Is a GTD Connect subscription "worth it"?

There's been more than a little buzz surrounding the public release of GTD Connect, a new subscription service offered by the David Allen Company. A number of folks in the online GTD community are up in arms, decrying the service as divisive, elitist, and a flagrant attempt to "cash in" on GTD by the company and its founder.

There's been more than a little buzz surrounding the public release of GTD Connect, a new subscription service offered by the David Allen Company. GTD Connect provides a nicely packaged set of tools to help keep one engaged with the methods and practices of Getting Things Done including a members-only forum, a weekly e-mail reminder to conduct your next weekly review, a hosted personal journal for capturing and reviewing long-terms ideas and aspirations, and a series of mailed-out CDs with audio conversations between David Allen and some very interesting people in the GTD space (the latest was a chat with James Fallows, senior editor at The Atlantic).

There's a $48 per month price tag hung on this service and this has a number of folks in the GTD community up in arms, decrying the decision to charge what amounts to nearly $600 per year for a subscription as divisive, elitist, and a flagrant attempt to "cash in" on GTD by the company and its founder.

As someone who has been a part of that community for a long time, here's my take:

  1. GTD Connect is not for everyone. It is intended to meet the needs of a specific audience: busy people who do not, in the course of their work and life, have a PC and net connection at the center or their day.
  2. I have often said that GTD is a whole-life behavior and in order to ingrain the habits and practices of the system, you need to make a commitment to change ingrained behavior. For many people, that manifests itself in the acquisition of "gear" or what 43Folders author Merlin Mann refers to as "office pr0n". Labelers, filing tools, PDAs, software, and paper-based capture devices are the most common early acquisitions by newly converted GTDers in my experience. These tools can be had on the cheap with a quick trip to the office supply store or at a premium by buying branded versions from the David Allen Company, Levenger, or other purveyors of executive gear.
  3. GTD Connect is optional. There is nothing "required" in the content and services it provides to be successful at implementing the system. You can get similar reinforcement and ongoing exposure with nothing more than a free RSS aggregator account at NewsGator Online or Bloglines and a search for GTD. You can join the very active Yahoo Groups that discuss GTD. And you can register for a free account and join the hundreds of active and ongoing discussions at the free GTD Discussion Forums hosted by Allen's company.
  4. The complaints I've been reading are indicative of a larger trend that I personally find rather bothersome and presumptuous - a sense of entitlement and ownership over ideas which have been freely shared. In this particular instance, there are some who claim that David Allen and his company "owe" the community something. Sorry, I call B.S. on that. GTD is the product of many years of work - David often calls himself a "25-year overnight sensation" - and the company has every right to find ways to prosper from their work. If a certain subset of their customer base asks for a service like this and is willing to pay for it, it would be irresponsible and just plain bad business not to respond to that desire. As I have blogged about GTD and helped form communities of practice in a number of channels, I have never found the company to be anything other than appreciative and accepting of those efforts.

As I wrote in a comment to one of the posts questioning the value of the new service, if the value is not there, don't subscribe. If you do not have the time or inclination to spend a lot of time aggregating RSS, navigating through forum discussions, and reading a lot of personal interpretations but do want a regular engagement with GTD, the Connect service might be a great way to make that happen. No, it's not "cheap". But neither is the finite amount of time we all have to devote to personal improvement and professional development. And for the vast population that does not have a PC and net connection at the center of their day, a "push" device like the Connect service can be a regular reminder to keep practicing and developing the right "muscles" to achieve proficiency in the system.

A monthly membership at the gym costs more than a Connect subscription. Taking my family of four to the movies (with popcorn and couple of beverages) costs about the same amount as a month's subscription to GTD Connect. In that context, it doesn't seem like such a burden to me if it delivers entertainment and exercise value. That is a personal evaluation each person needs to make for themselves.

Update: Fellow GTD enthusiast and blogger Matthew Cornell pointed out to me that I should make my relationship with David Allen and his company completely clear to anyone reading this post. I recently did an interview with David about GTD and technology on the Windows platform that can enhance the practice of his methods which is now part of the GTD Connect library of content. I have gotten to know David a bit since I first met him in 2002 at a seminar in Dallas and enjoy an occasional Skype chat with him from time to time. I have also become quite friendly with Eric Mack - an independent technology consultant who has worked with David and his company for many years - notably based on our mutual passions for all things related to GTD and a preference for the Tablet PC. David has been kind enough to give my name to a few magazine and newspaper writers to talk about how GTD impacted the company I worked at for the past five years. That same former employer recently sponsored a two-day GTD workshop for a select group of teachers here in New Mexico and I had the good fortune to work with Wayne Pepper, one of DavidCo's coaches, in making that event a great success. Finally, I fully intend to expose as many of my new compatriots at Foldera to GTD as I can.

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