Meme Exploding: Getting Things Done
I've been fascinated to watch over the past few weeks as David Allen's three-year-old book Getting Things Done has surged back into prominence within the geek community. I'd had it recommended to me just a few weeks ago by Sippey, and since then had it mentioned to me, unprompted, by Rebecca, John and Mie just in the past week. Though the book sold well when originally released, its reappearance and astonishing popularity in the geek community have prompted a few different reactions. (Note: Though this book is becoming extremely popular in the geek community, it's been a consistent best seller for a while now. Don't start the Triumph of the Blogs posts yet.)
My first reaction was that this sounds like a cult. Though I like the ideas and own the book (I haven't finished reading it yet -- but that's on my list of things to do!) I was a little creeped out by the intensity with which people have recommended the book. That fact notwithstanding, I have enough respect for those who pointed me at it that I still think it's legitimate.
Second, I'm trying to figure out how this book came to the attention of so many people at the same time. Certainly, some of the credit belongs to Merlin Mann's excellent new blog 43 Folders, which launched with a bang and has stayed popular right from its inception. As John pointed out to me, the blog's popularity belies the assumption that the weblog medium is too established or too crowded to launch a popular new blog. Turns out that creating new content that's focused on a particular space and extremely well written can still attract an audience. Surprise!
Next, I thought that this illustrates an idea that's been percolating in my brain for some time. The tech community is hungry for a digital Martha Stewart. It's not just the desire that geeks have for organizing things (though that can't be underestimated). It's also the demand for an aspirational digital lifestyle.
Apple can promote iLife all they want, but geeks need heros and role models, not just management tools. And in the same way that Martha Stewart presented a domestic lifestyle that's appealingly ambitious (despite being unattainable), it seems like the Cult of Gettings Things Done is arising from a common desire in our geek community to organize, improve and refine the way we live online. Social networks are finally creating shared spaces (my blog, my flickr community, my buddy list) and I want that shared virtual space to be as presentable and welcoming as my physical home. The book doesn't solve this particular problem, but its popularity, to me, reinforces the existence of this demand.
And finally, it seems like there's a need for an in-person roundtable on the ideas behind Getting Things Done. I'll probably go into more detail about the ideas I had for this in the future, but I think the basic concept of a few gurus who've been living the GTD lifestyle, along with a bunch of us newbies who are interested in the idea, might be a really interesting way to spend a few hours. I'm a little leery of turning the face-to-face meeting into Information Addicts Anonymous, but I think the practical value of a gathering about these ideas outweighs that danger.