I Want Sandy with SMS and Twitter

21 January, 2008

I've been happily using I Want Sandy, the virtual email-based personal assistant from Portland-based Values of N for some time now. (Disclaimer: Sandy is the brainchild of Rael Dornfest who I'm proud to count a friend.) The service's friendly avatar-driven interface masks a powerful task and event storage and reminder system that actually feels surprisingly similar to the Ruby Golbergian contraption of Rake tasks, Remind, and Geek Tool that I'd previously hand-rolled for myself.

Until recently, the one part of my interaction with Sandy that hadn't left me totally satisfied was the ability to add tasks and reminders from my phone. Since I've been a straggler in the iPhone stampede, the main interface I use to get data to and from my phone is SMS. It was a synch to teach Sandy to send reminders via SMS, but I had never been able to close the loop on sending new information to Sandy via text.

It turns out the problem was mostly me. There are actually two different ways to get setup to send your reminders to Sandy from SMS: via the secondary email address and via Twitter. Both of these are relatively easy to setup and have different uses depending on the context. Here's what I did to get them working:

Setting Sandy up with SMS
  1. Login to iwantsandy.com
  2. Navigate to the settings page.
  3. Under the heading "Secondary email address", enter the email address that your carrier redirects to your phone via SMS. For Verizon users this will take the form <YOUR PHONE NUMBER>@vtext.com and other carriers have similar services. If you don't know what yours is, try sending a text message to your own email address and seeing what the from address turns out to be.
  4. Once you save your settings with your phone's email address, Sandy will send you a message with a link to confirm the address. When the message arrives in your phone — it will be in the form: iwantsandy.com/confirm/<SHORT CODE> — visit the url in the browser.
  5. That's it, you're ready to go! Add Sandy as a contact on your phone (enter the address listed as "Sandy's Email Address" as her email address) and you can send her info in just a few clicks any time.
Setting Sandy up with Twitter
  1. Go to Sandy's Twitter page and click the button to follow her.
  2. Go to your Twitter settings page on Sandy.
  3. Tell Sandy your Twitter account name.
  4. She'll send you a direct message on Twitter with a confirmation code.
  5. When that message arrives, return to your Twitter settings page on Sandy and enter the code in the box.
  6. That's it. You're ready to go! You can now send Sandy a Twitter message in the form of "d s remember that I left my cell phone at the bar" from anywhere you can send Twitter messages: Twitterriffic, the web, IM, by texting to 40404, through the Twitter API, etc. Note: they use "s" as Sandy's Twitter name because it's fewer characters to type on a phone.
  7. Sandy will respond to your Twitter message telling you what she gleaned from it.

While both of these processes are somewhat lengthy to describe, they each only take a minute to actually execute. And the result of doing so, at least for me, was a major imrpovement in not forgetting things. Instead of writing things down and then sending them to Sandy later when I return to my computer, I just tell her about them immediately when they come up. Plus, now I can access all the stuff I have Sandy store from anywhere. If I want to know what errands I'm supposed to do while I'm out doing them, I just text/twitter "lookup @errands" and Sandy replies with everything I've tagged as an errand.

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