Sunday, August 8, 2010

I want a better Personal Information Manager!

I have a mobile phone and it could be used for keeping track of the phone numbers and addresses of my contacts, my appointments and the things I have to do. Unfortunately, it is not quite as usable as the good old calender I used 15 years ago; the companies that produce paper organizers are still in business and perhaps I should get one again!

What are the issues?

Contacts: Initially, on my first Nokia phone, only phone numbers with a short name were stored. On the iPhone i managed to have two (or more) different lists on the phone and in my different mail accounts. They are all stored in my gmail account and sync works; on my Android phone it is really fully automatic; all my contacts were available, minutes after I switched the phone on for the first time! Open issues are:
- the mobile phone interface is not suitable to select among a large number of contacts; HTC Sense uses a T9 input system which works quite well, as long as I know a word in the contact.
- there is only one type of contact: what is the first name of a company? how to register a person in a company for whom i do not know the first name? obviously several types of contacts should be offered.

Notes: My electronic notes are as disparately distributed over many systems as my paper notes on my desks. Tomboy, using couchDB, syncs nicely all notes on my computers, but not on my mobile phone! Notes should link to other parts of my life.

Calender: The reason for having an electronic PIM is mostly that others, especially my secretary, has access to my calender and can enter appointments for me. I am not fond of the Google calender interface, but it syncs with my phone and produces alarms on midnight for 'all day events'...

Tasks: The task manager GTask, which I use on the Android, has a usable interface and syncs with the tasks in my Google calender, where the interface is barely usable. Not connected to anything else.

In brief:
- synchronization is an issue, especially if I am not connected to the Internet, which is the case whenever I am outside of Austria (data roaming is a financial risk in Europe!)

- user interface

- linkages between the items and other items i have to collect: expenses, photos, mail, folders related to the tasks I work on; there are weak links between the parts, but much more exists.

- persons and time are organizing principles, but location is equally dominating my life: I am always at one place and interact with people.

In one sentences: the ontology of the information that should go into the Personal Information Manager is not properly designed; it is a "bad" ontology, because it does not fit my reality!

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