Where Am I Supposed to Be? Let Me Check My E-mail
Nine thousand people can’t be wrong — at least not when it comes to remembering the important events in their lives. Blake D. Mills IV, EAS’98, has made sure of that with his online calendar service, Remind U-Mail, which logged its nine-thousandth member in late January.
Last summer Mills devised a computer program “to send [myself] personal reminders via e-mail.” Friends soon asked if he could expand the program for their use, and Mills decided that a Web-based calendar and e-mail reminder service “would be a fun project to work on.” Setting up the system took him about a month’s worth of spare time; Remind U-Mail, as Mills officially dubbed it, was up and running by October.
Since then, people from all over the world — including Iceland, Egypt, Tobago, Paraguay, Eritrea, and Tuvalu — have been recalling their significant dates with Remind U-Mail. Unlike the calendar programs that are standard on most PCs, Remind U-Mail can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Mills — a Colorado native who started out as an electrical engineering major before switching to computer science — says he’s able to manage the free service because it “essentially runs itself.” Members sign up and, after receiving a user name and password, fill in their monthly calendars; they subsequently receive reminders via e-mail “simply by pointing and clicking.” Mills’s only administrative task thus far has been to respond to e-mails from people with questions about the service, which requires an hour or two each week.
Remind U-Mail is available free-of-charge, not only to students but to anyone with an e-mail account, partly because it operates through Penn’s computer system and because, as Mills avows, “The Internet exists because a lot of people cooperate; I’m just doing my part to give back to that community.”
The service has been featured on CNN’s Headline News and CNBC; Mills himself has appeared on several radio talk shows. Articles in The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, and an Italian magazine called The Internet News, among others, have helped boost its membership; between November 1 and January 31, the Website was visited 762,000 times.
All this cyber-traffic raises some concerns regarding privacy, of both members’ e-mail addresses and the information they enter into their personal calendars; Mills assures them that he does not sell e-mail addresses or “snoop around in their password-protected calendars.” As he told The Chronicle of Higher Education, though: “Obviously, people who have private information they don’t want [others] to know probably shouldn’t put it on there.”
During its short history, Remind U-Mail has received more than a few awards, including Yahoo’s Pick of the Week, Microsoft Network’s Pick of the Day, Computer Currents Interactive Pick of the Week, and Web Crawler’s Select Site award.