Thursday, February 15, 2007

SMS 'To Do' Lists.

For a long time now I’ve been exploring different ways to leave myself ‘notes’ as reminders of things to do at work. I’m often away from my desk when a ‘to do’ item pops into my head, and I’ve struggled with ways to ensure I remember to act on it.

One obvious solution is a blackberry or some other form ‘smart phone’ device. This never worked for me for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is that my wife would kill me if I got even _more_ addicted to staying in touch with work. ;) I’m holding out owning a blackberry/smartphone for as long as I can (although I fear that the iPhone might be the end of this resolution).

Another is to just carry a notebook around with me. This certainly works for some, but my ideal solution would be to get this information automatically onto my desktop where I am sure to act on it. Also I’ve never been able to maintain the habit of carrying an agenda/notebook with me everywhere, so I don’t think this is sustainable.

So I’ve been looking for a solution that can take advantage of the one thing I always have with me – my cellphone (not a smartphone, just a V300 razor with basic text messaging plan).

So, three options here:
  • Configure my phone to support email, and send myself emails with reminders. Not a bad idea, but I don’t actually want to pay the premiums for wireless data with my carrier.
  • Simply call in the reminder to my voicemail. Again, a solution I’ve depended on in the past, but not ideal as there is still that last step involved (check voice mail when I get to work, write down reminder in some format that I’ll act on).
  • Use text messaging. This has been the holy grail for me as it is fast, easy, cheap (txt messaging plans are generally much less expensive then data plans) but up until now I’ve not known how to get the text message onto my desktop once I sent it from my phone. Today I’ve finally put the last step together and so wanted to create a little tutorial for others who might want to implement a similar system.

Two tools are recommended for this (both free). The first is a new web service I recently came across (via a link from pvponline.com) called twitter. Twitter is basically a ‘micro-blogging’ service encouraging people to blog about their lives on a much more granular level. A typical twitter page for someone will have multiple short (less then 200 characters) entries for any given day. And, of course, being a ‘2.0’ app at its core, every twitter ‘blog’ has its own RSS feed. Below is a sample shot from my twitter page.


Signing up is quick and easy, and within seconds you’ll have your own twitter page along the lines of: http://www.twitter.com/mook.

The great thing with Twitter (as I hinted at above) is that you can add ‘tweets’ via SMS. Once you have created an account and signed in, you need simply connect your phone to your twitter account (do so on the Settings -> Phone & IM page). You’ll receive an SMS from Twitter and from then on adding a ‘tweet’ is as easy as sending an SMS to the twitter number you’ll add to your phonebook.

Note: I personally suggest that you keep your twitter page private (you can do this in the ‘settings’ page) in case you want to send yourself sensitive reminders. There are certain advanced twitter functionalities that do not work with private pages, though, so you’ll have to decide for yourself how sensitive your personal reminders are.

The second tool I suggest is called KlipFolio which is a feature rich desktop RSS aggregator. There are a lot of desktop aggregators out there, but I like Klip for many reasons:

  • It’s free.
  • Developed in Ottawa (Go, Canada!)
  • The ‘Klips’ (basically the windows that host the various RSS feeds) are done in ‘Post-it’ note fashion so you can resize, place anywhere, expand, set transparency, etc. In short, they integrate very nicely on your desktop.
  • Klips are not limited to RSS feeds. From their site: “More than just news. KlipFolio displays weather, stocks, photos, lists and more”.

Additionally I like KlipFolio over any of the existing Twitter specific apps for desktop display, since Klips are much more multi-functional so less clutter and memory footprint.

Now that you have created a Twitter account and downloaded KlipFolio, follow these steps:

  • Go to your Twitter page and look on the bottom left corner for the ‘Rss Feed’ link. Right click, view properties, and copy the path (should look something like http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/XXXXXX.rss)
  • Launch KlipFolio and organize it on your desktop as your see fit (I personally deleted almost all of the klips that it sets up by default).
  • On the KlipFolio menu bar, click the ‘Add RSS or ATOM Feeds’ button (see image below. I highlighted the button yellow).
  • In the window that pops up, paste the Rss feed you copied in step 1 into the field titled ‘Enter URL or path…” and click the ‘Add Feed’ button.
  • That’s it! Your custom ‘Twitter Reminder’ is set up on your desktop.


Enjoy! And if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Math said...

Hi Ben,

We're glad you like KlipFolio. We've been working on it hardcore for over four years.

Check back to http://www.klipfolio.com/ next week ... you'll see the final version of KlipFolio 4 available for download.

You'll also see some very cool capabilities added this year.

Cheers,... Fred
Member of Serence Team
Canadian to the core

8:29 AM  
Blogger Darius Kazemi said...

On a "to-do" kind of note: will you be at GDC? If so, we should meet up. I shouldn't be too hard to find, as I'm always wearing orange. And you can drop by the IGDA Curriculum Workshop on Mon/Tue anytime and I'll be there.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Ben Mattes said...

Fred -- Thanks for dropping by! I must say I`m very happy with KlipFolio and have been suggesting it to friends for multiple uses. Funny `small world `story -- one such friend I suggested it to works here at Ubisoft. When I showed him KlipFolio he said he had used it before but couldn`t remember why. A few seconds later the lightbulb went off and he realised that someone at KlipFolio had sought him out in the past as a potential developer (his name is Bill Klein).

Darius -- Unfortunately I won`t be making it to GDC this year. My team has a very important milestone in April. I certainly plan to be there in `08, though, and will be able to talk about my game by then.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Jawn Lam said...

What do you think of stikkit.com? I use that to add to do items via sms (well, sort of). I can send an email from my phone's sms function to my stikkit account and it will "intuitively" recognize the note as a to do list, a phone number, a bookmark, a simple memo, a calendar item or all of the above combined. It has been a very satisfying service. I was just wondering if you have used it and what you think of it. And if you have used it, I was wondering if you've heard of stikkit releasing a mobile version similar to vitalist.com

2:04 PM  

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