Bitching about trees blocking your view of the forest

Periodically the guys at 37Signals come up with some good stuff on their Signal vs. Noise blog – although I’ll admit I don’t always agree with all of their approaches I can accept “to each their own” and move on. This morning though I opened up my reader to this post.

Which is bizarre when you look at how availability of connectivity is ever increasing. EVDO cards, city-wide wifis, iPhones, Blackberry’s. There are so many ways to get online these days that the excitement for offline is truly puzzling. Until you consider the one place that is still largely an island of missing connectivity: The plane!

But planes are not a very common hang-out spot for most people. The two major groups of people who are on a plane often enough to care and have an interest in web applications are traveling salesmen and techies who go to too many conferences.

It’s funny, in some respects that I totally know the mindset this post was written in – You get so wrapped up in an argument/train of thought you leap over all kinds of logical conclusions and miss the true point of a topic. It’s unfortunate though that he didn’t catch it before he made such a cocky post.

The excitement behind offline applications isn’t being generated by guys on planes – sure for consumer apps the offline notion is largely unnecessary but for a business it’s just not optional. The unfortunate reality is that Internet connections are still not 100% reliable (although getting better everyday) and outside of the US unlimited data plans are either ridiculously expensive or, in Canada’s case, non-existent.

Case in point – back in December we had our DSL modem die and for whatever reason we had a nightmare of a time finding one that worked (we went through a few all with their own troubles). Problem – at the time we had just started using Google Docs for passing around a bunch of stuff we were working on internally and thus, they were completely unavailable to us. We were literally stuck on a major internal initiative until we could get home & get connected once more.

Until some of the online business tool apps start offering offline capabilities we just can’t take that risk anymore. It’s issues like this that are driving excitement behind offline app access, not bored guys on planes looking to put in an extra few hours of work.

One comment that caught my attention:

“So when 37signals can’t do something, they just tell people they are stupid for wanting it.”

Hmmm… I wonder if there’s some truth in that….