Later today, at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 conference, Portland-based Values of n will be launching the beta of Stikkit, the company’s inaugural service. I’ve been following the progress of the company since Spring this year, largely due to curiosity as to what the former CTO of O’Reilly, Rael Dornfest, had planned for his latest venture. Indeed, the team has an illustrious pedigree with contributors drawn from Orange, O’Reilly and Platial amongst others.
Rael’s described Stikkit as a ‘command line for your life’ and a tool for what he termed ‘continuous partial organisation’ – a constant state of trying to get things done. Stikkit is essentially a notepad that tries to make sense of your jottings and organise them automagically into useful applications, such as calendars, to-do lists and bookmarks…kinda like a sophisticated iteration of Gina Trapani’s Todo.txt. Of course, each entry is sharable with other Stikkit users. So how well does it work?
In order to add a calendar entry for a meeting later today, I simply typed ‘meeting bill boffin at yorkshire forward,in leeds, tommorow at 11am tag as leeds, meetings, YF’.
To bookmark a browser page, I clicked the bookmarklet and added ‘blog about this on TCUK tommorow and tag as money, startup’ to the pre-inserted URL and page title.
As the user types their note, Stikkit attempts to identify the entry as an event, bookmark or to-do item; it correctly identified the first two items, but unfortunately, the to-do list needed to be manually identified. Nevertheless, this immediate feedback its powerful mechanism for learning the vocabulary and syntax of the service; simply mentioning people, places and times as you type begins to structure your thoughts. That’s very cool :)
Stikkits can also trigger actions such as interrogating other user’s diaries, posting to blogs and creating reminders. Using semi-natural language to create structured data could be a powerful and compelling interface to any number of services.
Apple’s Spotlight, Jonathan Aquino’s Yubnub, Backpack, AIM Bots, Google and even SMS codes have each contributed to the renaissance of the command line and it looks like Stikkit is set to continue this trend. I like the possibilities for such a concept, particularly in seeking to canonicalise our often ambiguous impulses. It’s not difficult to see the power of a user experience such as Stikkit driving a mobile operating system, where short SMS-like commands could overcome the limitations of mobile UIs yet still enable users to populate their mobile applications with rich data.
It’ll be interesting to see where Values of n take the service as it develops and which business models will emerge. The company plans to work within user’s existing habits, so Stikkits could potentially be used to manipulate Upcoming, Google Calendar, Outlook, del.icio.us and others – a compelling, intutive and agnostic UI to anybody’s services. Nicely done Rael.