Reminders via RSS

Album Cover: Crash

"You wear nothing, but you wear it so well."
Dave Matthews Band / Crash Into Me

Posted on May 08, 2005 5:22 PM in XML
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

It's no secret that I am constanly looking for better, more efficient ways to keep myself organized. The problem is, I've yet to find a solution that meets my needs.

I'd consider myself better at remembering dates than most, but when life gets as hectic as it does, it's often hard to remember the dates and times of events that are of secondary, tertiary or even less importance. Just because something isn't as important as something else, though, doesn't make it unimportant.

Because I'm still waiting for Lightning and am not totally convinced it will meet my needs in the first place, I wrote an email to a good friend of mine proposing an idea for a web application we could create. The following is an excerpt from the actual email:

One of the issues I've been dealing with for quite a while is how best to manage (and remember) when things are due, when people's birthday's are, when certain events are scheduled to happen (album releases, concerts, TV shows, sporting events, etc.), and so on. I've dabbled with Ta-Da Lists, Sunbird, and even sending emails to myself on occasion, but none of those seem to stick.

What I'm envisioning is a very simple web-app that allows a user to login, setup reminders, and subscribe to their own personal reminder RSS feed so they will see updates when the reminder is scheduled to show up. They can have full control over when the reminder shows up (that day, a week ahead of time, etc.) and they can set reminders to be continuous (e.g. the same day every month).

I came up with the idea on my way into work this morning, and as soon as I got in I looked online real quick for any existing implementations. I found FutureMail, but it looks like some guy's private venture and doesn't look to be all that popular. Even if it does get popular, I think there are some things we could do that would distinguish our product from the competition (e.g. integration with Gmail, Sunbird, Ta-Da Lists, etc.).

I sent that email back in March, and just over a month later my friend sent me a link to a new service called Backpack (created by the same people who started the Ta-Da Lists service) that allows you to, among other things, send mobile and/or email alerts to yourself.

While I'm not totally convinced that Backpack lives up to the expecations I laid forth in my email, I'm not totally convinced that it isn't close enough to make venturing out on my own to compete worthwhile. Given the aforementioned FutureMail and other ideas I've seen floating around the web, I'm not totally convinced I'm alone in thinking RSS is a great reminder vehicle either.

Even an RSS feed that would remind me of all the major U.S. holidays would be a cool thing. Sure, there are plenty of ways to build on top of that (like letting people set up personal birthday reminders, etc.), but something as simple as reminding people that a day off from work is right around the corner seems like a good thing to me.

The clear advantage of RSS over email (as in actual emails or calendar integration like Outlook's) is that I don't have to be in one specific place to view my reminders. I can see them whether I'm at work or at home...or on the road somewhere.

I guess I'm just really surprised there aren't more services like this already available. If anyone knows of an RSS feed that sends out holiday reminders (without a bunch of other crap) please let me know.

Oh and just to be clear, this post wasn't inspired by me forgetting Mother's Day. But hopefully it will be all the more resounding for anyone out there who might have ;)

Update: My friend just pointed out another service, this time looking quite a bit more like the one I originally envisioned:


Shaun on July 07, 2005 at 12:05 PM:

You might want to check out It's a free site that allows you to input birthdays, anniversaries and other events and receive a reminder via rss, email, or text message.


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