Knowing when it’s been too many Days Since
[update: These ideas have evolved into the latest mainline version of Days Since. Here's an update.]
One of the early feature requests for the Days Since widget (which is getting over 400K page views/month now — more on that later) was the ability to get reminded when it’s been too long since one of your repetitive tasks was done. When you think about it, this kind of feature saves you a lot mental energy — instead of having to scan the whole list, you just look at those that have been flagged (or those turned red, etc.).
But does this mean there’s another field to enter (days until “overdue”)? Should you enter one number for days, or perhaps a full date upon which it’s due?
Every additional field and option is another bit of complexity which can turn people off. And one of the things good web apps have taught us is using the smarts of the machine to figure out some stuff for us humans is a big win. Things like a single search box that doesn’t ask lots of questions (what are you searching for? where? which category of stuff?) or a “quick add” button for a calendar that takes the whole event as a free-form string.
In the case of Days Since, we want to (1) Not add UI which might turn off current users (who don’t care about a concept of overdue) with clutter and extra complexity. (2) Try to have the widget do some of our work for us. (3) Not add much code & complexity to the widget itself.
One of the users of Days Since, Ping Zou, was looking for just this kind of functionality and decided to work with the Days Since code and add it. We’ve been tossing ideas and code and back forth, and have gotten Ping added as a first additional project member of the Days Since subversion repository on Google Code.
At the moment, Ping is a PHD student with the Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department, University of Sheffield. He has a blog (in Chinese), which you can see at http://sg71cherub.spaces.live.com/.
Ping has also generously done a translation of the strings for the main Days Since widget to Simplified Chinese — which is great, as Days Since has been lacking non-English translations. And for the the new features, we’re doing on a very small scale what many large projects (like Linux) do — have a “development branch” where new features and ideas are played with, and a “stable branch” where all our regular users are and changes are done carefully.
If you’re interested in getting the development branch (possibly bugs and all), you can add and play with the version of days since here.
And for everyone else, please keep any requests you have coming (in comments or in email). In time, the ones that provide value without getting in the way of current users will make their way to the stable, production-version Days Since widget.