existing 'console' (unfortunately, RTM interfaces with my 'console' are all broken).

RTM tries to be ubiquitous as possible. Beside of all above, we can access it from Google Calendar, iGoogle, iPhone, BlackBerry, Firefox Ubiquity or write your own channel via RTM API. With my previous failures, I have no incentive to try these channels, sorry.

Conclusion

RTM sucks, period. But I spend my effort writing this blog to give 'constructive advice' to RTM staff somehow. I hope these problems could be fixed if the developers know they are problem.

With no usable GTD client available, I'd better rely on my brain rather than using bad products.

Comments

+1 Sometimes their ability

+1

Sometimes their ability is looks so 2.0, but then their interface makes them go back to 1.0 .. which I don't think it's really acceptable, as an interface designer :)

Ah.. 'add task' button..

Ah.. 'add task' button.. took me about 10 seconds to find it because I expected it to be at the right sidebar somewhere, or near 'complete' and 'postpone.'

The Web 2.0 features can be used only when I update the tasks on the web page, which I do not prefer doing so. These features, esp. tags, may be suitable for group reminder or group event that group members share the same RTM page.

I dislike tha tabs because I cannot use them. The labeling you mentioned is great. And if 'tags' can really be used to group which notes are for which tags, that will be better than the tabs. I also wish I can use '#' to create a tag. Tried that via Twitter and did not work ;p

For the 'Due' issue, you can type 2100 or 21. to get 9pm, apart from typing 9pm. However, 21.00 can't.. So, type 0900 instead of 9.00. Hahaa.. Funny, but true. Because of you, I tried this.

I am still not sure if my RTM works or if it works effectively, while I found @sugree loves it!

Oh, and I also add RTM to my Google Calendar, hoping that I can get an alert to my mobile like when Google Calendar does. Unfortunately, the time zone in RTM cannot be changed and it is not Bangkok time - -" Thus, I get the SMS alert in the wrong time from RTM.

ป.ล. ตั้งใจให้รูปหลุดออกนอกหน้าฤ? ;p

I don't think there should

I don't think there should be that much default list for most people. "Personal", "Work", "Study". Actually I'm only using "Inbox" and share the list with others. Right now I just want to delete all those list.

Anyways, the whole idea of this tool is great enough. I'm still using it.

I think the IM (Twitter, GTalk) need a bit lift up. Why don't it talk back to me? I want something like "d rtm !list" or "!list" and it throw me the list of things to do. Right now I can't see anything. Seems RTM communicate to me using only e-mail.

BTW, @markpeak, can you do this design (again) with the next generation grid-monitoring-system?

@EscRiBiTioNiSt® yes, it's

@EscRiBiTioNiSt®

yes, it's my intention not to scale it too much.

@Somsak

I can do any paid job :P

About 2 years ago, I had

About 2 years ago, I had been using RTM quite a lot. Somehow, though, I stopped using it for I don't know exactly what the reason is. Maybe it has got too many features, which mostly, doesn't matter to me, as you suggested.

You nailed RTM's UI cons in this article. Got surprised by the fact that it can't parse 24-hour time format. I think they havn't changed the interface since the site was launched. Maybe that they don't want to confuse the users?

Do you accept paid in DVD

Do you accept paid in DVD currency? We got plenty of that (actually @sugree got plenty of that)

The worst part for me about

The worst part for me about their interface is the way they act on tasks. Is there any other task management tool out there where a checkbox is present but it's not the way you complete a task? HELLO?

While I'm writing about this, what is with the division between the task and that box over on the right that has the properties. How 90's can you get. Why not expand the task (slide it down or something) instead of dotted line to the other side of the screen... what is that a balloon string?

Ah! Finally someone who gets

Ah! Finally someone who gets it!

Ever tried renaming a task? Or *gosh* deleting one? It's several clicks and a lot mouse movement.

How is RTM this popular? I mean seriously!

I'd hate to see how long your rant on the mobile interface is.

Impressive words! It was sad

Impressive words!

It was sad when I found that I can not add a new RTM task via GTalk.
And it was so pissed off when I found that I have to remember(or maybe LEARN) some keywords or format to add new Task via Email.

Well, finally I found the reason why I used notepad instead so many GTD clients/services, basically they just blocked my mind with keyword, mouse movements and many other un-related operation to add a record that flashed in my head. After I figured all them out, I nearly forget the thing I was going to do, to write down, or to remember.

"The crucial thing for any given GTD apps is it must be anywhere but invisible. ", this just hit the point.

While I generally agree with

While I generally agree with your comments, the things that sets RTM apart is the Gmail Firefox extension. I don't use the web interface at all basically. With the Gmail Firefox extension and Ubiquity installed, I can do all my task management from within Gmail (and it is certainly leaps and bounds better than Gmail's built in task tool).

Here's why I think RTM sucks

Here's why I think RTM sucks (and I found this page by googling RTM sucks): it's unreliable. After deciding I needed a weekly reminder, I decided to compare RTM and PingMe around 6 months ago. I set up 2 repeating tasks on each, my regular Thursday task and a daily reminder that would indicate to me whether the services were reliable and trustworthy. PingMe has worked flawlessly. RTM stopped sending me the daily reminder after 4 days. Their weekly reminder continued to work, though, until a couple weeks ago when it suddenly stopped. When I tried to get help from RTM, all I got was a BS automated response, no actual help or acknowledgment of a problem. When I had a problem with PingMe's interface, they responded to my query with help, an apology, and thanks for pointing out their instructions had been unclear.

yep RTM sucks / lot of my

yep RTM sucks / lot of my regular test stopped without warnings
http://www.willemijns.com/reminden.htm

It isn't only the RTM's HTML

It isn't only the RTM's HTML interface that sucks... their API is a piece of crap too. It's incredible how much effort is necessary to spent to make a simple piece of code that works. The documentation is poor and the access method is complicated (api_sig?! wtf?!). Conclusion: RTM API was done to NOT be used.

As much as I like the idea of

As much as I like the idea of RTM, I think I will wait for a new release or some worthy competition. Better yet, I will use paper and pen.

If you use Gmail, Taskforce

If you use Gmail, Taskforce is probably the simplest and easiest way to create, manage and share tasks. The interface is clean and uncluttered, unlike RTM. It just went into public beta so grab it!

When I want to share tasks to

When I want to share tasks to other people it never arrives!! I was happy the first day, but I'm discovering more and more bugs... to many to be a useful tool!!!