[FoRK] Remembrance Agents

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Tue Feb 2 19:24:28 PST 2010

sdw asks about remembrance agents...

> What do you use for a remembrance agent?

Rolled my own;  really more proof of concept / experiment than  
anything.  Toy to tool in surprisingly short time.

There are several others, including at least one Mac version (name  
escapes me) that unfortunately didn't quite seem to be ready for prime  
time when I last looked.

>  How does it work?

It's a collection of bash scripts driven by data from a variety of  
sources, including grabbing data from various Mac apps via (gack!)  
AppleScript.  Currently considering using Pennyworth (in some future  
version) for much broader and more sophisticated context-gathering.   
Unfortunately, if you want to integrate w/ apps that don't use  
whatever clue bus you decide on, you're forced to use some combination  
of log-scraping, web-scraping, command output-parsing, (e.g. on Mac)  
little Cocoa API-driving CLI utilities and AppleScript polling...

Just a terminal thing.  Display uses e.g. tset directly.  Needs to be  
re-written in some thing else.

Basically, it only does a few things.  (1) It displays a header with  
some context info:  location, local time, local weather, etc.  Uses  
network awareness and geolocation for location determination, and then  
gets the rest based on that.  (2)  Its default mode is to cycle  
through a context-specific view of my todo.txt task manager data,  
showing me what's on my list of things to do, next actions, etc.  It  
also has a concept called "focus" built-in;  it's really just a  
minimalist query / filter language (some syntactic sugar around my  
usual uses of e.g. grep for such things, e.g. "@home -p:later - 
p:weekend" in order to trim the fat.  (3) Hotkeys and / or shell  
commands can switch mode to quickly do several other small tasks:   
display (a subset, potentially filtered or transformed) of the  
clipboard, as text;  display contact information from Address Book for  
the most-recent contact-of-interest from e.g. Mail, from a Web page,  
etc.;  do dictionary lookups on the five least-common words from the  
most recently-viewed web page, with optional summary from Wikipedia  
given another key command;  display status of various devices at the  
house (a kind of home automation summary screen, no control  
functionality yet); incoming e-mail notification and summary.  That's  
about it for now, and probably all I will ever do to it before  
rewriting it w/ a bit more architecture aforethought.

There's not much (i.e., nothing) there that you can't find e.g. a  
dashboard widget for.  The main benefits vs. dashboard are:  always  
there, always on, in-my-face when I am using my machine as a terminal,  
which is most of the time;  and it is (minimally) context aware and  
reactive rather than something I have to "drive" for most common  
tasks.  I.e., I can just watch it for a brief time and minimally  
"drive" it;  it's job is to deliver useful information to me based on  
some contextual cues, and to default to something useful.

>  How do you use it?

I look at it. ;-)  Occasionally, I hit a few keys that explicitly make  
it change what it's showing me (as opposed to the default mode of it  
just "deciding" to make such changes in what it shows based on context.)

>  How well does it work for you?

Works well enough for me to want a better version. ;-)

>  How often do you use it?

All the time.  Literally.  The only time I can't see it is when I'm  
not in the terminal, and a future version would remedy that (I.e., I'd  
have a standalone GUI / wrapper for the basic functionality.)


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