What the #%$! Happened to Lifehacker?

I used to be an avid reader of Lifehacker.

Back when Gina Trapani ran things, I got a lot out of the site. In fact, it’d be one of the places that helped get me into this whole productivity racket. That site, along with Merlin Mann’s 43Folders and David Allen’s body of work were the catalysts for my writing career. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without having those resources.

Then something happened.

Merlin Mann shifted gears, but did so in a way that seemed imminent. And it sure didn’t alienate. If anything, it drew me in that much more. Merlin’s new direction at 43Folders delivered freshness to my RSS feed that usually consisted of lifehackery and the like. It caught me off guard…but it shouldn’t have, really. And it’s so much better that he’s writing about being productive rather than “doing” productive, because that’s what he was all about in the first place (in my mind, at least).

David Allen’s stuff is still a part of my diet, and he’s stayed on course. As he should. He’s an expert and if anyone can help grow a productivity movement in the mainstream, it’s him.

Then there’s Lifehacker. Sigh.

Somewhere along the line “they” decided that anything and everything could be spun as a lifehack.

Strategically placing your lettuce on a burger to avoid unwanted seepage is not a lifehack. Offering a “how to” on how to deal with being detained as a shoplifting suspect is not a lifehack. Giving tips on keeping unwanted trick-or-treaters at bay is not a lifehack.

I’m sorry, they’re just not.

I distinctly remember Lifehacker giddy with joy when the term they claim to espouse made it into the dictionary. It’d be justified if they actually read the definition — and applied it to their content. Look into it, guys and girls. Hey, I’ll help you out by posting it below:

“…a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.” – via Oxford Dictionary

Granted, some would argue that lettuce placement on a sandwich does serve to manage one’s time in a more efficient manner. There are a couple of responses I have to this:

  1. You have bigger problems to deal with if you needed to read about this tactic on a website.
  2. As a friend suggested when I ranted about this particular “lifehack”, turn over the damn sandwich.

Common sense is not a lifehack. Not everything needs to have a lifehack attached to it. We speed up enough already, and most people are looking to hack the mundane in their lives rather than the act of eating a burger.

As far as I can tell, the Lifehacker that exists now is trying to be everything to everyone. Why else would food articles show up so damn regularly? I get it. Preparing meals takes time. But couldn’t (and shouldn’t) we be leaving that to websites that focus on food? Can’t they have that to themselves?

The same with knowing your rights when it comes allegations of shoplifting — advising on how to deal with any sort of criminal activities is a lifehack that I think most Lifehacker readers from the good ol’ Trapani era can do without. Let’s give that type of timesaver to the sites who are competing with TMZ, shall we?

Yes, I did work for one of Lifehacker’s rivals. But I’ve wanted to write this since I started working for The Next Web years ago. The only reason I refrained from doing so is the traffic that Lifehacker (and Gawker sites in general) was always helpful. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to me any longer. If you want to read my stuff, it’ll get found. I am writing this now to appeal to the Lifehacker team to get back to their roots. Stop making everything a lifehack. Just stop it.

Not every aspect of life warrants a lifehack. But some really, really do. Offer help where it’s needed, not where it isn’t. Your site used to be one I revered, sitting prominently amongst those I read daily. Now I long for what was, and feel for those who built a great resource as it loses its way — and loses the readers it initially served for those who show up sporadically to figure out how to avoid giving out candy on October 31st.

Lifehacker…you were The Fonz of the productivity realm. Then you strapped on those water skis so that you could pull off a stunt that no one who cared about you really wanted to see you do. But all is not lost. You can still “unjump the shark” if you want. Just take off the skis; they don’t go with the leather jacket.

Bring back the “happy days” of Lifehacker. It’s something more of us would like to see than you realize.