Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorDavid PierceNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber

Trello is getting out of to-do lists and into fixing the future of work

It's not just boards and cards, and it's not just a productivity tool anymore.

New Trello boards

Trello cards can now be YouTube videos, Figma designs and much more.

Image: Trello

Trello doesn't want to be a productivity tool anymore. At least, not in the way it's been lumped in with so many other tools in the past. Instead of a digital version of the sticky notes on your whiteboard — the Kanban framework it borrowed from software development and helped popularize everywhere — Trello now wants to be the dashboard for your entire digital work life.

What that looks like in practice is Trello rethinking the idea of what a Trello card actually is. Going forward, a Google Doc can be a Trello card. A Figma design can be a Trello card. A YouTube video, a Dropbox file, an Amazon listing — they all can be Trello cards. All exist essentially as miniature apps inside Trello, where they can be moved around, organized and discussed. Michael Pryor, Trello's head of product, said it has 30 integrations already, and it's opening up an API to anyone who wants to build their apps into Trello cards.

To explain why Trello is doing this, Pryor cites a statistic: A recent Okta study found that large companies deploy an average of 175 apps to their employees. Other studies have found that workers spend up to a third of their workday just looking for information. After decades of being tied to Lotus 1-2-3 or the Office Suite, workplace software has been thoroughly unbundled. And it's mostly a giant pain for everyone involved. "We want to help people get control of these information silos and this information sprawl and try to help them understand it," Pryor said, "but in a way that makes sense to them."

Trello is far from the only company trying to stitch things back together. Steve Wood, Slack's head of platform, told me last year that "we kind of want to be that traffic cop, or the integration layer" for every app a company uses. Slack is trying to turn messaging into the hub around which digital work spins. Dropbox is doing the same with files. Monday and others are trying to do the same thing with a to-do list. Everybody wants to be the single source of truth, the system of record. Pryor knows, after a decade of building Trello, how hard that is to do. "You might get good in this one particular area," he said, "but somebody is gonna be better at something else. It's just hard. I don't think anyone could get a critical mass." He's betting against the great rebundling of the office suite.

Trello's bet is thus simpler than most. Pryor and his team think that maybe what employees and teams actually need is just a really nice way to keep everything organized. In that sense, the new Trello is less like a to-do list and more like the evolution of a file browser. It just wants to take everything you have, wherever it is, and help you keep it all straight. That wouldn't require the entire team to buy in or switch tools, and it would work well even if the boss isn't interested. And in this era of totally unbundled software, it seems more useful than ever.

Trello boards in cards In the new Trello, a board can also be a card. In another board. Which is some serious "Inception" stuff.Image: Trello

The other thing Trello is doing is shifting away from just doing the one thing people know Trello for. When Trello launched in 2011, co-founder Joel Spolsky called it just "a bunch of lists," with cards you could move between them. That was once a novel idea, and it won Trello tens of millions of users. Now it's just called "boards," and practically every productivity tool under the sun offers them. Trello has become a feature, like Stories or text chat, rather than a standout product in its own right.

Going forward, Trello users can see their cards — in whatever form they take — in a bunch of new ways. There's a calendar view, a timeline view, a map view and a customizable dashboard view. Cards can also now live on more than one board simultaneously (which solves one of Trello's longest-standing user frustrations), with their contents mirrored everywhere. Every board is a hub of stuff, even when that stuff is other boards. A board can even be a card now, which gets heady fast.

Eventually, all those Trello cards might be practically alive. Pryor showed me a prototype of a Trello board with a card that updated in real time, showing all of his open tasks, with a live count on the front of the card. Another card could contain 10 overdue Jira tickets that need to be discussed. "In Jira, you can't discuss 10 issues," he said, "because the base level is an issue. So you have to pick an issue to discuss. But because Trello is this in-between, you can create a card that represents that query. And you can talk about those 10 issues inside Trello."

Trello's new approach tends to come with two challenges. First, there's the "fixing your too-many-tools problem by adding another tool" issue, which Trello hopes it can skirt by virtue of the fact that more than 50 million people already use Trello. (Pryor said it's "way more than 50 million," but wouldn't be more specific.) Second, as Slack and others have found, it's not easy to get paying customers when your primary benefit is to improve the other apps they already pay for. Slack likes to talk about how it's the "2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable," but it has struggled because Microsoft Teams doesn't cost that extra 2%.

There's also what you might call the Frenemies Conundrum, in which an app integrates other apps while also competing with them. That leads to multiple ways to do everything, inevitably prizing one over another, and creates general confusion and chaos. When I asked Pryor if Trello is done being its own product-management tool, instead focusing entirely on integrating everything else, he said only, "I don't know." But then he brought up Pinterest, and the huge amount of value it brings to people with its collection, organization and search abilities. There's no point in Pinterest except as a way to access other things — there's no huge library of native Pinterest content — but Pinterest is doing just fine. Maybe Trello's future looks like "Pinterest for work."

The need for order in the chaos of work software is clearer than ever, and companies around the world are rethinking their software stacks as they shift toward a more remote, more digital future. Trello's hope is to be the glue that holds the rest of work together, for just a few extra bucks a month.

Protocol | Workplace

The pay gap persists for Black women

"The pay gap is a multifaceted problem and any time you have a complex problem, there's not a single solution that's going to solve it."

For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Photo: Christine/Unsplash

Last year's racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd led many tech companies to commit to promoting equity within their organizations, including working toward pay equity. But despite efforts, the wage gap for Black women still persists. For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday represents the estimated number of days into the year it would take for Black women to make what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year, according to the organization Equal Pay Today. And while the responsibility to fix the pay gap falls mostly on companies to rectify, some female employees have taken matters into their own hands and held companies to their asserted values by negotiating higher pay.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

pay

What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

Keep Reading Show less
Alex Katouzian
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Workplace

Tech company hybrid work policies are becoming more flexible, not less

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are already changing their hybrid policies to allow for more flexibility.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are all loosening up their strategies around hybrid work, allowing for more flexibility before even fully reopening their offices.

In the last week and a half, Twitter announced it's adopting an asynchronous-first approach, and both Asana and LinkedIn said they would increase the amount of time their employees can work remotely.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Power

Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories