Somehow I missed the announcement of the December 18 release of a second generation product of Wunderlist from Berlin-based Wunderkinder. Wunderlist was widely heralded as an example of beautiful and intuitive design of a personal task management tool, with more than three million users signing up in the first release.
The company used the momentum from the first release to pour a lot of energy into Wunderkit, a project to build a team task management solution that has been shelved. Why? Wunderlist was originally a teaser, a small taste of the wonderful Wunderkit to come. But it rapidly took on a life of its own, and had a very large installed based when they finally released the first version of Wunderkit. A lot of those users didn’t want to transition to Wunderkit, and with Wunderkit Wunderkinder found itself in a new market with a new set of advanced competitors.
So they did the smart thing and started to improve Wunderkit in a lot of subtle ways, but most importantly, moving the tool from being strictly a personal tool (or what I generally call solo task management) into the middle realm of shared task management.
Shared task management means that tasks (and other information) default to being solo, but can be shared — in a limited way — with others. And in fact, Wunderlist 2 is a near-perfect example of the pros and cons of a shared task management solution.
In the image below you see really all you need to know about Wunderkit 2 in one screenshot:
In the left margin is a panel showing all the ‘lists’ I have defined. Most of these are solo, but the one selected is a shared list, indicated by the head icon. In that list all the tasks defined — two — are shared with all those invited. But as the name of the selected task indicates, tasks can’t be assigned: they can only be shared. Which means if I created a list of tasks and shared them with you, either of us could see them, check them off, add comments, and set due dates, but I couldn’t explicit say this task is for you to accomplish, and this one is mine.
While Wunderlist 2 does provide for subtasks, they also can’t be assigned, and they also lack due dates and comments.
And lastly, because Wunderlist 2 tries so hard to retain the feel of a solo tool, even when task lists are shared the tasks don’t really have comments. What a task has is a single note: the sort of thing that a soloist would use for information about the task. Bu comments include the identity of the author, which are absent in these task notes, and they support a discussion form factor.
I think Wunderkinder has done a great job with Wunderlist. Three million users and 100 million tasks suggest they have a solid model for solo task management. Shared task management is an iffy middle ground and Wunderlist 2 will satisfy the needs of those that need to only occasionally share tasks, and then with only a small number of people. For example, putting together a task list for a work group of three people for something lightweight, like planning an offsite meeting, for example. But it is simply not up to larger groups dealing with many tasks and complex interdependencies and the need to communicate in the task context.
If in fact Wunderkinder is headed a step at a time toward team capabilities, the next features will be comments instead of notes and task assignment. And then they will be moving stepwise toward the same territory that Wunderkit was supposed to conquer, but they will be bringing their three million existing users along with them.