Becoming Superhuman (with email, at least)

In the original Matrix movie, one of the most striking scenes to my younger self was the scene where a simple upload of combat training turned Neo from a n00b to a bad-ass warrior, going toe to toe with Lawrence Fishburne in a kung fu dojo.  As an optimist, I dream of the instant step-change in personal capability.

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While technology can’t turn anyone into a kung fu master via uploading a program directly to your brain, that was the feeling I got when I got on-boarded to Superhuman a few months ago.  It was a step-change in my ability to process my email.

You can find endless tweets about Superhuman – they fall neatly into two categories:

  1. New users tweeting about how Superhuman has blown their mind and/or transformed their productivity
  2. People who want to be users begging for access. 🙂

I couldn’t find any blog posts about what it’s like to use Superhuman, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.  Consider this a love letter to a product that’s already made me much more productive.

Speed

Holy s**tballs, Superhuman is FAST.  Like crazy-fast.  Instant responsiveness fast.  The website talks about the 100ms threshold “where interactions feel instantaneous”… and yeah.

I even went through old email, pressing the “E” key (to archive) as fast as I could to see if Superhuman could keep up with it, and yeah… Superhuman can respond faster than I could repeatedly press the same key.  There is nothing – anywhere in the Superhuman interface – where a user has to wait.  And as everyone knows,

⏱ == 💰💰💰

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Command-K (aka Quicksilver for email)

About ten years ago I was a rabid user of Quicksilver on the Mac – where in a simple interface you could do anything – launch apps, manipulate files, trigger emails… anything.  It was super-powerful.

In Superhuman, hitting “Command-K” triggers the “Superhuman Command” menu – which gives you ultimate power over your email.  No matter what you want to do – you can do it by triggering the Superhuman Command.

This leads me to another reason why Superhuman is so fast, and why Command-K helps make it so powerful…

Keyboard shortcuts

You might think – “hey, Gmail already has keyboard shortcuts” or “it’s hard to remember all those shortcuts” or maybe even “huh?”.

If you want to process email quickly, one of the fastest ways you can do that is with keyboard shortcuts.  Your fingers are already over the keys.  Moving them to click/drag/double-click on your trackpad or mouse means moving your hand, making that movement, and then moving your hand back.  It might not seem that slow, but if you have to do it constantly that time adds up… especially when you compare it to the fractions of a second it takes to do the same thing on a keyboard.

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Whatever you do in Superhuman, the interface gently reminds you of the keyboard shortcut needed to do that same thing.  If you move your mouse over the compose email button, it reminds you that you just have to type “C” to do the same thing.

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Do you want to delete your draft?  It’s “Command-Shift-period”

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Want to cc or bcc someone?  There’s a shortcut for that:

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The amazing thing about how Superhuman helps here is that these pointers are only shown to users who aren’t using those shortcuts already.  If you’re a power user, Superhuman just stays out of your way.

Until you’ve used keyboard shortcuts as the core of your email experience, you have no idea how much faster you can get through email.

Best-of extensions

There is frankly a pretty big universe of Gmail extensions to give Gmail users powers that Gmail has never built.  Specifically, features like:

  • Send later (at a time you want)
  • Remind me (at a specific time if someone hasn’t responded to your email… or no matter what)
  • Read receipts – who’s opened your message
  • Undo send
  • Rapportive-style sidebar (Superhuman’s founders also created Rapportive)

ALL of these are BUILT-IN to Superhuman!

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Clean and beautiful

Gmail was revolutionary back in 2004, but even with the recent changes to the interface, it’s still cluttered.

Superhuman is simple, clean, and beautiful.  Just… beautiful.

And if/when you get to Inbox Zero, you also get a beautiful reward — a screen like this: (details of my particular inbox setup are blocked out)

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Hold on… it can’t be THAT amazing…

Ah, but it is.  Seriously.  If you spend a substantial amount of time in email the time and effort Superhuman saves you will be worth every penny you spend on it.

That said, Superhuman is still early.  There’s an iPhone app, but no Android app.  There are some promising calendar features… but they’re not (yet) as powerful as they eventually will be.  I know many heavy email users who depend a lot on separating communication (email) from tasks, so I think there’s opportunity in Superhuman helping those users move easily between email and a tasklist.  For new users to Superhuman I’d love to have a Superhuman Command for “email bankruptcy” where it archives literally everything in your inbox so a person can start from scratch.  And there are still some fairly rare cases where Superhuman sends you to Gmail to do particular things, like adjust filter settings.

Despite all that, you can think of my problems as those of absence.  What’s been built in Superhuman is amazing… just not everything has been built yet. 🙂

Final thoughts

I wrote this because I’ve become a massive fan of Superhuman, and I wanted to share why.  You may have seen the tweets of new users who are blown away by it, but I wanted to share at least my experience as to why it’s been so meaningful to my productivity.

The wait list for Superhuman is… long.  Tens of thousands of people long.  That said, the onboarding process is white-glove: Superhuman has a team who works with each new user, helping set up Superhuman to match how each person works.

If you live in email, I strongly recommend that you sign up to (eventually) get access.

 

TweetOrder – I built a thing

If you’re a frequent Twitter consumer (as I am), you might be familiar with the frustrations of millions of users that want to see their Twitter stream in chronological order, not the “algorithmically-best-based-on-what-Twitter-thinks-you’ll-engage-with-order”.  When news is breaking (or during live sports) it’s… jarring to see Tweets from early in the day mixed in with very recent tweets.

But…

A few months ago I saw a tweet from Andy Baio (@waxpancake on Twitter) that showed how to use Twitter’s native search functions to get to a Tweetstream that showed Tweets in chronological order.  And not only did it do that, but it also removed replies, ads, etc.  You only saw tweets from people you followed, and in chronological order.

Because Twitter is Twitter, there’s a different URL scheme to access what Andy shared, depending on if you’re on a desktop or mobile browser.  Because… Twitter.  <sigh>  Which sucked because there’s no way I was going to bookmark two obscure URLs (and absolutely no way I was going to remember them offhand).

So I built TweetOrder…

🔥💥🌟 Check out https://tweetorder.com to get your Twitter feed in chronological order! 🌟💥🔥

As a fun bonus, if you go to https://tweetorder.com when you’re logged out (or in an incognito window) you see what appears to be the most recent tweets across *all* Twitter users.  This is a really interesting window into the diversity of Twitter worldwide.  Finally, if you’ve read this far, also check out the TweetOrder about page, and follow TweetOrder on Twitter.  Thanks again to Andy Baio for the inspiration!