Sandy, remind me about that New Year's resolution @sms

Rael Dornfest’s Sandy, an email and sms-based personal assistant (whose name, I should confess, was inspired by Sandy Torre, my executive assistant at O’Reilly when Rael was CTO here) has just added what I think is a killer feature. Rather than setting Sandy to send all your reminders to email or SMS, you can now ask Sandy to route reminders (and other data) to email, SMS, or even twitter, on a per-item basis.

You ask Sandy for help via email or SMS, sending her a short message like “Sandy, remind me at 9 am tomorrow to call Mike.” Previously, that reminder would be sent to you via your pre-set mechanism (mail or sms.) Now, you can add “@sms,” “@email” or “@twitter” to have your reminder sent via that channel. I get most of my reminders sent by default to my email, but sometimes I really want to get them on my phone!

Sandy has a fairly rich vocabulary of tasks you can ask her to help out with, but the four core primitives are “remember,” “lookup,” “forget,” and “remind.” @ tags act as modifiers. In addition to the channel modifiers mentioned above, there are also time-based modifiers like @daily, @weekly, or @monthly. (Sandy also recognizes dates and times.) @todo and @done are also predefined tags. You can create any of your own tags simply by prefixing any word with an @ sign. An * turns an entry into a bulleted list item. So, for example, you might say to Sandy:

  • “Remember Bill’s phone number is xxx-yyyy.”
  • “Lookup Bill’s phone number @sms” to get that number back via text message
  • “Take out the garbage Monday night at 9 pm @weekly @sms” to get a reminder on your cell phone at 9 pm every Monday night.
  • “Remind me about my New Year’s Resolutions on January 15th * Leave ten minutes earlier for meetings * Reach out to friends I haven’t talked with in a while * Show appreciation before rushing to improve on an idea @monthly” to be reminded of your New Years’ resolutions on the 15th of every month.

Even better, if you ask Sandy to remind you of something, and cc someone else on the message, they’ll get a reminder as well. This only works right now for email, I think, as there’s no way to cc someone on an SMS message. I’m not sure what happens if I tell Sandy to remind me by SMS but all she has for the other person is an email address.

If you get something wrong, Sandy will respond with a message telling you she’s confused. She also lets Rael and his team know about it, so they can help teach her how to do the right thing in future. There’s a useful cheatsheet as well as a more extensive guide to Sandy’s vocabulary online.

FWIW, one of the really interesting things about Sandy from a Radar perspective is the exploration of conversational interfaces. I know Rael has been very much influenced by The Jack Principles, but I still see him feeling his way, and having to learn, with Sandy, just what kind of conversation works best.

Disclosure: I am on the board of ValuesOfN, Rael (and Sandy’s) company, and an investor.

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