Welcoming Sandy Users to PingMe

2008-11-25 19:00:00 -0500


We’ve noticed a bit of a spike in sign-ups to our interactive reminder service PingMe of late, and judging by the support e-mails we’re getting and some posts we’re seeing in the tubes, a lot of you folks are looking for a new service to replace the excellent I Want Sandy, which is closing its doors soon.

While we don’t provide the same feature set and syntax, PingMe does provide some similar features to Sandy, and a few extras that you might enjoy, so I figure a quick post here is in order to explain the basic functionality. More in-depth (if in need of update) documentation is available on the PingMe Help page. Our old Getting Started document may also be illustrative.

One of the things that makes PingMe really stand out among other reminder services is the flexibility it gives you for replying to a reminder to reschedule it for another time (built-in procrastination!), and its pestering feature, aside from the many avenues of interaction and some of the service integrations we’ve come up with. Hopefully we can touch on those things today.

Creating a reminder

Sandy has a great syntax for creating new reminders because you get to work with natural-sounding sentences. You can type things like:

  • Remind me to call my mother in 3 days
  • Remind me about yoga class on Friday at 8am

Pretty simple, “Remind me” to do something with the day/time information at the end of the message.

PingMe is a bit different. We don’t use natural language processing (yet!), but we do have a very simple syntax for creating reminders without having to go to the website. When you create a reminder (we call them pings) remotely (via E-mail, Twitter, or TXT message), you begin the message with the commands indicating when it should be sent, followed by the reminder message. The general syntax is:

[ date/time info ] This is my message [ flags ]

Here are some examples:

  • 10 min Call Mom 555-555-5555
  • 3hrs pick up the dry cleaning
  • h7pm drinks with the boys

Working with Twitter

Our syntax for creating reminders via Twitter is quite similar:

d gpm + [date/time info] This is my message [flags]

Note the d gpm + part! You send a direct message to our Twitter account. There are a few setup steps involved and some gotchas, so be sure to check out our documentation on creating pings via Twitter.

Date/Time syntax

Those were just simple examples, above. We use a chained syntax (described here) for doing more complex dates and times. Here are some examples:

1mo d12 h7p Sister's birthday party

This translates to “In one month, on the twelfth day, at 7pm”. You can be more verbose about it like so, as the matching is pretty good:

1 year month 3 day 15 Do them taxes buddy

Each number and time pair either set a specific date/time, or advance the time from now. When you use “1 year”, you are literally telling the parser next year, or 2009 (as of the time of this post). If you were to say “year 1” you would literally be saying “the year 1” and you’d get an error! If you don’t specify a year, you get the current one, unless that date has already passed; then the parser will assume you mean next year.

Here are some more examples to show you some easy and common ones:

h5p m30 get some gas

Today, at 5:30pm, get some gas.

1day h11 client meeting for project x

Tomorrow, at 11am, client meeting for project x

1wk take out the trash r:w

Now this one (one week from now, take out the trash) has something else, a flag on the end; r:w tells the parser to repeat this ping weekly.

Here are some of the repeat values you can specify:

  • d – Daily
  • w – Weekly
  • b – Bi-weekly
  • m – Monthly
  • y – Yearly
  • q – Quarterly
  • f – Mon-Fri

Let’s check out some of the other flags:

1wk take out the trash r:b p:10 t:m

This creates a ping that will go off one week from now, tell us to take out the trash, and it will repeat every two weeks (bi-weekly). It will also pester us every 10 minutes after it goes off until we respond, and it will be sent to our mobile targets. We’ll break this down in a bit, but first we need to go over responding.

Hit me back, yo! (or, Responding)

Sometimes you can’t take care of a task when the reminder goes off. You’re busy, best laid plans, &c., we all know how this works. So when that ping arrives in your e-mail or one your phone, or via Twitter, do you need to go to the website and reschedule it? Definitely not. All you need to do is reply with the new time you want it to go off. Simply write back the same as you would create a ping, sans the message:

15m

Or:

1day

Now that we’ve gotten that squared away, we can talk about nagging reminders.

Pestering

Sometimes you need to be told more than once to clean your room. Or sometimes you’re just busy and want to be reminded again later. PingMe has a feature called pestering where it will continue to send you the reminders at a specified interval until you respond. There are two ways to respond, or really three.

The first is to simply reschedule the task, which is pretty common and simple:

1wk

The second is to tell PingMe you’ve completed the task by writing back with ok, okay, or done. This will stop the pestering. If this is just a pestering ping, and not a repeating ping, this will mark it as done.

Repeating pings that pester are a different story altogether. Usually you want them to pester you on some schedule, say weekly. When the ping goes off you usually want to stop it pestering you when you’ve taken out the trash, but you still want it to remind you again next week. Or maybe you want to turn it off altogether.

  1. Respond with ok, okay, or done to stop the pestering, but keep the ping on it’s repeating schedule
  2. Respond with stop or off to mark the ping as done and turn it off

Targets

The last thing to discuss is targets. In PingMe, a target is a place where your pings get sent to. When you sign up, your e-mail account is automatically added as a target. If you entered a mobile number or a Twitter ID, those were also set up as targets. You can add, edit, and delete them as you like in the sidebar on the webapp.

Each target has a “Default” flag on them. When you create a ping the system assumes you want it to go to all of your default targets, unless you specify otherwise. To specify otherwise, you’d use the t: flag.

  • t:e Tells the parser to hit your e-mail targets
  • t:m Tells the parser to use your mobile targets
  • t:t Tells the parser to send the ping to your Twitter targets

Help!

You can always send the command “help” to PingMe and it will respond with some short examples of the syntax.

Using Twitter, Other Stuff

We’ve built a lot of great functionality into PingMe over the last couple of years, so you might wish to peruse our blog for more information and tricks. We do have a couple pieces of further reading for you to check out:


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