My Spreadsheet Cannot Fail, It Can Only BE Failed

One of Resolution’s biggest marketing failures has been Reddit. When I was first preparing for the initial Kickstarter, and then general availability last year, I dove in and tried to do exactly what you’re supposed to do. Listen, be patient, don’t make your stupid product the answer to every question, provide value, all of it. We literally built the shared model functionality of Resolution so that we could help people with specific answers without making them sign up for anything.

Well, I suck at Reddit. I got banned from r/Startups, first for violating the promotion rule and then perma-banned for arguing about the rule. Reddit… it’s just like baseball! r/SaaS was full of grifters, r/Spreadsheets was full of people who write VB Scripts, etc., etc., and so forth. On top of it, then Reddit went through the whole crazy API/moderator revolt thing and just generally started feeling a lot more like the Twitter/X dumpster fire, and I just got tired of basically annoying everyone.

Still, I did have some mildly interesting conversations, and I did learn a fair amount about some different potential user mindsets. Surprisingly, this happened outside of my areas of expertise in places like r/Accounting and r/Consulting, in conversations like this one.

The poor original poster hangs in there and engages with a bunch of pushback, including my favorite kind, that it’s his/her fault.

Nobody is wrong here, unfortunately. But as I’ve discussed many times, spreadsheets fundamentally give you enough rope to hang yourself. That’s how they work! Sure, you can password protect things and prevent changes. But then… it’s not really a spreadsheet anymore, is it?

There’s a sort of underlying sadness in the thread, where it seems like the Excel experts know people aren’t really getting value from the hard work they do, or the thoughtful modeling decisions they make, because the people don’t get it, and frankly don’t want to learn how to get it. Not on those terms, anyways.

And that’s what gets me. All these smart people know this will never work. They’ve spent their careers dealing with that fact, and the consequences of it being the case. But still… no, those people should do better. The near-realization of the problem is almost an exact 1:1 of the famous Principle Skinner meme.

This veers outside of the core mission & purpose of Resolution, but… it really is crazy how immutable and permanent the Microsoft Office-style framing of work is in professional settings. Culturally, math is Excel — the person who understands and builds spreadsheets better than someone else is seen as the person who understands math better. Someone who is good using PowerPoint is someone who understands good presentations.

This is nuts! But I get it; we develop competencies in tools in order to solve problems, and as we get good at it, and we can solve more and more complex problems with our preferred tool, it seems crazier and crazier that other people are so bad doing it themselves. But that doesn’t mean those people are stupid, or even that they are wrong for seeing it as not worth the effort to master something that is potentially incredibly broad and complicated.

That’s not a spreadsheet problem. And it’s not even a spreadsheet builder/creator problem — it’s that we are trying to solve a surprisingly common scenario with the wrong tool for that specific job. Obviously, I have my answer, but we’re never going to get there if we don’t push the envelope more on how this stuff works, and who it’s for.