PDAs have solved or simplified a lot of the problems I used to have
before I started carrying around a backup brain. But there’s one type
of reminder that they still can’t deal with: “do X under when Y
happens”. E.g., “Return Paul’s book next time I see him” or “Look up
Janice if I’m ever in London.”
It seems to me that it should be possible to implement this using
keywords: you enter a reminder like “Return Paul’s book”, and possibly
some keywords; then, when you schedule a new event like “Dinner with
Paul”, the calendar can notice that “Paul” appears both in the event
and the reminder, and pop up a list of reminders that might apply to
this situation. You could then attach the reminder to the event as a
note, schedule the reminder as a separate event (e.g., “Finish reading
Paul’s book”, scheduled a few days before you’re due to meet him for
dinner), or whatever.
Depending on how smart the software is and how deep its tentacles go,
it might make smart inferences based on other cues. For instance, if
you block off a long segment of time as vacation time, it might think
that you’re likely to be traveling, in which case it might ask whether
you’re going to London, in which case you should look up Janice.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to calendars: if you have a
reminder saying to ask Bob if you can borrow his bandsaw, then your phone should
know about this, and remind you when you dial Bob’s number. So should
the Bluetooth phone dialer on your PDA.
I bet a lot of the necessary work has already been done in the
e-commerce world: this feature seems related to the problem of
recommending items based on what a person has in her shopping cart, or
has recently looked at.