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July 11, 2009

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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.

  • The geolocation-via-Javascript in iPhone OS 3.0, crisply documented by Paul Hagon here.

  • 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:

  1. If you access the page with an iPhone, it snags your current location.

  2. 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.

Robin-sig.gif
Posted July 11, 2009 at 10:06 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Lifehacks

Comments

I'm going to use this - not your process, your page - to log ideas I want to share with you. Who needs Facebook? I've got Sloanbook.

Another use for the same site: make it a bookmark in Firefox, and check the "load bookmark in sidebar" box. Put the bookmark on a toolbar, with a little icon. Now you can click it for instant online everywhere notes.

(Note: this is handy to do with almost any mobile-optimized site. I also like using Fluid's built in browser plug-ins to add little sidebars or single-serving browsers, which can then be converted to simple menubar apps.)

Tim, I have a feeling that looking at your Firefox/Fluid config is like looking two years into the future... and/or 10 neutrino-spins into a parallel universe. You should post a tutorial sometime!

For me, mobility is key. I never have ideas -- at least not the kind I'm talking about -- sitting at my computer. It's always in the middle of the street.

Gustave Flaubert: "On ne peut penser et écrire qu'assis (One can only think and write when sitting)."

Friedrich Nietzsche: "There I have caught you, nihilist! The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value."

If you guys all keep working this hard and posting results/tutorials, you may just help drag me into the future I can envision but not implement. Fabulous.

Call it Snarkbook

Posted by: Jim Naughton on July 13, 2009 at 12:21 PM
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