State of Clear: Post Launch & Looking Forward

Hey everyone, I spent some time drafting this today for a project email update #14 to our ~25,000 mailing list. Will probably make some edits / add some graphics and mail it out on Monday.

There are a lot of you not on this list, which we don’t even have a way to sign up for right now. So for context, this is largely for the 1.x Clear fans who have been supporting this revival so far, though if any of you are new and loving Clear, you might find some of this interesting. Just be warned, it’s long.

I had promised you a post launch update.

A LOT has happened in the past in the first three weeks. I’ve taken a couple stabs at writing the whole thing out, and keep failing to make it more succinct… but felt I owed you an update sooner than later.

In Hindsight

We totally failed on two major fronts.

  1. We should have tested Clear 1.x > Clear 2.0 one time migration at scale. While thousands of testers had been pounding away at the Clear 2 beta in some cases for years, we did not properly test this crucial final step, resulting in some serious bugs, confusion and panic for a meaningful amount of you, and most heartbreakingly, some real cases of data loss that while we were largely able to fix and recover, some cases we were not. This is fairly unforgivable… and we will be prioritizing redundant data backup in the early roadmap.
  2. Perhaps the biggest was a failure of communication. We failed to reach out to everyone directly through the 1.x app, with proper advance notice of the syncing sunsetting and major changes coming in the 2.0, along with the dire situation that necessitated this kind of a Hail Mary rescue attempt.

I believe we could’ve averted most of the disaster of this launch had we done our job on these two main points. And I also think it’s possible we may’ve, had we not put ourselves under a bit too much unhealthy pressure to finally ship this to the world after so many delays.

This was a terrible way to learn, but we have deeply internalized some lessons. Moving forward we cannot compromise on communicating to you all anything this important or possibly disruptive. And we must be less cavalier about ambitiously overloading our plates or juggling too many.

The Diastrously Turbulent Launch

Our first day was exciting! Some good launch press. Some very happy early fans. Shop humming to life. But then more ominous whispers began to grow to a murmur, then roar and things quickly took a turn.

It got quite dark a few days in, when we began to realize the scale of the data migration issues (seemingly closer to 10% than the <1% we initially suspected), comb through logs but did not yet have any theories to start working on fixes, and all the while buffeted by a storm of hundreds of 1 star reviews from angry and panicking longtime users.

I am someone who is happiest when my work is delighting people. I thought the toughest part would be the no’s that Clear’s initial revival would require. No sync, no Mac. No we can’t keep the design exactly the same, etc.

But to have failed and betrayed some of you so seriously with possible data loss, and all overnight at once. (And yes, frankly the amount of heckling about the design changes too.) It was devastating.

On Friday night the team latched onto two key possible fixes – a ‘legacy data’ store that we had missed in our data migration, that the app would create if its own internal data migration failed at some point in ~2014 to fallback to. And an initial basic crash fix to very long lists (many, many of you with ten years worth of checked off tasks uncleared etc.)

Notably, both of these key issues heavily targeted our most hardcore base who had been using the app the longest and relying on it the hardest, in a further cruel twist of the knife. :sweat:

(BTW if you are experiencing sluggishness please reach out, we do have workarounds for a snappy experience until we can further optimize this.)

But with the 2.0.1 out, things began to turn for the better as the majority of those locked out, were now back to listing.

I think we all still felt shellshocked, but more hopeful now with some traction under our feet.

We’re Now Stabilizing

Going into this, we knew we would be losing some of you through this relaunch, especially the subset that relies on syncing, and to some extent a group of ‘traditionalists’ who flatteringly, but problematically consider Clear’s design frozen in 2014 as absolute perfection not to be touched. And of course, anyone who lost data… this was worst unexpected factor.

With the numbers settling some weeks in, we think we lost around 10% of you.

This sucks, and we do hope to win back a real chunk of you back over the next year or two… (P.S. if you are one of those who relied on sync, you can reply and ask for a refund and I will help. Same if we were unable to rescue your data.)

But thankfully… 90% of you have stuck with us, and the majority of you who did, seem generally assured in its direction(albeit with its bugs to work out and refinements and performance fixes to do) and heartened by a real signal that this app has a pulse and a future now.

Reviews are also starting to turn around since the 2.0.2. Thank you everyone who wrote in positively.

Phoenix from the Ashes

We had a number of key problems to solve with this revival (the ticking time bomb of an ancient codebase, the dusty design and years of no evolution to catch up on, etc.) but the existential one that was truly dooming Clear was a broken business.

Clear 1.x had been in the red for most of the past decade, and the trickle of $5 sales cut it off from reaching an entire generation.

We spent a lot of time puzzling over the proven business models in the industry, but had serious problems with all of them.

Generally they gate key functionality behind subscription, ads, or paywalls in hostile and desperate ways. And many of them put pressure on continuously selling new features, which would be death to Clear’s simplicity.

“The most important thing is we find a way for Clear to actually and sustainably bring in revenue to fund ongoing development in alignment with its principles.”

“Ahah, I got it! Let’s not gate any functionality and try to sell entirely optional cosmetics in a productivity app, one famous for its minimalism. I feel quite confident because nobody in this market category so far has ever proven this is possible.”

But it’s not a contrivance or lark. It was the best business model we could find (or really, design) after thorough and creative searching, that harmonizes with Clear’s unique strengths and principles.

It’s Clear’s commitment to minimalism that makes it so satisfying to transform with personalization, and its natural affinity to light game mechanics and the dopamine of the loop of getting things done, that has always made its secret unlocks etc. feel productive and fun.

We also felt it was important the update feel generous to you all, for having stuck with Clear all these years, and did not want to force some kind of upgrade pricing.

The strangest part? It is working so far:

$10.2K so far is quite encouraging in our humbler indie context. This funds real development which we hope will continue making Clear even more valuable to you.

Our first launch month of sales will cover the costs of the initial hot fix updates and the upcoming 2.1 with widgets returning. (Let’s forget the 2.0 sunk costs for now :sweat_smile:) And roughly equal the entirety of revenue Clear 1.x sales brought in over 2023.

That’s a positive feedback loop breathing life back into Clear! It’s alive! And despite and after all this…? It honestly feels a little miraculous.

We Owe You

To our 1,100 shop patrons so far, and especially those who have been returning regularly to the shop and building a collection, you have been heroically funding our early updates so far through this year. We are particularly grateful to you for going out on this limb with us, early adopting the super experimental shop and proving it as a concept. As a business, you are the ones performing CPR right now and recovering this beating pulse and bringing Clear back to life.

And don’t worry, if you haven’t bought anything yet that’s OK too! We remain committed to the shop being entirely optional and believe in some kind of karmic longterm return there. Please continue enjoy the app, and one day when you’ve had a super productive week with it and something catches your eye, treat yourself!

(There are plenty of other ways to support us too, like spreading the word, converting a friend or family member to our little listing cult, writing a review, etc. which I know many of you have already been supporting us warmly and generously with :pray:)

Overall this relaunch has further articulated a sense that Clear will find its way and do its best by further delighting those of you who adore it the most. And that’s probably you if you signed up for these emails and have read this far.

A New Generation

Clear is now very ready to meet the world again, on our terms.

While the other todo apps furiously compete amongst themselves, we can credibly pitch Clear as:

  • Uniquely beautiful, pristine, striking, colorful design
  • Uniquely fluent listing on phone via trademark gestures etc.
  • Uniquely personalizable, perhaps more than any other app on the store
  • Uniquely fun and satisfying to use and even shop in, if you’d like!
  • Uniquely free to use and generous with 0 functionality gated

Our strategy this year will be leaning into our unique strengths and further refining and distilling the best parts of the Clear iPhone experience that stands apart from every other app, to both further satisfy you all, and also begin connecting with a new generation.

We do not have the resources immediately to match their sync support with our own sync support. But we are bristling with unique angles we can work that no other todo app can even sanely consider tapping into.

The future is fun. Starting with widgets in 2.1.

We’re starting work on Clear 2.1 that we hope will feature the return of widgets along with other fixes and refinements. I’ll email you next when we have this ready for you!

If you made it to the end, thank you, and I hope you feel it didn’t waste your time. In meaningful ways you are a stakeholder in this project, and I felt you deserved a real report.

Phill & Team Clear

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Clear was love at first sight back in the days and still is the app that i can say i truly love. So simple and so perfect.

This update was joy, i love everything about it. The app became more me/us.

You guys are amazing, you have a diamond here, keep it near your hearts and you will always count on me. I will be the first in the shop everyday.

Thank you

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:heart_hands:

I really agree we have something quite precious or even priceless here between the app and this kind of a community and base, that money cannot buy. We will continue doing our best to protect this, and I feel like if we continue to do this key job well, it’s a matter of time until Clear regains momentum and relevance for a new generation!

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I created an account solely to add that a likely reason Clear skews/has skewed so heavily towards iOS vs macOS usage is because of the lack of syncing for several years. No one wants to create or maintain 2 different versions of the same list or multiple lists, and in the absence of sync and given the choice of only 1 platform as your source of truth, I (and likely many others) felt forced to choose iOS since we have our phones with us most of the day and can be productive on-the-go. I used Clear on macOS and iPadOS back in the day when iCloud sync still worked and really valued the ability to pick up tasks where I left off at the machine in front of me (e.g. on my computer while working or on my iPad while on my couch, etc.).

That said, I appreciate this post and the incredible amount of work that has clearly (hah!) gone into reviving Clear back from the ashes. I was part of the lucky ~90% without any data migration issues moving from Clear 1 > Clear 2, so I have to say that while I was somewhat skeptical about the update, it’s been all kosher over here so far.

Keep up the good work, and I look forward to continuing to support this product and everything else you have in store.

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Thank you, yeah I do agree we lost a bunch over the sync not being robust enough as it should be over the years. (I answered possibly thousands of support emails over the years on this.) And this is something we really feel we need to deliver on a higher level the second time around, and requires a rebuild of the sync engine etc.

Super appreciate your support, I do think this next year of updates will be great.

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well, I’m really glad you are not giving up as I had and I’ve tried a bunch of other ToDo list apps. they suck, even with subscriptions.

  1. need a Mac OS desktop app that syncs with iOS app
  2. need to be able to email the list from the old MacOS app to the new iOS app like it used to do. I can still email lists from the old desk top but when I try to open to “auto save” it to the new iOS app, it doesn’t open on my iPhone

this would really level the playing field and solve most of our problems with the new Clear 2.0
Please don’t give up on us and please try to address/ solve the above problems and then I’ll be a 100% Clear user again and all buy anything you want from the store. but not until its all seamless again

Thanks
Tim

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Love all the new features. Well
Done! I do miss sync but I think the possibility to just share a list and have it imported in the receivers app would make a big difference. I figure that would not be nearly to hard to implement as real-time sync?

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Maybe this is at least helpful for 2. You should be able to copy your list as plain text, then iCloud paste it directly into a fresh list/item in Clear.

And while also not really solving all of this, the widgets in 2.1 I believe will at least show up on your Mac.

I appreciate your patience through this sync regression/transition everyone.

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Yeah we’re quite interested in this more simple sending a list copy / opening it in Clear case. Have some ideas on making that lower friction. (Maybe even App Clips playing a supporting role.) We will be looking into this stuff later this year.

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I couldn’t agree more! I loved this app in its original form and kept it all these years. When I found out about the new work being done I jumped on the betas and this forum as fast as possible.

The app is even better now and I feel like it’s alive and breathing with great things in its future. Really great work to all the devs!!

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I’ve seen you a bunch in the forums (and others of course here!) not only excited and asking questions and things, but helping others too. Really appreciate that, I had already been getting buried here and there in emails and there’s no way I would’ve been able to keep up with you all without this kind of community help.

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Thanks for the kind words. I’m happy to help any way possible. I like testing apps in general and specifically Clear. The app has always had a special and positive place on my phone and I have to say out of all the apps I use it’s the only one that is truly fun to use. It has a way of making you want to use it even when there is no need to jot down a todo etc. and you just don’t find that in other productivity apps….at all!

I think the decision to do Clear 2 as it has been is excellent and moving in the right direction. It’s still the same Clear but feels modern and with a future.

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Great. And yeah I feel like we could assist with the ‘I want to list more but I don’t have a list to make right now!’ situation. There is a world of more useful/niche/fun/frivolous lists to make, we’ll probably start with adding a few solid pre-fill lists people can get going with and then maybe look into distributing some in the shop (for free), or even some kind of a list library later. Dabbled with that in beta but needed some more time.

I’m late but I just wanted to say I thought the upgrade conversion was fine. I was pleased that my changes from Testflight carried over to the new Clear 2 production and some of the initial quirks were… quirky. It got sorted soon enough for me.

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Yeah ultimately most people migrated OK, though not without some confusion (and some panic, sorry about the tutorial list that makes it seem like the app was reset).

But it was a stark reminder of how much people trust our app and poured into it over the years, and the scary stakes involved because of this, or how much worse it can get without clean and thorough communication. It’s amazing how many can enjoy and find this much value in our app, but we now also found out how terrifying it can be for 10% of them to experience huge issues or feel locked out of their Clear.

So we have to be extra extra careful when carrying your vessels to not have even a chance to trip and drop them… and invest early in things like the iCloud backup/restore system for Clear as a redundant safety layer.

Hi Phil. How would I copy a list in plain text. I don’t have that option from my Mac (that I can see). I can email the list, but each separate item doesn’t post, it comes in as a single item.

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It’s a little wonky but I found out one way at least. On Mac, in the ‘Lists’ level or window, mouse over the list row and command + c to copy its contents as plain text.

Noticed it adds - before each item though… could clean that up with find and replace in text edit or something. (And will try to clean those up ourselves better when pasting plaintext lists into Clear iPhone with future updates…)

Hi, just created an account to mention that you did temporarily loose me with the lack of sync.
As soon as I discovered this on this forum which I’ve been monitoring for a while, I looked for an alternative, and finally settled with TickTick, which more or less does the job, but is in no way as pleasant and simple to use as Clear is. So for the time being, it will do, but I’ll keep monitoring your progress, and will be back using Clear for sure as soon as a Mac version appears and sync is restored.
Crossing my fingers you can get this done within the next 2 years.

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Apologies there. 2 years feels generous but I’ve been careful not to promise timelines after how long Clear 2 itself took! But hope to see you back in the future.

This is the clear I know and love but better. Please don’t dishearten. You can’t please everyone and it’s early days.

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