New Service Delivers on the Promise of Wiki Technology

Wow! For a long time now, I have been asking around if anyone knows of a piece of software that would let me send email messages to an address where a database would then parse out the message and store it away in data fields-– resulting in an online database that I can then manipulate.

Since I do a lot of scanning of the higher education environment and much of that is via the 1,500+ email messages I get each day (Yes, most are spam.), this particular feature would be useful to me, especially for the work I do for “IT Trends” finding news items and also for the work I do in preparing content for the weekly “SCUP Email News” that I edit.

Well, I found what I need, almost, enough–and it d'es so much more that I almost find myself unable to describe its features. Get it as soon as you can and put it to work for you.

It’s called "Backpack" and you can download it at Limited functionality and five web pages are free. I am currently using the $5/month option to have more pages and to add some functionality. I believe it is Wiki-based.

Personal/Productivity Web Pages
If you want to see one of the many ways in which I am finding this useful, you can take a look at this page-- I am currently sharing publicly.

I am making one page like this for each day I live through. I start by putting in calendar items from my Treo’s calendar. (This software interacts “automatedly” with Wiki calendaring, so I may be changing that.) Then I add notes about things I think of or see or do, including photos. And I check off the items that are accomplished as they are completed. Basically the page is where I “live” all day long and it becomes a fairly complete record of each day, ex post facto.

Okay, sounds pretty cool. But lots of Web services offer stuff like that, right? Right. But Backpack is so amazingly easy to use. I’ve got a few suggestions for the company, but it is as easy to set up and begin using productively as anything I have ever seen.

This is not the be-all or end-all of personal converged Web services, but it’s the coolest thing I know of right now and it’s pointing and hinting at where we’re headed.

Email Content In!
Here’s another way I use it: I’ve recently noticed an interesting trend in news stories about the ways that either technology can be used to be persuasive or how technology and related research is finding out behavioral or scientific ways that people can be persuaded (manipulated). I may write about this at some future point, so I am collecting related items I find on the web.

But the items you see here-- not typed into a Web page or even a database by me, unless you can call this entire functionality a “widely-dispersed database.” In order to put an item on this page, I merely have to send the text I want for each one to a special email address and it is placed on the page automatically. (Remember, that’s the functionality, almost, that I have been wanting for so long anyway. I just would like it to parse the content out into several data fields instead of a single one, but I expect that’s on the way.)

Reminders – As You Like Them
There’s a nice reminder feature that is probably going to get more fully-fledged, too. You can set it for specific or general times and it sends you reminders both by email and to your cell phone by text-messaging. This feature works with any calendar that is iCalendar compatible, such that if you use Apple iCal, Mozilla Calendar, or other programs that supports that format, “you can subscribe to your reminders and they'll be added to your desktop calendar.”
And More
This can be used for project management by individuals or teams. You can share (As I have herein.) pages with the public, or share them with limited numbers of others--each of whom can, if you let them, add things or change things.

Oh, and you can export the data from any page with a single click, that sends it off to your email account.

Truly, it is my opinion that you probably need to get Backpack. It is fascinating, even addictive, but I’ve saved enough time using it this week in organizational ways, already (As I write this it is Wednesday morning.) to pay myself back in productivity over and over.

So now I can go “play” with it some more, with a clear conscience, knowing that the time I spend learning its nooks and crannies will be time well spent.

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