Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PIM Manfesto

Personal Information Manager Manifesto

A manifesto is a declaration of principles. It may sound grandiose, but this declaration of principles is important to me because it is the distillation of at least 7 years of thinking about what the future I want to create really is.

Principal: The PIM is an expression of how people live their lives.

The things users talk about in real life correspond to the things they manipulate in their PIM. For example if a person thinks in terms of anniversaries, holidays, meetings than those are the things they schedule rather than something called an event.

The actions users talk about in real life correspond to the actions they take in their PIM. If they think in terms of making and keeping promises than the PIM makes it possible to make and keep promises.

Principle: The PIM has a very minimalist design.

It displays what the user needs when it is needed rather than overwhelming them with all the information they might need.

Principal: The PIM is designed to use and make available connections between the things the user deals with.

The PIM makes available the connections between the data when the user needs them. It is easy for the user to lay out the communities in their lives the way they think of them. Adding and subtracting people from a community should be easy.

Principal: The PIM allows users to recognize what is available from where they
are rather than remembering.

Having the user be able to get the information they need when they need it and recognize its availability rather than remember where it would be.

I will probably add to or simplify this over time but I wanted to get it down in writing and out there.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Going Mobile

For years now I have had a love-hate relationship with mobile PDAs. My first Palm Pilot (I vaguely remember that it was sometime in the 90s) was a revelation! It was simple and straightforward and while it didn't do huge amounts; what it did, it did well.

Unfortunately, as my scheduling needs grew, the Palm's did not. Multiple calendars were just not in the cards and synchronization via WiFi never seemed to work out.

Eventually, I gave up on the Palm devices and my wife gifted me with a Dell Axim. And I started a different love-hate relationship. Well, mostly hate. It is a Microsoft-based device after all. This meant I dealt with crashes and the necessity of clicking many things many times to get to where I wanted to go.

And then there are the Dell specific gotchas. I especially like the fact that even while in the case it is easy for the Axim's sound record button to be bumped and for the device to record a nice long audio recording that fills up the disk space.

Overall, it really wasn't that much better a device then the Palm devices. Though it does have the cool Bubble Breaker game.

And then I tried the many different ways to sync up to a single repository of calendar and other information. To mention a few: GooSync, MultiSync, the various SyncML -based solutions like ScheduleWorld. During this period I spent more time recovering from synchronization failures of many different types than I did doing actual work.

Until recently when Google released a Windows Mobile OS 5.0 application that allows me to sync between my Google Calendar and the Axim. That, in combination with MilkSync, for syncing with Remember The Milk has allowed me to achieve a basic minimum level of keeping my mobile calendar and my desktop calendar in sync.

So what does that leave me with as a solution? I have my Dell Axim, which allows me to capture information while I'm on the go including scheduling information and sync it up with my desktop calendar. Of course, notes and tasks are not synced up by default and need special handling. I have my cell phone, which gets notifications from Google Calendar so I have reminders of what needs to be done without depending on the Axim's erratic notification methods. And of course, I have the Google calendar.

It works, but it is hardly ideal.

Of course, being an incredible optimist, I have hopes that the new android-based devices will provide for a more total solution. But I have seen very little in the ways of reviews of their PIM capabilities.