Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Web Brain going away?

I thought I would share some information about My Web Brain and where it is going. I know I have a couple of users out there but there are not too many. As you have no doubt figured out, My Web Brain has been languishing unchanged for sometime (My excuses are: buying a house, starting a family, focusing on my new permanent job).

So what should I do about My Web Brain? Looking over my source code for the project I am actually quite proud of all that it is. My Web Brain is a very basic application in some respects but being built on then-new application platform (Google App Engine) meant I had to work several things out from scratch.

I could leave My Web Brain be, but Google has changed the Google App Engine pricing structure to an extent that even for such a low volume application as My Web Brain I was getting billed a modest amount every couple of weeks. One of the major issues is that the storage system My Web Brain uses has now been deprecated and made much more  expensive. Porting My Web Brain to the new High Replication Datastore is possible in theory but in practice is causing me too many problems.

At the same time I now know a little bit more about Python and about HTML5 technologies that I would be very excited to try out.

I myself have been using Omni Focus for the past several months which has provided me an overly complex and not truly GTD experience across my iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad (I think the last time I wrote in this blog I was a Windows/Linux guy - how things change). I've gone from being quite attached to the application to being continuously annoyed as my task lists fill up and and my sense of control weans away and my tool does nothing to help.

A new version of My Web Brain is coming... sometime

So I have an itch to scratch still, some technologies and design principles I would like to try and not a lot of time to do it in. This is my round about way of saying that My Web Brain will be reborn, very slowly, and a little bit different to how it was in the past.

If you are a current user of My Web Brain, here is what you need to know:

  • Your data on My Web Brain will probably go away at some point in the future. Migrating your data is probably not something I will have the bandwidth or patience to do while developing something else. Sorry (I can entertain do or die requests to do some one off exports if this will badly impact you).
  • Before it goes away completely, the URL or web address will probably change. You will no longer be able to acces My Web Brain from I will let you know what the new URL is before I make this change. The domain will then be pointing to the new version. 
  • Consider using another tool in the meantime. I can't help much with migrating data, but the sooner you switch to a different tool the longer My Web Brain will be around with all of your original data intact. I don't know when the functionality the current My Web Brain will be replicated in a new version, nor whether there will be any overlap between the old version and the new one launching. Best not take a chance.
So what is in the new version?

Right now, very little. I am rewriting My Web Brain from ground up. This a pretty big time investment for anyone and an even bigger one for someone about to become a father for the first time. So I can not make promises and feel alright about doing so. That being said, here are some of my thoughts on what the new My Web Brain would look like:
  • I still really want to fill the gap in most task management tools right now that makes them imperfect for implementing GTD - namely the concept of collecting raw thoughts and batch processing them.
  • Another thing I am keen to do is to 'nail' the idea of prioritisation. All of us can think of many more things we should or could do each day than will ever be done. I think a tool like My Web Brain should help float the important things to the top of your action list and not inspire panic about the hundreds of now irrelevant and unimportant actions you created months ago that you might never do. 
  • I would like to make it super-easy for new users to try My Web Brain, and for users to remain more or less anonymous if that is what they want. To this end, I already know that the new version of My Web Brain will not use Google Authentication. 
  • I have already mentioned I want to try more HTML 5, and I predict one outcome of this will be less perfect support for ancient browsers. The extent this is true will really depend on my time and user interest. 
  • My Web Brain has to this point been a GTD tool, but once an application knows quite a few of your thoughts and your actions, what else can it do? Tell you what to read? Watch your actions on the internet and imply future actions? Who knows, but the 'Brain' in My Web Brain has always been aspirational and a source for motivation. 
So, to summarise - My Web Brain as it stands now (and all of your data, if you are a My Web Brain user) is going away, but not immediately. I will let you know prior to anything else happening. I am working on a completely new version of My Web Brain, but only slowly. Still I am excited to be working on it again. 

Contact me if you have any questions or comments, or add comments to this post.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A slight change in coloring for My Web Brain

Hello everyone and welcome to 2011!

It has been a while since I posted in this blog. I have been comparatively a lot more active in posting in Ferny Blog and Learning Technical Stuff. The stillness here reflects the lack of user-facing changes to My Web Brain, my GTD web application. I've been hard at work paying off some technical debt and fixing bugs when time permits.

A couple of days ago however I made a slight change to the coloring of the application which you may have noticed. Within the application-parts of the application the banner area now has a background of white and is not quite so heavy handed with the dark colors. This is hardly a major change, but it is the first change in a major interface refresh.

I still have a great deal of additional functionality planned for My Web Brain, and though the going might be slow I am excited to bring it to you. Stick around to find out where My Web Brain goes in 2011.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Filtering Thoughts on My Web Brain

At the start of this month I announced a new feature in My Web Brain that allowed users to filter their actions by context or topic on the Actions Screen. I've just added a similar feature to the Thoughts Screen, which allows you to filter your thoughts by whether they are processed (or not) or marked Priority (or not).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not a Fan of Date-picker Controls!

I am not a fan of the typical 'date-picker' approach to entering dates in web applications. I believe in many situations date-pickers slow down interaction with an interface, and that even if providing a date-picker is a good option to provide, it should not necessarily be the only or even primary approach to entering dates on a web form. Rather, I prefer using a text input for more efficient and usable date collection.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Announcing He3-AppEngine-Lib

I recently built a simple Paging module for Google App Engine, and in the process I created a Google Code site named He3-AppEngine-Lib to host this and any other App Engine code I wish to share. All the code on the site is available under the Apache 2.0 licence. Feel free to take a look!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sorting through your Actions in My Web Brain

My Web Brain now has additional options for filtering through your actions on the Actions screen, and a new 'cancelled' state has been added for actions you choose not to complete.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Improving Intranet Search with Starring

At the start of March Google added the ability to star search results. I think this interesting idea may have applications for intranets, allowing faster, better searches and improved content discovery through social bookmarking.  These are all good things for improving the value of the intranet.

For those unfamiliar with how his feature works, when you launch a Google Search you now see unfilled stars next to each result:
Google search results now include the option to star results
If you click one of these unfilled stars, you 'star' the result, which means that when you repeat the same or a similar query, you see starred results at the top of the page:
Starred results appear at the top of the results page. I am not sure why my starred result is duplicated here. Google?