Internet/Telecom/Social Media

The Tech Curmudgeon – Wunderlist jumps the shark

Jump the shark

Jump the shark

Smartphones are great organizational tools, what with their calendars, note taking apps, and the ability to download to-do list apps like Astrid, Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, and dozens of others. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and since different people want different GUIs and features, that’s all fine. Apparently, though, one of the disadvantages with Wunderlist, the to-do list app that the Tech Curmudgeon used to use, is that they like to do major software updates three days before Christmas.

Who in their right mind does a major software update on an organizational app three days before Christmas? Even if there are no problems with the update and everything goes perfectly, the update process alone could result in cranky users. Just imagine for a moment that you’re using Wunderlist to, oh, the Tech Curmudgeon doesn’t know, keep track of your Christmas shopping. How much would you like discovering that you have to update your app when you’re standing in line trying to check off the items you’re about to pay for? The Tech Curmudgeon knows he’d be a tad… annoyed.

Wunderlist’s update process didn’t actually update as such, it added. As in when the Tech Curmudgeon downloaded the new Wunderlist app, it didn’t replace the old one and automatically import all his settings like any properly designed app will do, it simply installed the new version of the app alongside the old one. Oh, and the icons were nearly identical, making figuring out which version was the correct version a guessing game the first times the Tech Curmudgeon used it.

Then the Tech Curmudgeon discovered that the new app had crashed Wunderlist’s server, so he couldn’t sync his to-do list with his wife’s. And when the servers came back a day or two later (yes, that would be Christmas Eve – the Tech Curmudgeon lost track of when they actually came back, since by then he’d largely abandoned the useless app in favor of pencil and paper), there was an undocumented feature bug that prevented the app on one smartphone (an iPhone) from syncing with the app on another smartphone (a Samsung Android phone). So much for the Tech Curmudgeon’s wife being able to check things off on one phone and having them show up as complete on his.

The Wunderlist desktop apps were just as screwed up as the smartphone apps, since they didn’t sync correctly either. Oh, and the Tech Curmudgeon had to download and install a second app instead of simply running an update for the original. Oh, and let us not forget that there wasn’t even an iPad app at all when Wunderlist released the so-called “update.”

And the problems didn’t end there. The original Wunderlist hid your completed items so that they didn’t clutter up your entire screen with useless junk. But the new-and-improved Wunderlist GUI made them all visible but faded. And if you happened to like the original GUI as the Tech Curmudgeon did, you were probably delighted to discover that there wasn’t even an option to hide the completed items anymore. The Tech Curmudgeon personally adores visually distracting GUIs – don’t you?

And while it never mattered in the original Wunderlist, if you wanted to clear away all that screen clutter, you had to delete each task. One. At. A. Time. No bulk delete option. No ability to select multiple tasks and delete all selected. Nada. If you’re like the Tech Curmudgeon, and you used Wunderlist for your grocery list, then you probably had hundreds of entries under the Grocery folder that you would have to delete. One. At. A. Time.

You know, if Wunderlist was made in a part of the world where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, the Tech Curmudgeon could probably forgive the abysmally poor timing of the update. But Wunderlist is produced by a company in Germany, and last the Tech Curmudgeon heard they celebrate Christmas there too.

What the Tech Curmudgeon can’t forgive, however, is the combination of rock-stupid timing, releasing an update before all the platforms were ready, forcing him to install an entirely new app and uninstall the old one, failing to anticipate the server load, busting the sync for several days, and turning a clean GUI into pure screen clutter without even providing an option to revert to the old interface.

Sure, the app’s free, but so are most of Wunderlist’s major competitors like Remember The Milk and Astrid. And even if Wunderlist had paid upgrades like its competitors do, after this debacle the Tech Curmudgeon wouldn’t trust Wunderlist’s makers with someone else’s money, never mind his own. The sheer lack of customer awareness – no, make that basic consciousness – exhibited by Wunderlist’s makers demonstrates that any paid upgrades would certainly be a waste of money.

Bye bye, Wunderlist. And by all means let the door launch you onto the sidewalk on the way out.

8 replies »

  1. I’ve spent plenty of time inside companies that do software, so I can make some educated guesses about how and why this happened. The overarching problem is probably that somebody up top established an artificial deadline of Christmas and then everyone put hitting the deadline ahead of, you know, doing it right. Which tells me something about the organization, and specifically leadership. These things happen more often in environments driven by fear of leadership.

    I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  2. After reading this, I kind of wonder if the Wunderlist folk are simply new to coding in general. I made a few dumb mistakes like this when I was fresh out of school. But the world of apps is less forgiving of mistakes than telecomm was when I started.

  3. I agree – a company that releases it’s main product in such a haphazard way, leaving off basic functions (can’t hide completed tasks? Seriously????) is a company that makes me nervous. I need something more reliable than this.

  4. Jan 12 and my Wunderlist lists still don’t match between my iPhone and iPad. And yes, having once upon a time trusted Wunderlist to be wonderful, I used it for groceries too. Now hundreds of things can’t be hidden and make trying to scroll on the screen useless. 6 Wunderkinder sure make you wonder how such dumkoph actions happen. Hope their venture capitalists didn’t sign an end of year bonus checks….

  5. Wunderlist is on several platforms, but its growth is obviously driven by its smartphone apps. The Apple App Store gets plenty of traffic on Christmas day as recipients of new “iToys” download apps. Wunderkinder already had its press marketing (and let’s not confuse the majority of “app review” sites that are actually nothing but advertisements with actual reviews) and an App Store feature in place for the Christmas holiday. Wunderkinder was going out with the turkey that is Wunderlist 2, regardless. Wunderkinder has released four updates to Wunderlist 2 since its release in December 2012. Clearly, there is no real app testing in place for the perpetual beta app that is Wunderlist. This Wunderkinder failure is not the first (e.g., major extended Wunderlist server failure in April 2012), and it will likely not be the last. I abandoned Wunderlist in December 2012, because the Wunderkinder promises of server improvements that it made in April 2012 were clearly B.S. Only fools waiting for their data to be lost are using Wunderlist now. Wunderlist is supposed to be a productivity app, but that is an ambitious goal for an organization that is, at best, marginally productive.

  6. Wunderlist is still unusable. I’m constantly logged out, sometimes after 2 minutes. Does anyone know of a good replacement?

    • Wunderlist lost most of my data after the update/server migration. I’ve switched to Paperless and I love it. You can try the free version which has all the features of the paid version, just a limit on the number of items. If you decide you want the paid version, importing your tasks from the free version is a breeze. Paperless also allows email and Dropbox export. The interface is beautiful, too. So far I’m pleased.

  7. Somehow after Wunderlist lost our xmas data shopping list, and all the pain from the month that followed (I had erased it from my memory until I saw the replies), I and my wife were still using Wunderlist. I had rolled back to 1.x on the older Android phone, and she kept on with the 2.x upgrades on iPhone.

    Well they look poised to do it again, lose data that is, she was adding items at home on the Kindle for shopping and we assumed they’d show up on our Android and iPhone screens at the store, oops. Well we remembered most of the shopping list, so when we got home I checked what had silently (why!?) gone wrong on the Kindle version, the sync menu said 8 items failed to sync.

    I went to the wunderlist support forum and they advise using a PC in incognito mode to login fresh to wunderlist to see a non-cached version of what wunderlist has in their database. Then we can manually add what didn’t sync (because, guess what they are going to lose it on the Kindle). Then logout on the Kindle (or iPhone, etc.) and login again, once you’ve lost the unsync’d data you should be good to go again. Sounds like something happens with their login cookies.

    So aside from the other obvious GUI messiness the Tech Curmudgeon describes, I’d like to add, that if the wunderlist app can reach its own website yet cannot store new items during background sync and I keep adding items, why doesn’t it warn me about it. I had to bring up the list of lists on the left and look at the status bar at the bottom (this is 2.x on the Kindle).