Parking Meter Reminders

We all hate getting parking tickets, even more so when we’ve payed the meter, but lost track of time. Cronote’s new Text-to-Remind (www.cronote.com/text-to-remind) service works amazingly well for scheduling parking meter reminders. It works with any cell phone, is completely free, and is dead simple.

Just text “parking meter 2 hours” to (623) 432-0000. We’ll text you back the exact same message at the designated time. Be sure to change 2 hours to whatever time is on the meter, and give yourself a few extra minutes to get back to your car.

Text-to-Remind

Text-to-Remind is dead simple. Just text a reminder (e.g. Buy milk at 5 pm) to 623-432-0000.

Today we released a new service called Text-to-Remind. This was in response to user feedback and our own criticisms of the Cronote Reminders iPhone app. The iPhone app is a great way to schedule reminders for your contacts, but it has several limitations. Here are a few of the top complaints/criticisms that we’ve received.

1. It takes too long!

It most certainly does. Our app takes almost 10x as long as Siri or Google Voice. Compare saying “Remind me to buy milk at 5 pm” to the multi-step process of a) opening our app, b) typing a message, c) selecting the time, and d) hitting the schedule button. All that just to get a quick self-reminder to buy milk!

2. It only works on the iPhone.

Too true. We use Android, iOS, and even a few non-smartphones. We’d like anybody to be able to use Cronote.

3. It’s not completely free.

Nothing in life is free, except for hundreds of thousands of applications on the Internet. Why not Cronote? Our current business model relies upon users purchasing text message reminders.

These are just a few of the common complaints we receive about the Cronote Reminders iPhone App. The last one also applies to the website. Our new service is an attempt to rectify these three issues.

Text-to-Remind is dead simply. Just text a reminder (e.g. Buy milk at 5 pm) to 623-432-0000. Cronote will text you back the same message at the time you specify. Let’s look how it solves the three issues above:

1. ” It takes too long!” – Texting “Buy milk at 5 pm” is about as fast as you can get. Try it yourself and compare to how long it takes Siri / Google Voice to schedule  the same reminder. Note that Siri and Google Voice often misinterpret what you say.

1. “It only works on the iPhone.” – It works on any phone that can send and receive text messages.

2. “It’s not completely free.” – We’re trying an experiment. Text-to-Remind is Cronote’s first completely free service. We’re hoping to pursue alternative business models if it takes off.

How to Surprise Your Valentine Using Text Messages

Thinking of a special way to surprise your Valentine? Scheduled text messages is a simple, personal (and wallet-friendly) way to let your loved one know that you care. Send him or her notes throughout the day, and make it a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget.

Cronote is a website and iPhone app that lets you to schedule text messages to be delivered at a specified time in the future. There are 3 easy steps:

  1. Select the recipient. (Enter your Valentine’s cell phone number or email address.)
  2. Write your message. (Suggestions: “Your smile makes my heart melt!” or “Can’t wait to see you tonight!”)
  3. Set the delivery time. (February 14, at various times throughout the day.)

If you’re feeling extra creative, you can integrate Cronote into a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Hide gifts for your loved one. Then, schedule text messages to arrive at special moments throughout the day, telling him/her where to look. Watch as your Valentine lights up in surprise and delight each time a new message comes to their phone. He/She may look even more surprised if you are sitting right there and are no where near your phone!

Since Cronote messages are scheduled in advance, this will take some of the stress out of the day. Your Valentine will also feel special knowing that you planned ahead for this memorable day.

The Cronote Reminders iPhone app and website are free for sign-up. The first 10 text messages are completely free, and thereafter, you can purchase packages of 20 text messages for $0.99. (Larger text message packages are available too.) Email messages are always free.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day! Please feel free to share any stories on how Cronote made your holiday even more special.

Happy New Year from Cronote!

We’d like to take a moment to thank Cronote users for a very special year. 2012 has certainly been a memorable one for us:

Thank you for using our website and/or app! We wish you a wonderful New Year, and hope 2013 brings good fortune to all of you.

Best Regards,
Ann & Aaron

Nobody likes reminders

Last night we had a conversation with our co-founder’s brother, Steven. He works as a user interface / interaction developer in Southern California. I wanted to get his feedback on what we hoped to accomplish with our new system. I explained that our current reminder platform just isn’t working.

“Nobody likes reminders,” was a phrase that kept cropping up in our conversation. Well yes, reminders are a form of nagging and it can be upsetting when your memory lets you down. But does everyone dislike being reminded? That’s not true, in fact one of the best use cases for Siri is the “remind me to buy milk” scenario. Siri is incredibly quick. Less than 5 seconds to schedule a reminder. Cronote takes at least 20 seconds to open the app, choose a recipient, write a message, set a delivery time, and click schedule. The few times that Siri gets it wrong are worth the overall speed gain.

We know what we’d have to change to make Cronote successful - add voice integration, use the sender’s phone number, make text message reminders free. All of these are possible within limits, but the reality is – do we like reminders? Eh.

The Lean Startup philosophy of customer development is undermined if the founders aren’t interested in the product. You have to want to use your own solution. See Drew Houston’s (CEO/founder of Dropbox) application to Y-Combinator. It’s clear that he wanted Dropbox to exist for the world, for his family, and for himself. Excitement about your product fuels its development and helps you wade through the tedium towards product perfection. After all, if you’re not using your product, what do you care if it’s 15 seconds slower than it could be?

That deal of introspection came out a bit last night. What do I want Cronote to be? A reminder platform? No, that’s not it. How did we come up with Cronote? It’s a true story that my co-founder wanted an easier way to remind me to do things. I jumped on board because it was feasible and made sense – it should be easier to schedule a reminder for someone else. But did I actually want those reminders? Probably not. Would I use the app to schedule reminders for others? Hardly at all. Then why did I invest so much time in developing a web app and iPhone app? It was because I believed in a use case for Cronote that went beyond reminders.

I’m excited about the future. It’s the same excitement that drives people to Engadget, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch. I want to know what’s happening tomorrow, today. I believed that Cronote could provide insight into the future through its “reminder database” – with user permission, of course. Imagine if 1,000,000 people were reminding their spouse to “buy an iPad” next week and 500,000 were looking to “buy a Nexus 7.” The data would provide predictive insight into the relative success of the iPad vs. the Nexus 7. I was interested in making a predictive dataset through community contribution.

It was this vision that fueled the development of Cronote. Yet, the final product did not provide a compelling service to drive user adoption. We rarely use Cronote, so how could we expect others to adopt it? The lackluster growth of the Cronote website and the Cronote Reminders iPhone app forced us to look elsewhere for ways to build our future dataset. We went through a series of changes and ideas (Remind button, anyone?) that suffered from the same misconception - that you can make a product for others that you don’t use yourself.

It’s time for us to change our mindset. Forget about reminders. How do we get people to share their future in a way that we want to too? This is what we discussed with Steven. He asked some hard questions about our own habits and those of our intended audience. Selecting the young adult audience (we’re in this group), ages 18-35, what problem did Cronote solve? Here’s the gist of our conversation:

“We’ve been going with the new slogan, Share the Future,” I told Steven, “it’ll let people post what they will be doing.”

“That’s rather vague. Can’t they already do that on Facebook and Twitter?” Steven responded.

“Well, yes, but this will let them add a specific time in the future to their post. That way people can integrate the event with their own timeline.”

Steven wasn’t convinced. “Do people actually want to do that?” He contended. “What’s an example of something I would want to share on Cronote, but not on Facebook or Twitter?”

“Well, how about a business trip to San Francisco next week? That’s certainly going to be on your calendar, but not necessarily something you would share on Facebook or Twitter.”

“So I would make a post about my trip today and hope someone comments about it?” Steven said.

His tone implied a question – why would someone care to comment on my future trip? I responded hesitantly, “Yeah, and then maybe someone you know will also be in SF and ask you to hang out once you get there.” It wasn’t a strong response.

“What if nobody comments on it? A business trip doesn’t sound too interesting to post in the first place.” He said (paraphrased).

“It doesn’t have to be interesting, it just has to be in the future. It gives your friends time to comment on it as it gets closer to the date.” I said.

“So your system let’s me share future things that are not interesting in the hope of a coincidental common interest?” He said questioningly (again paraphrased).

“Well yes, I guess. Another example is the post, ‘I have to go get groceries tonight.’  You wouldn’t put that on Facebook or Twitter. But if one of your friends need groceries too you can organize a trip together.”

Our conversation went into some depth, but we hovered around this mission statement:

Cronote let’s you share what you’re going to do (whether it’s interesting or not). The incentive is that your friends might want to join you (e.g. ‘I’m going shopping tonight.’), encourage you (e.g. ‘I want to lose 5 lbs by next month.’), or ask you about it (e.g. ‘I’m retiring next year.’).

Not a very compelling charter, but would our target audience use Cronote if it fulfilled this mission? I can tell you I’m 10X more likely to post I’m going to get groceries tonight rather than scheduling a reminder to get groceries tonight. I’d never do the latter, I might do the former. Quantifying might remains our next challenge and I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Would you post what you’re going to do (whether it’s interesting or not)?

Cronote Rebuild

When we first started on Cronote we wanted a way to see the future unfold. Over time we pigeonholed ourselves into a reminder service that only lets you send/receive an email or text message at a future time. It’s great for scheduling reminders in advance, but it’s not quite what we originally had in mind.

We believe there is a need for a system that enables people to share upcoming events quickly. Think of it as a Twitter for the future. You see something you like next week, next month, or next year, and you can post that event on your timeline. Your friends can see that event and add it to their timeline or comment on it. Popular events provide insight into future trends and are highlighted based upon their number of reposts. Our goal is to allow people to participate more actively in each others’ future by providing a simple platform for event sharing in a timeline format.

We’ve decided to rebuild Cronote in order to achieve this goal. Our existing service will remain operational, and existing features will be built into the new application. Stay tuned for our progress updates and follow us if you’d like to participate in early testing.

Top 3 email and text message reminder web applications

There’s been a boom in web applications offering email and text message (SMS) reminders. When we started out two years ago the vast majority of these services could only handle email reminders (no text messages). Now there are quite a few services that offer both email and text message reminders. Much of this growth is due to low-cost APIs such as Twilio that enable easy computer-to-phone connections in software. Before Twilio it was rather difficult to interface an Internet application with the cell phone network.

This post takes a look at the current competitive landscape in the scheduled reminder arena. I like to think that it is as objective as possible, but I am obviously biased towards Cronote.

A quick (non-scientific) Google search for “schedule a text message reminder” reveals a whole slew of companies providing various degrees of functionality. Here’s a list of the top three results along with their features and pricing.

1. Ohdontforget.com – We are not the #1 result, that honor goes to Ohdontforget.com. This site was created a long time ago, back before the Twilio API existed. They are the forerunner and have more or less maintained the same look and feel. Anyone can use their form without an account to schedule a quick reminder. Their form supports natural language processing as well so you can use phrases such as “now”, “today 3pm”, “tomorrow 8am”, without having to specify an exact time. If you are completely new to text message reminders, this can be a fun site to tryout. A premium account comes with many features including the ability to store contacts and schedule recurring reminders. Premium accounts cost $4.95 per month or $47.50 per year. All text message reminders are free, but ones not associated with a premium account have embedded ads and cannot use the full 160 characters. Ohdon’tforget.com does not allow users to create groups of recipients, and does not offer email text messaging.

2. TextMemos.com - The second result is TextMemos.com. Whereas ohdontforget.com has the aesthetic of a slick Web 2.0 (3.0?) site, TextMemos.com looks like a relic from the 1990′s. TextMemos.com was also a forerunner to Cronote and provides bare bones features for scheduling both email and text message reminders. The service is completely free, but comes at a large usability price. There is no address book for storing contacts and you must know the carrier of the recipient in order to send text message reminders. There is also no ability to schedule reminders for more than one recipient. TextMemos.com has a sister site, txt2day.com that enables anyone to schedule a quick text message reminder without signing up for an account.

3. Cronote.com – Cronote is the 3rd result! Our website is aesthetically in-between Ohdontforget.com and TextMemos.com. We tried to strike a balance between minimalism and being informative. We require a free registration prior to using our service, a decision that was based on our desire to control spammers. Registered users are able to schedule email reminders for free. A major difference between our service and others is that we charge 5 cents per text message, rather than a flat monthly fee. We feel this provides a better value to our customers. Consider that a flat monthly fee of $4.95 (Ohdontforget.com) equates to 99 reminders using our system. Most of our users schedule < 60 reminders per month (i.e. about 2 per day). Our service provides address book functionality that makes it very easy to schedule reminders for specific people. Another prominent feature of our service is the ability to send reminders to groups of contacts. This works incredibly well for families, coworkers, teachers and students, and any other group of people. Groups, like contacts, can be stored in our system for future use and can be modified at any time. Cronote is also the only service to offer an iPhone app that works in conjunction with our website. This makes it very easy to schedule reminders on the go. One drawback of Cronote is that our recurring reminder functionality is limited to daily repeating reminders. This is a feature we hope to expand on in the near future.

Here’s a summary table comparing the various features of these three reminder services:

Service

Address Book

Email reminders

Text message reminders

Recurring reminders

Multiple recipients

iPhone App

Price

Ohdontforget

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

$4.95 / month

TextMemos

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Free

Cronote

Yes

Yes

Yes

Limited

Yes

Yes

$0.05 per text message