Backpack Preview #2: Reminders 11 Apr 2005

32 comments Latest by ERE

This preview doesn’t come with a screenshot, but it covers a concept central to Backpack: Usefulness (with a capital U).

Backpack is basically a two pillar product — it does two things really well. One of the things it does is rather general (so it can be used in tens of thousands of different ways). More on the general thing in another post. The other thing it does is more specific: it can send reminders to an email address and/or a mobile phone.

When we started thinking about this feature, we had a bit of an epiphany: there are certainly things that need to go on a calendar (such as a meeting or a flight time or birthday), but there’s another set of things you need to remember that don’t belong on a calendar (such as a reminder to pick up your dry cleaning, or a reminder to check out a new restaurant in a few weeks, or a reminder to send in the rebate before it expires, etc.).

The problem is that there’s really no good place to put these secondary — but equally important — reminders. You surely wouldn’t want to clutter your calendar with notes to pick up your dry cleaning. Perhaps you can put them in a dated to-do list thing somewhere, but it never quite feels right. And if you do have a system for this, often times it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth — especially since you have to pick specific times or days when really all you want to be reminded of is to do something in a couple of days or a couple of weeks.

So, realizing all this, we built a really simple but incredibly useful reminder system into Backpack. It’s a breeze to add a reminder. It’s a breeze to pick a specific time/date or a general time/date. It’s a breeze to receive them via email and/or your mobile phone. It’s a breeze to see what’s coming up. It’s become something that’s hard to live without.

Note: For all those people who dig the Getting Things Done system, you’ll especially like Backpack reminders. They are structured like a 43 folders tickler system.

So, get on the Backpack announcement list for a shot at an early preview. You’ll be hearing from us soon.

32 comments (comments are closed)

BradNelson 11 Apr 05

I’m impressed. That’s something I’ve been annoyed with: trying to setup reminders for myself without the hassle of Outlook’s calendar. I haven’t found a good way to do it yet.

Django 11 Apr 05

Something that is missing from the 37s scheduling (for me personally) is start and end dates e.g. to schedule holidays or trips.

Joe Parker 11 Apr 05

Exercise in clarity: what’s the difference between a reminder and a to-do?

I’ve been developing my own personal management system and have come up against this question. All of the examples mentioned for reminders (pick up dry cleaning, check out a new restaurant, send in the rebate) could all go on a list of “Things to Do this Week.”

Is a reminder something that has a timing mechanism attached to it (specific or general)? Is a to-do something that you want to keep around after you’ve marked it as complete, whereas a reminder is something that you just delete when you’re done with it?

Ben Sinclair 11 Apr 05

So what you’re saying is that I should stop working on FutureMail and also not finish my new blog-based organizer application? :)

Jesse Kochis 11 Apr 05

That’s a great idea. I was thinking about trying to build my own SMS reminder tool. I was going to call it ShoutOut, but it looks like you’ve got a better idea than me. Mine just a concept anyhow. Now I’m really looking forward to Backpack.

Nick Stenning 11 Apr 05

@Joe: I’d say the difference is that a to-do doesn’t necessarily have a specific date/time when it needs to be done, whereas what Jason’s talking about does.

Well, thanks for the look-in again .. but hurry up and release already =)

Just kiddin’ … take your time and make neither half a product nor a half-assed product.


Fintan 11 Apr 05

Teasing of this calibre is surely some kind of human rights violation!

Sounds very interesting, anyway. Will there be a charge?

Julian Scarfe 11 Apr 05

I noticed that backpack [coming soon] is under the ‘please try our products’ sidebar.
I noticed writeboard is not.
has writeboard quietly died?

Jeff Wheeler 11 Apr 05

I’m impressed. I never have certain dates for things, but I do have lots of things to do. I think this could be very cool, but I’m curious to see how you integrate it into the photo thing we saw in the screen shot.

JF 11 Apr 05

Sounds very interesting, anyway. Will there be a charge?

As with Basecamp, there will be a free version and a pay version.

as writeboard quietly died?

No, it’s just on hold until after Backpack is done.

Brad 11 Apr 05

That�s something I�ve been annoyed with: trying to setup reminders for myself without the hassle of Outlook�s calendar

Actually Outlook does this quite well: your to-do lists are “Tasks,” which are tracked separately from the calendar but still pop up reminders (as with the calendar) when they’re due. Better yet, they can pop up reminders before they’re due, to give you enough time to complete them before the deadline.

I use Tasks in Outlook to manage my to-do lists, and use the calendar only to schedule appointments, travel, etc.

All that said, though, Outlook doesn’t play well with other systems or calendar/task programs. Unless everyone you work with (including clients) uses Outlook, and unless you’re on an Exchange server, a lot of the collaborative benefits of using Outlook can’t be realized.

Mike M 11 Apr 05

Sounds like ya’ll just got finished reading GTD, no? :)

Mike M 11 Apr 05

Whoops, I just re-read and saw that you mentioned GTD… I knew some things sounded familiar! :)

wayne 11 Apr 05

I do not mind calendar reminders so much. It is nice having things in one place. I use the Sidekick II phone, which has a great calendar and a To-Do list system eerily similar to Ta-Da. However, I am really looking forward to seeing the mobile phone reminder system. I need my simplicity super-sized, otherwise, I will forget.

Dan Boland 11 Apr 05

Whenever I need refreshing of my upcoming plans, I just consult my day planner (aka the wife). =D

John Zeratsky 11 Apr 05

I use milestones in Basecamp to remind myself of these kinds of things.

Dan Brendstrup 11 Apr 05

Awesome, guys! Especially the GTD Ticker File inspiration — a lot of people are going to like this…

Now my only hope is — with David on the team — that the sms reminders will work in Denmark too… :-)
It’ll be annoying if it’s another thing that only works with US providers.

Marten Veldthuis 11 Apr 05

Yeah, that was the first thing to pop into my mind too: will SMS reminders be international?

Given that you’re listing it as one of the pillars, I kind-of expect they do, but I’d like a confirmation.

Besides that, I’m glad I waited just a bit longer before embarking on developing my own GTD application.

Telco Dude 11 Apr 05

“via email and/or your mobile phone”

Just about every wireless carrier in the US can accept SMS messages via email. Is this the case internationally? If so, I suspect this is a non-issue.

Nick Stenning 11 Apr 05

Just thought … are you guys planning on doing any sort of a package deal for Basecamp/Backpack/Writeboard? I suppose it’s not really a very good question as they might not be products that ‘go together’, but I imagine I’m not the only person who knows they’ll use every single one of 37s web apps =)

Foofy 11 Apr 05

I’m hoping this means Backpack is some sort of PIM! I was just saying the other day how wonderful something like that would be. You guys are secretly trying to get me into some sort of slavery aren’t you? :P

Marten Veldthuis 11 Apr 05

Telco Dude,

Here in the netherlands, I don’t know of a provider that does. Perhaps there’s some gateway provider, I haven’t really researched that.

tom 11 Apr 05

not to be a party pooper… but doesn’t FutureMail already do this?

Dan Brendstrup 12 Apr 05

Just about every wireless carrier in the US can accept SMS messages via email. Is this the case internationally? If so, I suspect this is a non-issue.

Most providers used to have en email-to-sms gateway here in Denmark, but they scrapped that a few years ago, claiming that it was costing them too much. Hugely annoying!

But I know: that is probably the only way it would work internationally — without anyone having to pay big money, or 37s setting up their own sms-server or something…

Drew McLellan 12 Apr 05

Don’t forget that SMS can be reverse-billed. That’s to say you pay a premium for each one you receive.

It’d make a nice payment model for a service like this.

Bruno Figueiredo 12 Apr 05

I can see the usefulness of a web based PIM for some people. However, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t go anywhere without it’s PDA. I just can’t live without it. And I need this info on my pocket, so what would be the usefulness of having this on the Web? Can I synchronize the info? If so, I’m sold.

FineJames 12 Apr 05

NORTHCOM could certainly use this

Joshua Kaufman 12 Apr 05

But what happens if the to do item in the email isn’t completed? I’m curious to know how it will keep tickling you to complete it if you ignore/forget/procrastinate it.

Al Abut 12 Apr 05

Hey Jason, have you thought about making global user accounts for all of your products? So you can have a single signon for basecamp, todo lists, writeboard, etc. Sort of like the direction Google started going with their accounts - you sign in to Gmail, then you can look up your news alerts, customize your news page, so on and so forth.

And the little “Who Are The Signals?” blurb in the SvN sidebar looks great, it helps the newcomers get oriented and update long-timers on who’s talking.

JF 13 Apr 05

Hey Jason, have you thought about making global user accounts for all of your products?

Each product allows people to create their own custom URL so we can’t have global accounts. Two people can have the same username, but different URLs.

Jon 13 Apr 05

How about reminders via IM? I remember an email service I used to use which would notify of new messages via your choice of IM service.