Sunday, October 5, 2008

tt4t_057 Personal productivity and your own virtual personal assistant, Sandy

It’s Sunday, October 5th, 2008 and welcome to episode 57 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week I would like to add a short entry regarding some of the personal productivity tools I have recently been using. I was inspired to try out another new service this week by one of my followers on my Twitter network who asked if anyone knew of any personal assistant applications that they would recommend to others. I have used many such services in the past but as usual there is always another new tool on my list to try-out. His Twitter message prompted me to sign-up for a free service that I have named as my Technology Pick of the Week this week.

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I have used several traditional calendaring and office scheduling software programs over the years and I currently use Outlook Exchange for my day-to-day duties at the university. Outlook does very well for traditional office duties and is accessible over the web from any location that has Internet access. The biggest advantage of using Outlook Exchange is that others that I correspond with at our university also use this program and the calendaring function is easily shared with other users that you want to have access to your calendar. This calendar sharing allows others to schedule meetings with me and Outlook can quickly look through the busy and free times of meeting participants to recommend a meeting time when everyone is available. This can save great amounts of time and prevents the headaches of going back-and-forth between multiple participants trying to find a common meeting time. This is a major advantage of a having a standardized program that everyone can access.

In looking at other services the biggest barrier is that the data is often not easily transferable from one service to another. This is beginning to get better but there are still some roadblocks when trying to share information on disparate calendaring systems. Some Web 2.0 services are now offering ties to other calendaring systems like Google calendar and Outlook exchange but there are still caveats. One thing to be cautious of is the sharing of passwords between disparate systems that can represent a major security concern. As a practice I generally do not provide my userid and password between systems because of these security concerns.

Web 2.0 cell phone applications are the other big productivity tools that have really increased my level of productivity. I have mentioned Jott and Reqall services as previous technology picks of the week on TechTalk4Teachers. A link is provided in the show notes to these two services if you would like to learn more.

Anytime you are selecting a service be sure to be aware of any costs involved including subscription costs and hidden costs of long distance charges or additional text messaging charges. Jott recently completed Beta testing and are now charging fees for many services that were previously free. There is still a watered-down free version of Jott with limited capabilities available so each user will need to decide for themselves if the other services are worth paying for. The other service that I have been using a lot is Reqall. Reqall is working quite nicely and I use it with my cell phone primarly as a reminder service but I have recently tried out another service similar to Reqall called Dial2do that offers some added functionality.

I have added dial2do to my arsenal of cell phone productivy applications and I am still in the testing mode but I do like the way I am able to call this number leave a voice mail message and choose whether I would like to have my voice message emailed or sent as a text to one of my contacts that I have setup with Dial2do. Dial2do is also still in beta testing and I am still determining if there are any hidden fees for texting or long distance charges so I will let you know how things are going once I have had more time to use this service.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

For my Technology Pick of the Week this week I have selected the I want Sandy Web 2.0 service that offers you your very own virtual personal assistant. A link is provided in the show notes for this episode. I have also provided a link to examples for using this free service.

I want Sandy - Personal Virtual Assistant

I want Sandy allows you to email short messages and this virtual service will take it from there. If you learn the shorthand codes Sandy will place your requests in the proper category. For example if I email Sandy at the special email address given to me when I setup my account she will place this item in my calendar and I will see it the next time I login to this service.

Sandy, remind me about Smart Board training appointment on October 8 1-2pm

Sandy will add the appointment to my calendar based upon the above email message. Sandy also understands to-do lists, bookmarks, notes and other lists when you format your emails to this service using the shorthand codes that Sandy can understand.

As I said earlier you could also link this service to a Google Calendar however I am not comfortable providing usernames and passwords to other services so I have not done this. For now I prefer to have the iwantsandy service use the built-in calendar feature for this service.

If anyone out there has used the iwantsandy service or similar services and knows a way to connect to other calendaring programs with sacrificing usernames and passwords please let me know. For now, in my opinion, the security risks are too great to put that much trust into a multiple vendor solution that shares passwords. This is yet another reason to consider an OpenID solution for these recurring problems with individual identity on the Internet and multiple Web 2.0 services.

I want Sandy also allows you to setup a secondary email account that you can use to email commands to this service. This works really well for me as I can use my university account at school and when I am home I can use my personal email account and the emails I send to this service will be combined into one calendar.

That wraps it up for episode 57 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you know of other free Web 2.0 services that you use to help make you more productive please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.


Ricardo said...

Hi there,

I was a IwantSandy fan and I really miss the service, I have jott as well but is not the same, not even close, do you know a similar program or service?

Thanks in advance.

TechTalk4Teachers said...

another service you might check is Dial2do and then I also have used reqall

Be sure to check the terms of service and cost

Thanks for reading/listening to TechTalk4Teachers
Dr. Grissom