Remind U-Mail -- An Interview with the Creator
This week I was going to do a feature on free reminder services. I fired up my browser and went to my favorite search engine and started collecting bookmarks. After I had cataloged about fifteen very similar services I found one that was different.
Remind U-Mail not only sends you email based on the data you enter, but actually lets you access your data as on online calendar. I was so impressed by this service I contacted the creator and maintainer, Blake D. Mills IV, and asked him if he would do an interview. Blake graciously agreed.
Highlights from the interview are presented below. I suggest that you register for Remind U-Mail (it's free of course) and then come back here and read the story behind the man and this great free service.
Q) Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a computer science major at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm 22 years old, and enjoy soccer, basketball and rollerblading. I recently have become addicted to chess and the use of computers to play chess.
My computer is a Pentium 90 running Linux (which is a free Unix operating system for the PC).
Q) How did your free service come about?
Last year a friend of mine realized he had forgotten his sister's birthday. He felt really guilty about it, especially since he knew it was coming up, but forgot to call her that day. I'm terrible at remembering those types of things, so I set up a small little program to remind me of a few annual events. It was designed to e-mail me before Mother's Day, Father's Day, and family member's birthdays.
My friend who had forgotten his sister's birthday, saw my program and thought it was great. He asked if I could set one up for him. Soon I decided to develop a full blown web-calendar/reminder service, so all my friends could use it.
I worked on it in my spare time, and finally got it up and running in early October. At first it was restricted to students from Penn, just to make sure things were working properly. By the end of October, I was confident that the program was robust, and lifted the user restrictions.
Things were running smoothly, and U-Mail was selected as Yahoo's pick of the week. That week was very hectic, and by the end about 3,000 people had signed up.
Q) Your service is the first "free reminder service" that I have seen that combines a user accessible personal calendar. As far as you know, is your's the first and are there others around?
Not that I am aware of. There are several reminder services that will send you isolated reminders, but U-Mail is the only one that allows you to edit them on you own web-calendar.
Q) About how many hits per day does your service get?
Anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000. Hits go way down on the weekend, and are higher during the week.
Q) About how many people have registered?
close to 12,000.
Q) Approximately how many reminders are sent per day?
About 2,000 each weekday, and 1,000 on Saturday and Sunday.
Q) How much email do you get as a result of the service and what does it tend to be about?
I usually get around 200 U-Mail related emails a week. Most are simple Thank You notes. Some are people who have forgotten their passwords, and others are suggestions. There are also people who ask technical questions for their own sites, and people offering jobs, etc.
Q) At this point do you see this as being a "long term" service?
Yes. People enter in annual events, so they can expect a reminder each year. This seems to be a big help to people. I plan on keeping the site up for a long time.
Q) Do you have users from many different countries?
The service is open to anyone in the world that has Internet access. Currently I have people from 86 different countries using U-Mail. Some of the more surprising ones are:
Aruba, Bahrain, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazachstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macau, Malta, Mongolia, Netherland Antilles, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Slovak Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, and Venezuela
Q) How has the media responded to U-Mail?
U-Mail has been featured on CNBC, CNN's Headline News, and several Internet TV shows. I have also done several radio interviews. It has been featured in over 35 newspapers, ranging from the LA Times, to a paper in Hong Kong. An Italian Internet Magazine wrote an article about U-Mail, as did the Journal for Higher Education. Remind U-Mail is mentioned in this month's PC World in their "Top Ten Free Things To Do on the Net"
Q) Could you quote a sampling of emails you have received about the service?
Here are a few that I have gotten this weekend.
"I just went searching for a good reminder service this morning, both free and commercial, and yours is by far the best that I've seen. I'm going to sign up after sending this e-mail. Congratulations on a real nice program."
"Just wanted to tell you how much I've come to depend on your remind-u-mail program. I really appreciate your efforts and use the system for an awful lot of things that I would normally forget. Thanks again,"
"Ol' silly me has forgotten my passwords. Please help"
"Your remind U - mail service is simply fantastic. I don't know how I can organize my daily activities these days without it! Please keep up the good job!"
"Great site - nice work - real handy for me."
"What is your policy for corporate users? The place where I work could benefit greatly from your service."
"I'm surprised you don't have advertisers on this web site. You should really get paid for developing such a brilliant concept."
"Well, I'm using this service for about one month and I think it's really great. It has always worked perfectly. Altough I'm from Brazil and I don't speak English very very well, it's so simple (but so criative and clever too) that I'm able to use this fantastic service very well. Congratulations to all the people that has created this service and to all that are keeping it working. PS: Sorry about the mistakes, but English is my second language."Previous Features