When we were both 16, my best friend had an early smartphone – one of the first that made use of a stylus. One day, as a group of us were hanging out, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pencil – an full-on, exemplary, wooden one – and started using it on the screen of his phone. Pre-empting the obvious question, he nonchalantly said: “Oh, I lost the stylus”, as if that was enough of an answer.
“But what are you going to do with all the pencil marks?”
Without missing a beat, he reached into his pocket again and produced an eraser, and proceeded to demonstrate its use, extremely, but perhaps undeservedly, proud of himself.
“Maybe you should use a pen, and then you could also use correction fluid [kind of like white paint, for all you kids born after 1990]”, one of us deadpanned.
I thought of this story because of what I’ve built while we’ve all been in lockdown: Something that technically solves a problem, but is inspired for all the wrong reasons.
Throughout my life on the internet, there have been a few very specific, but annoying problems that have come up often enough for me to decide to solve them:
- I can’t easily transfer text between devices. For example, when I come across a link on my computer/phone that needs to be transferred to the other device, it’s an instant ordeal . “Oh but Bryan,” you say, “you can just send an email to yourself; you can create another account on Facebook, add yourself as a friend, and send a message to yourself; you can record a YouTube video of yourself reading out the link to that fantastic post on Reddit”. To which I say: I’m a civilized person who doesn’t need to hijack the purpose of other products in my life, thereby adding to the clutter.
- I can’t share things with a group of people, and update that information, or the recipients, later. My friends and I recently went on a trip together, and we ended up start sharing potential AirBnB links through group text. Worst. Idea. Ever. First of all, our party kept expanding/shrinking, so new people would come in and we’d have to replay what they’ve missed. Second, we’d “vote” on things, but there’d be no way to keep track of who thinks what in the endless scroll of links and link previews. And no, I’m doing starting a Google Doc – life is too short to deal with people saying “I don’t have permission to view this” and “the app on my phone doesn’t work”.
- There’s stuff that 10,000 years ago, we’d write down on a post-it note because it kind of matters but not really. Like grocery lists. Today, that’s a bit archaic. Scraps of paper are easy to lose, and writing involves muscles that few of us use anymore. I wanted something that would persist a bit, but that I wouldn’t feel too bad over if it got deleted.
Anyway, for all those reasons, I decided to overengineer a solution and build a webapp: kopi.click. To use it, just add your own string to the end of the url (e.g., kopi.click/bryan).
It’s running on React with node/mongo as the backend, and it took me way too long to build given the scale of the problem, partially because I had no idea what I was doing, but I enjoy using it and hope you do too.