Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tech Rant

I tend to use my email inbox a lot differently than most people I know.  Looking over the shoulders of friends and family and coworkers I see a lot of people with 2000, 3000, 10000 messages in their inbox.  Frankly this gives me the howling fantods.  If I have more than 20 messages in my inbox I start to feel stressed and if the list goes beyond the first page: no good.  No good at all.

My general operating procedure is to read, and then delete or archive most of which comes through my inbox.  What remains sitting there are only important messages that I need to respond to or do something about: a to-do list of sorts.

I am aware that this marks me as more than a little OCD ... but let's leave that aside for the moment!  I was looking for a way to send daily or periodic reminders to my email account as a way of automatically adding things to my de facto to-do list.  I was mostly looking for a daily or weekly reminder to do push-ups, practice Spanish, go for a run, etc.  Seems like a simple problem, right?  Almost simple enough that I might think of coding it myself if I had a server to play with.  Sadly no. 

[On the theory that no topic is too small for a blog post, consider this a mini tech-review for anyone else who has this same sort of problem.  For others who are looking for something a little more entertaining, I recommend this. Or this. Or this.]

  • My first idea was that it would be nice to get reminders in my RSS feed.  And it turns out that such a service exists: ReminderFeed.  Unfortunately, the site seems to have been coded back in 2005 and mostly abandoned since then.  Every time I tried to fill out their form to create a feed I got an error message saying I had entered the start date in the wrong format.  Which I hadn't.  After futzing with it a bit, I gave up and figured it might be a browser problem (it didn't work in Safari or FF4/5).  Nice idea, but FAIL.
  • Second try was an email reminder service called RememberTheMilk.  It seemed like basically the right idea.  You can set up periodically recurring tasks that send reminders to you via email.  The deal-breaker was that each time you "completed" as task you had to log-in to their website to "check it off" your to-do list there.  Otherwise it didn't send you the next reminder.  Sorry. No. Way too much work.  I just want the vanilla reminder, thanks.  FAIL.
  • Third, a service called MyEmailReminders.  This one was nice.  A clean intuitive interface with lots of clearly described options.  No unnecessary bells-and-whistles.  The only problem was it didn't work.  Or rather, it delivered my daily reminders about half the time.  The rest of the time: nothing.  It was kind of amusing guessing if the daily reminder would come.  Amusing, but not useful: FAIL.
  • Fourth time's a charm, I guess.  The free service that seems to work is MyMemorizer.  Very similar to #3, with a clean interface and nothing too complicated.  And, you know, it works too.  So that's nice.  SUCCEED!
I should also mention that Google Calendar will do this for you, but I kind of wanted something separate so as to not clutter up my calendar too much.  I guess the moral of the story is that you get what you pay for.