July 11, 2009
Tracking Your Ideas, in Time and Space, With the iPhone
Here’s a little hack I put together just now. The inputs are:
- Diana’s Google Forms lifetracking experiment.
- Connected to that: the overall utility and coolness of Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets. They just make it so simple to gather and work with data at human scale.
- Jimmy’s tweet about Evernote’s geotagging feature.
- Finally (and most importantly, I guess): my own habit of jotting ideas down in the iPhone’s Notes app and emailing them to myself. I do this a dozen times a day.
So, here’s the hack: a simple iPhone-optimized page that’s nothing but a big text field. It’s a Notes substitute. But here’s what’s cool:
- If you access the page with an iPhone, it snags your current location.
- When you click “done,” the text and coordinates are piped into a Google Spreadsheet.
And here’s the spreadsheet receiving data from that demo page.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve tried Google Spreadsheets, but let me tell you, it is magic. Easy to use and a breeze to share—with humans and computers alike. I love the idea of having my ideas stored here, in this semi-structured format, instead of in a dumb, flat Gmail folder. I could add a “rating” field next to each one, or a field for “next steps”; I could sort and filter. And, of course, I could make a nice Google Map dotted with these geocoded text blobs. Not tonight, though.
Here’s a zipped-up version of the page if you want to give it a try yourself. All you need is a place to host it and a Google Form with three fields: text, latitude, and longitude (in that order).
I love that this kind of thing is even possible!
Update: I was a little unclear, both in the post and in the zipped-up template. The “formkey” you need to connect this to your Google Spreadsheet is in the URL of the associated Google Form. (I started the whole thing by going to New > Form in Google Docs, but it’s possible to add a form to an existing spreadsheet, too.) So, for instance, the Google Form for my demo is here, and the “formkey” in its URL is the crucial bit.
Update: A small change to the Google Forms “API” broke the page. It’s now fixed, and the updated version is available at the same place as the old one.