design  /  visual art  /  writing  /  reading  /  podcast

The Friction App

I have never been good at keeping a sketchbook. This may be because my handwriting is—at best—barely legible, but it is also because keeping a sketchbook takes effort. It takes a concentrated amount of thinking and action to write yourself a note, or paste a clipping from a newspaper, or make a little drawing of something you see. You have to make a real decision to put something into your sketchbook. It is a physical thing that takes up space, and it is finite—you will eventually fill up the pages and have to start a new sketchbook. Then there is the sketchbook accessories, namely a pen or pencil. You can run out of ink. You need to keep the pencil sharp.

Saving things from the Internet is the exact opposite—it tales virtually no effort to save something. You can drag a link, image or text snippet right to your desktop. You can get one of hundreds of note management apps like Evernote or Yojimbo to tag and sort all this stuff you want to save. You can use the cloud and pin interesting things to Pinterest or add it to your Tumblr. It is easy to save anything, anywhere, anytime—so much so that you do not even need to consider if something is really worth saving. When you add in the ubiquity of the smartphone, not only can you save everything, you can access everything, anywhere. Your phone (when used with the Cloud) never runs out of space. Everything you have ever saved can be brought up quickly.

Content on the Internet is extremely low friction—it is very portable and can be seen, saved and referenced from nearly anywhere. In may ways this is fantastic, and this is a big part of what makes the Internet so incredible. The problem is that because it is so low friction, it is too easy to consume and save things. We save everything. We no longer consider if these things we save and pin and copy are worth the effort.

I can only speak for myself, but I wonder if it is time to see less things. Save less stuff. Tag fewer ideas. I think I need to go back to the friction of a physical sketchbook—to the effort of remembering something. In the rather brilliant iPhone App/Essay “Fish”, Robin Sloan makes us consider what it is we love online—I highly recommend you download and read it. I too have an idea for an app—a Friction App. An app that makes it more difficult to save things. An app that makes you seriously consider what it is you are choosing to keep track of. Maybe instead of saving everything and not worrying about it, we can save some things that we actually spend time considering.

© Mitch Goldstein /