I've changed what I'm working on, as I decided to table Graphbug as a side project. Everyone said public data would be a good thing for lay-people to browse through easily, but no one could specifically think of what datasets they'd want. Like going to the dentist, it's something that's good for other people, but not themselves. In hindsight, I should have picked data to visualize for apartment hunting and moving as the niche problem to solve. Otherwise, I was trying to boil an ocean.
But that's ok, as I've moved on to found a startup to do something I've really wanted for a long long time. We're working on Noteleaf, something to boost your social memory by making it easy to take notes and follow up on the people you know and meet.
I have terrible social memory. It's not just not merely remembering people's names. That can be done with a little bit of effort and mental hacks. I can't remember what other people are doing in their lives, whether they're graduating, moving, or looking for a job. I can't remember what the name of their kids are, their girlfriend, or fiancé.
One fine day in May, I called my friend Amy up and said, "Congratulations!". She replied enthusiastically, but puzzled: "Thanks! But for what?" I told her, "For graduating dental school." She laughed, "Ahh, thanks, but I graduated last year, and you called me then to congratulate me too."
It's not that I don't care. I just can't remember. I have disparate groups of friends, so I don't get gossip about other friends to remind me of what they're doing. My friend ranges from college-aged to recent parents with kids. With everyone in different stages of life, I can't keep track. I have enough things to keep track in my own life that it's hard to have bandwidth to think of others.
Thoughtfulness has to be both relevant and timely. Relevant, because it makes no sense to congratulate someone on their new job when they are still at their old one. Timely, because wishing someone happy birthday on a day that's not their birthday doesn't have the same effect.
We wrote Noteleaf to help us do both. By taking simple notes about others, you can recall what you talked to them about last time and start right where you two left off. And by scheduling automatic followups you can be thoughtful on your own time, and they get it when it's timely for them.
Facebook has been nice in getting news about friends old and new. However, not everything you'd want to remember about them comes on the news feed. There's a transient nature to the news feed, that chances are, you won't remember whether a friend left for vacation this week or next, and you meant to give them some travel tips.
With business contacts, you may not even be facebook friends. While important, you may meet them even less, so the details of their lives are even more fleeting. It's a leg up to getting things done, when you can remember who they are and what's important to them.
Noteleaf is still in closed beta for the time being, but just put yourself on our email list, and we'll let you know when we open the gates. In the meanwhile, we also started a noteleaf blog.
For all of our busy lives, I think it's important that we are involved in the lives of those we care about, and keep making connections to new and interesting people. Because beyond the glory of work and career, the trappings of fame and accolades, and enticement of money and prestige, deep connections to people we care about is one aspect of life that fulfills us and makes us whole.