Remember the Milk's gone sour

For too long I've fallen into the trap of keeping emails in my inbox and re-reading them on different occasions to jog my memory on what I needed to do with them. A couple of months ago I installed the GTDInbox Firefox extension for Gmail, which is a productivity assistant designed to help you focus on reading and dealing with email at the first attempt i.e. action it or archive the email. Like many others, I found its' presence encourages you to be more disciplined by categorising the item on opening.

Last week I read an article about Remember the Milk ("RTM"), a simple online task manager service that had released a Blackberry companion, the attraction being that it wirelessly synchronised with the online service. I confess that the last time I'd looked at the offering, admittedly some time ago, it was a simple standalone online task manager. Since then, they've evidently invested considerable effort in linking it to numerous services, most notably Gmail.

My immediate reaction was that GTD Inbox and RTM would be excellent stable mates inside Gmail, performing complementary functions to enhance my productivity. I was therefore dismayed and astonished to find that these two Firefox add-ins are seemingly incompatible each other. After installing RTM for Gmail, whilst GTD Inbox continued to work, the RTM add-in continually kept logging itself out mere seconds after being refreshed/logged in.

Looking for a solution to what I presumed must be "my user error", I managed to contact ProductiveFirefox, creators of GTD Inbox to report the problem. Andy Mitchell, its' founder, responded quickly and said he knew of the issue, but would need to work with RTM to resolve it as evidently the two applications were competing for the same Gmail resources. Sadly without chatting the code through with RTM [which they don't publish] he couldn't easily resolve it. Positively, he indicated that he'd be delighted to collaborate with RTM to fix this as he too realises these applications are perfect complements for each other and not competitors.

Sadly, I've had less luck speaking with RTM but I do hope that they will be as open to resolving the issue, as I'm sure many people would like to use both and evidently there are some 80,000 users of GTD Inbox currently denied the chance to use RTM. Come on RTM, please freshen the milk.

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posted by John Wilson @ 4:46 PM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Emily Boyd said...

Hi John, Emily from RTM here. :) Sorry to hear about your problems with our RTM for Gmail extension!

By way of explanation, we go to a lot of effort to make sure that when RTM for Gmail is loaded, we don't modify any of Gmail's internal code in a way that changes its behaviour. From a code perspective, RTM for Gmail should be invisible to both Gmail itself and other extensions -- this is important as it ensures that we don't break any of Gmail's functionality or cause problems for other extensions.

Not all extensions work similarly though, so we've just updated our extension to guard against other extensions that are modifying Gmail's internal code and changing its behaviour (whether intentionally or not :). However, there's only so much we can do to work around this kind of problem. :(

I've let Andy know that this is happening with GTDInbox (it's not actually RTM and GTDInbox competing for the same Gmail resources, but rather that GTDInbox is modifying the resource's behaviour, causing problems for RTM and potentially for Gmail itself).

We would love for our extension to be as compatible with as many others as possible (we know there are a lot of great Firefox extensions out there!), but unfortunately we can't guarantee compatibility with extensions that make modifications to Gmail's internal code like this.

Hope this helps!

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Andy Mitchell said...

Thanks Emily (and John for raising this point).

While I'm still in the dark as to why it only seems to be a problem with RTM (and why RTM can inhibit GTDInbox), the RTM guys were good enough to evaluate the GTDInbox source and make several suggestions.

GTDInbox still has a long journey to go (there are some very cool new features in development), and there will never be a day where I run out of improvements/fixes on the to-do list :) I'm away from my office at the moment, but there are definitely some things I can try to improve within the next few days.

With the combination of RTM better insulating itself, and some tweaks I can do to GTDInbox - including an outright option to disable any features that could potentially clash with other addons (giving the user the final choice for what they can do) - I'm hoping we'll be able to get the two addons working harmoniously.

It's certainly in the interest of everyone to do this. RTM is a solid, pure task management tool with scope beyond Gmail; whereas GTDInbox is a great mechanism for a faster and more manageable inbox. I.e. they are great running mates, and for many users, I suspect the sum will be greater than the parts.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger John Wilson said...

Emily, firstly thanks for taking the time to drop by and respond. Given the sizeable GTD user base, I hope this will be a sufficient motivator to collaborating with Andy to get this fixed.

Andy, delighted to hear you are also keen to resolve the issue with RTM. I definitely agree the two services are greatly enhanced when used in combination.

Personally, I think the two ventures should cross-promote each other given the complementary nature of the offerings. Ultimately, if you ever look to crystalise the value of your respective businesses, adding more active users always helps the valuation. You should be able to easily drive traffic to each other without injuring your own value. You'd be stupid not to IMHO.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Paul Thompson said...

What a shame that not all projects are willing to collaborate. I am, however, very excited to see that at least Andy from Productive Firefox is working in his next release to accomodate for this issue. Thanks again for all of the hard work, Andy...

Oh yeah, will someone PLEASE read my blog! :)

Ok, I am not really THAT desperate. But the address is

At 8:32 PM, Blogger David said...

Really not sure why you are having trouble with the two working together. They both work fine for me. I have been using GTDInbox for about 6 months and just started using RTM for GMail about a week ago.


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