August 24th, 2011
Well, this is one of those ideas that seems awesome in the shower, so I figured I’d write it down before I forgot about it.
If you read this blog regularly – well, see a psychiatrist, but you’ll also be aware of my various frustrations in finding a personal groupware setup which meets my own requirements (which are, more or less, #0: actually works, #1: syncs with all my devices’ native clients, #2: sane web interface, #3: Not Google, #4: self-hosted). It occurs to me that this might represent what those up-and-coming Young Turk capitalists refer to as a ‘market niche’.
So, the idea is called WIMM (Where Is My Mind). Yes, that’s a Pixies reference. No, I haven’t checked for trademark issues. It even comes with a great hashtag – #wimming!
It would be a web service which gives you a very dumb and simple, personal, todo list, calendar and contact list. No whizzy complex LDAP stuff or email support, at least in v1.0 – that can come later. There would be a nice easy web interface at www.wimm.com (oh dear, I just checked and it’s taken). There would be a whizzy, standards-compliant mobile version of the site which worked nice on phones and tablets. It would be able to sync with everything – F/OSS and otherwise desktop clients and mobiles OSes. This would be a really important development area.
So far, so meh…as someone is no doubt yelling at home right now (thanks for playing along), you can do that with Google already. Well, nearly. It doesn’t sync great with quite everything, but it’s close. However, it’s, well, Google, and the server side is proprietary.
So WIMM’s twist would be a) not Google and b) the server side code and API would be as public as possible. It would be F/OSS – AGPL, I guess. Rather like Firefox Sync, you would not be just allowed but downright encouraged to self-host if that’s what you wanted. Self-hosting would be actively supported and very very easy for anyone who is actually capable of running their own web server.
So where’s the money? Well, there’s lots of people who can’t self-host, and they could pay for the public server: many current operators in this area use a free/premium model, WIMM could go with that, or simply charge everyone a small flat fee to use the public server (I’m rather of the personal opinion that it’s nice to have a straightforward service you pay a reasonable fee for, rather than getting it ‘free’ and worrying about how your free lunch is in fact being paid for). WIMM could offer support for people / organizations who wanted help with self-hosting, especially more complex setups for a small business or whatever. Obviously supporting small work groups in a useful but simple way – shared task lists, contact lists and calendars – would be a clear post-1.0 development avenue.
There’s some really neat blue-sky ideas for v5.0 or whatever – how about public contacts? You could publish a subset of your contact data and let people add you to their WIMM contact list simply by entering your name, if you wanted. Or there could be cleverer ways to limit it: WIMM could generate one-time keys which you could pass out to let people add you. They could even be encoded into QR codes you could put on your business cards…yeah, crazy shower ideas, I know.
Really, though, it seems like there’s got to be some space for a simple, personal, todo/contacts/calendar service that is F/OSS, actually works, isn’t massively over-engineered, and syncs really well. Nothing I can find out there right now quite fits the bill: things like Remember The Milk are neat, but they’re single-purpose and they’re not F/OSS.
So do I start hiring developers and drawing up the plans for my mega-yacht or go back to the day job? Right, thought so – back to the day job it is…