samskivert: The eternal quest for personal information management nirvanaz

28 November 2010

I have progressed through a broad variety of personal information management tools over the course of my life, and they invariably fail to meet my needs in one way or another. This periodically motivates a flurry of note taking on what would comprise the “perfect” personal information management system, which I generally record using whatever duct tape and baling wire contraption I am currently using to keep track of things, and then promptly forget about.

About half a decade ago, I wrote a standalone application that handled the parts of PIM that were done wrongly, in my opinion, by other tools (keeping lists of tasks to do, a journal of daily doings, and seeing at a glance what events were upcoming and recently past). It kept the urges to write a more comprehensive system at bay, and I got by with my tool, a haphazard collection of wikis and text files, and Google calendar.

My entry into the world of computer science research last year triggered a dramatic increase in my generation of notes and ideas that needed keeping track of, not to mention a much more finely divided schedule. To meet my increased PIM needs, I tried minimalist solutions, maximalist solutions, and Googly solutions (among a dozen others...). Each rewarded my substantial organizational efforts with eventual dissatisfaction and malaise. My resolve eventually eroded and I succumbed to my perennial urge to write my own all-singing, all-dancing, wiki/todo/calendar/datastore/dwim application.

I thus present Spare Cortex, an unabashed indulgence in my own personal information management needs. To atone for the sin of polluting the world with yet another wiki, I have strived to make it usable by people other than its author. I have provided a demonstration of its basic functionality to help interested parties determine whether it is worth the time investment of trying out.

My motivations in creating the system (which you may compare to your own PIM motivations to gauge your interest) were as follows:

The system is implemented on Google’s AppEngine, which I confess to having mixed feelings about. Its reliability has been less than stellar during the course of development, though it seems to be improving lately. Further rants on that subject should occupy their own blog post. Should you make use of Spare Cortex for your own information management needs, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that I’m highly motivated to keep it running smoothly, owing to my own repeated daily use.

If you’ve managed to read this far and are not simply in shock at this display of raw enthusiasm for something of such little consequence, please give Spare Cortex a whirl.

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