Superhuman & the Productivity Meta-Layer
https://julian.digital/2020/01/17/superhuman-the-productivity-meta-layer/

“The problem, Kevin argues, is that productivity and collaboration shouldn’t be treated separately. Instead, they should go hand in hand and that’s exactly what a lot of the latest productivity tools do: Figma, Notion, Airtable, etc all have messaging natively built in to their apps.”

“With more and more productivity apps creating their own messaging systems, users suddenly face a new problem: Multiple inboxes. You now have to check notifications in Github, Trello, Google Docs and half a dozen (if not more) other tools in your productivity stack.

Slack basically wants to be the unified notification center that captures all those incoming alerts from your productivity tools – a high frequency communications layer that ties everything together.”

“The way I see it notifications serve three important functions:

Being notified about (relevant) new developments
Taking actions on these developments (if necessary)
Building a (personalized) history of company records”

“As Kevin points out in his article, Slack only really handles the “being notified” part. Whenever you want to take action on notifications you have to switch to whatever app you’ve received the notification from. Productivity and collaboration remain separate.

There are a few exceptions though: Slack does integrate pretty well with a couple of tools and allows you to manage certain tasks straight from within the app. You can close and reopen issues and pull requests from GitHub, for example. Or create Asana tasks. Or instantly reply to Intercom messages.”

“Back in 2013, the Mailbox team built an email client that looked more like a to-do list than an inbox. With a simple swipe users could simply mark an email as done, add to it to a list or snooze it to deal with it later. Emails became tasks.”

“→ A right swipe accepts the meeting and adds the event to your calendar
← A left swipe declines the meeting and lets you propose a different time

You never have to open the message or write a lengthy response – you can only react with a swipe.”

“Superhuman, for those unfamiliar with it, is an email client that – among other features – lets you manage your inbox by just using your keyboard.

There are keyboard shortcuts for literally every single command you can think of: Compose a new email? Hit c. Discard a draft? Press ⌘, Shift and b. Reply to an introduction email with a Thank You note and move the original sender to bcc? Press ⌘, Shift and i (yes, this actually exists).”

“Most importantly though, users can trigger a command line interface so you can just write down the action you want to take without having to remember the exact keyboard shortcut. The NLP engine behind this thing works remarkably well and understands what you want to do no matter how you phrase it (this might be Superhuman’s most underrated feature).”

“Superhuman commands are limited to typical email actions (snooze, send later, etc), but the obvious next step, in my opinion, is to add commands that work across different apps.

That meeting request your colleague Lisa sent you?
Instead of just sending a reply why that time she proposed doesn’t work for you, you should just be able to also send an updated calendar event without having to leave the Superhuman app.”

“But you should also be able to block 30 minutes in your calendar before the meeting so you can prepare – without having to switch over to your calendar app and add the events there. Hit ⌘K and type “Add 30 min buffer before event“. Done.

I suspect that Superhuman will build their own calendar features (as well as to-do list functionalities) and then start integrating third-party applications to become an actual platform.”

“With a strong enough NLP engine behind the command line interface, the possibilities become endless:

Add that New York Times article to your Pocket queue or send it directly to your Kindle to read it later
Re-assign Jira tickets directly from Superhuman or send them to your to-do list
Pay invoices or send money to a friend”

“You never have to leave the Superhuman app – the command line becomes your personal assistant that takes care of all your productivity tasks.”

“Once you can react to email notifications right from your inbox, you can forward all your 3rd-party notifications to your email inbox and manage them from one place. This is how you solve the multiple inbox problem we discussed earlier.

Having all notifications in one place sounds scary: People are already struggling to stay on top of their inbox today and risk missing important messages. This is where Superhuman’s Split Inbox feature comes in handy. Your main inbox is still reserved for only the most important emails you receive. For everything else you set up dedicated split inboxes.”

“Collecting all notifications in one place has another benefit: Building a (personalized) history of company records. In the current world of multiple inboxes your information is dispersed across a dozen different services and whenever you try looking for something you never know where to find it.”

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