PIMLite Retrospective, October 2002
by Andy Dent mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in July 1993, I got a bee in my bonnet about Personal Information Managers after a program which I found very useful (ThoughtPattern) apparently died and the promised version 2 never materialised. (http://www.tidbits.com/tb-issues/TidBITS-173.html)
ThoughtPattern had a few interesting ways of tagging data and a fairly large, loyal following.
I have an intense interest in user interface design and decided to try iterative design using a range of participants, over the internet, by mailing out questions, ideas and screen mockups.
We had a very successful 4 round of tests, then the program never got written.
There were two main reasons for this never happening:
2) my wife of the time had developed undiagnosed post-natal depression which became full-blown clinical depression and my life became too complicated to manage an R&D project like this on the side (1994-98 were horrible years and after her recovery she divorced me in 1999).
It's saddening to read the enthusiasm in the responses and look back over this design, thinking that it will never be implemented.
I think there are a lot of good ideas in there which have never been implemented in PIM products I've seen (and some ideas which should have stayed in the design stage :-).
By publishing this I hope that other people can benefit from the thinking and get some ideas for their own UI design conducted around the world.
If I were doing it today I would use a Wiki to build shared understanding, using an engine like Twiki (http://www.twiki.org/).
One good thing that came out of this project - the early parts of the implementation grew into our OOFILE database engine. (http://www.oofile.com.au/)
If you are looking for PIM products today, I suggest a long hard look at Tinderbox from Eastgate Systems (http://www.eastgate.com/) and the Chandler project, which as I write is just in the design stage (http://www.osafoundation.org/)
Note: the Postcards referred to below are applications that allow you
to view a saved picture - a technology that predated PDF files. As the
original word processor is no longer on my system I had to leave these
as postcards, they should continue to run on any Mac - I've run them
on OS 8.6 and in Classic mode on OS/X 10.2.1
Just download the Excel spreadsheet of questions and collated responses.
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