Starting up the “Recurrent Tasks” PIM project

So, some developments on the PIM front.

First, off, in conversation with Larry Fitzpatrick I’ve decided to bite off an actual project, as a way of jumpstarting my efforts to write the ultimate PIM as well as to re-start as a coder and — who knows? — feather my nest in other ways as well.

I had been thinking about a project of scraping social media — Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. — to generate personal “Klout-like” stats.

Why scrape?  As I began to look into it, it seemed that most of these sites had APIs for business use — Fan pages, etc. — but nothing for personal use.  Want to figure out engagement for your Facebook pages?  They’ve got an API for that.  Wanto to figure out engagement with you as a person.  SOL.

Larry talked me out of that.  He said that there was a lot of “pumping out entropy” in any scraping effort, and I would end up with a needs-to-be-maintained-constantly hack which didn’t prove any concepts or really make much progress toward the goal of the ultimate PIM machine.

So he asked me to say the first thing that came into my head for a more substantive theoretical piece of the PIM pie, and I said “recurrent to-dos”.

I blogged about them here.  They’re theoretically interesting.  They actually lie at the heart of what makes me most interested in one or another PIM product (so they differentiate one’s hack).  And they are pretty kludge-y in most PIMs, from Outlook to Todoist to Toodeldoo and beyond.

So I started thinking about it.  I had also been reading some of Paul Graham’s essays (if you haven’t read them, they’re wonderful; go here), and he had written about using LISP for coding his ecommerce platform (eventually bought by Yahoo).

It was like Proust’s madeleine.  It took me back to an era where I wrote in LISP and, more importantly, thought in LISP.  And in LISP, recurrent objects are kind of trivial.

Trivial in the sense that there’s no difference between a function and a variable in LISP: generators look syntactically just like atoms (except that they may have arguments, etc.).  The language doesn’t make you jump through hoops to use a function where you might use a variable (or vice versa).

So maybe LISP would be a good medium for experimenting with how to do recurrent PIM patterns, since a PIM pattern may be nothing but a generator for to-do events (I say “may be” because one wants to undo recurrent to-dos, update them, and other operations TBD).

So I was wondering if Graham were really right and it would be possible to right a major server-side app in LISP.

And then it hit me: JavaScript treats functions just the way LISP does!

This could all be done in JavaScript.

So now I can kill three birds with one stone: get started re-sharpening my coding skills, come up to speed on JavaScript, and move forward on the PIM project.

Brilliant!

Next step is to do some experiments with a Recurrent_Generator class.

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