Sydney duo plot end to Post-it notes

Sydney duo plot end to Post-it notes

Summary: After more than a year in development, two Sydney-based developers have launched their online solution to the paper-based 'to-do' list using advanced Web development techniques.Dubbed 'Remember the Milk' (RTM), it lets users create and manage tasks on the Web, and even share lists with others.

TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0
After more than a year in development, two Sydney-based developers have launched their online solution to the paper-based 'to-do' list using advanced Web development techniques.

Dubbed 'Remember the Milk' (RTM), it lets users create and manage tasks on the Web, and even share lists with others. In addition, it's possible to send reminders via SMS, e-mail or instant message, and view the lists themselves via RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

Users can also synchronise their lists with their Apple iCalendar.

What sets RTM apart from the rest is its intuitive user interface. Currently in beta, RTM will offer more collaborative features in future such as integration with Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client and support for 14 languages.

Remember the Milk
Click to enlarge

RTM went live on October 12 but already has around 12,000 users -- between 10 percent and 20 percent are active at any one time, according to technical lead Omar Kilani.

Kilani believes the "usability and responsiveness" of RTM wins on many fronts when compared with desktop-based applications. The variety of network reminder methods, the ability to collaborate with any other party, and the ability to access task lists from any Web browser will make it competitive compared with PC-based to-do lists, he said.

The motivation behind the project was simple, Kilani said in an e-mail interview. "We wanted to create the best way for people to manage their to-do lists.

"We set out to make something as simple and easy to use as possible so that people no longer have to write their to-do lists on sticky notes, whiteboards, random scraps of paper, or the backs of their hands," he said.

RTM is built on a range of readily-available technologies, with the core components being the Javascript, PHP and Python scripting languages, the C programming language, and the open-source database PostgreSQL. The various pieces fit together on a Linux base, and interaction is done using the XMPP protocol (commonly called 'Jabber') recently adopted by Google in its Google Talk instant messaging application.

Kilani said some custom components had to be developed for the project, most of which were released back into the open-source community, which provided the aforementioned tools.

"Overall, we think the combination of these technologies is a great fit for companies developing Web applications, and definitely the way to go if you need to develop fast, scalable platforms.

"Our technical challenges were mostly scalability focused -- how do we scale to millions of users as quickly as possible while maintaining a very responsive application experience for the user," Kilani, who also created enterprise-focused Linux server distribution tinysofa, said.

Web 2.0 and the future
The application programming interfaces (APIs) needed by external developers to hook their own applications into RTM may also be published soon.

"We've had interest from people looking to create 'widgets' for programs like Apple's Dashboard and Yahoo Widgets (formerly Konfabulator).

"The great thing about having a public API is that you never know what people might come up with. It allows for people to do things we've never thought of doing, or do things that aren't in our plans for the future," Kilani said.

Such openness is a feature of many Web 2.0 applications, and has fuelled innumerable collaborations known as 'mashups'. Web 2.0 or the programmable Web is an emerging model where new applications are built using pieces of existing, public Web sites. Rather than simply providing access to Web pages, these companies treat their Web sites as a development platform, much like an operating system. One of the best examples of the mashup phenomenon is the wealth of third-party applications built on Google's Map and Earth applications, which make geographical data available online.

Kilani is more sceptical about the Web 2.0 phenomenon than some of his developer colleagues, though.

"We guess that RTM is considered part of Web 2.0, but at the end of the day we don't think it matters if your application is 'Web 2.0', 'AJAX' or anything else," he said. "The users simply care about one thing: does using the application provide a benefit to their lives?"

The developer also had a different perspective on what some see as the ultimate goal of many Web startups: being acquired by someone bigger.

"We're like to continue developing our application for a long time to come, and we'd like it to benefit as many people as possible," he said.

"If being acquired by a larger company helps with those two goals, then that's something we'd consider.

"Commercial success would be nice, but if that doesn't eventuate, we'd still be happy knowing that we're helping many people organise their lives," he added.

Web designer Emily Boyd makes up the other half of the team.

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

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  • Here's one I prepared earlier...


    * Remember to pay h****** for recent local government function.
    * Sign thank you card for Bob Carr.
    * Finalise deal with RTA for purchase of Parramatta Road.