After receiving yet another 'your domain is about to expire!' email from GoDaddy, I decided to let it do just that. I'm finally shutting down Scribble, and archiving it to some dusty corner of my back-up hard-drive. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you're never heard of Scribble, but it was in building the site during my spare time at university that made me want to do what I'm doing today. I won't go into any details on how I built the app (mainly because it was so long ago, and I can't remember everything), but for nostalgia's sake I wanted to give it one final farewell.
What is Scribble?
Scribble is a small, light-weight to-do list tool. We like to keep things simple and easy, so that's exactly what Scribble was designed to be.
Scribble started out as a simple to-do list application. I created Scribble to solve my own major problem: keeping track of university assignments. I have an absolutely terrible memory, and the idea of a centralised list of things I need to get done that I could open on any computer on campus really appealed to me. I had checked a whole slew of GTD and todo-list apps but none of them seemed to fit with what I wanted.
I started with the basics; adding, deleting and editing to-do's (be a bit of a rubbish to-do application otherwise, wouldn't it). As there were multiple university assignments running at the same time, I added the ability to prioritize to-do's over others and sorting so that you could list them by priority or date added. I also added tagging, so I could tag the module each to-do was associated with and sort by that too.
While all well and good, I still had one problem left: I kept losing the files I was working on for each of the assignments. After completing a to-do, I'd email the file to myself so that I could wander up to campus, print it off and hand it in. Well, in the mass amounts of emails, I'd lose track of which version I was meant to be submitting. So, I decided to add file uploads to Scribble. I could assign myself a to-do saying X needs to be done, then when I completed it, mark it as done and upload the corresponding file. I encorporated Scribble into my workflow, which let me upload a file, tag it with the module and version number, delete the previous version and repeat until I was finished with the assignment. I didn't need anything as advanced as a version control system, not for simple documents and essays. Of course, this is before the days of Dropbox — where the majority of my files now live.
When a university class assigned a group project, it was time to update Scribble to allow users to interact. I created a really basic way of allowing a user to assign another user a to-do, all you had to do is know the other person's username. When the other person logged in, they would be presented with a message saying they've had new tasks assigned to them. Viewing the list of assigned tasks, the assignee could then either choose to accept the tasks, or ignore them; whichever they chose, the assigner would be sent an email with the decision.
A friend's list seemed too advanced for Scribble; I had been reading 37signals "Getting Real". Reading the chapter on Feature Selection, I decided that it was down to the user to track their own friends. If you wanted to manage your friends, just create a to-do, tag it as "friends" and keep updating it with the users. Need to keep people separate, and remember who you are doing that maths class with? Create multiple todos, and tag them as friends and "maths class". It was a simplistic way of doing it, but it worked for me and didn't require me to spend too much time implementing new features.
The way I was using Scribble started to change from the initial "to-do list app", to remembering articles I wanted to read or videos I wanted to watch with the sound turned up (because that wouldn't be a great idea in the middle of class). So, I built two bookmarklets to help me add new items to Scribble.
Version one was the 'quick scribble'. Clicking the bookmarklet grabbed the page title along with any text you had selected within the document, and added it as a link to the top of your Scribble list.
Version two was 'scribble this'. This embedded the 'new to-do' form to the top of the page you were on, giving you the ability to write any text you wanted and set a priority on it. This version would also add a default value to the textarea, picking up the title of the page you were on and any text you selected. Both bookmarklets also appended a link back to the original page you were viewing.
Realising that a few of my scribbles were funny videos (of cats), I decided to embed the videos right into Scribble so that I could save myself the click. I implemented embedding for various video sites, including: YouTube, flickr, Vimeo, Metacafe, Viddler, Revision3, Qik, Hulu, Funny or Die and College Humour. I also added image embedding, from flickr and Picasa.
After graduating this is all I used Scribble for — browsing the web and saving articles to read later.
When I got my hands on an iPhone, I realised I needed to add a mobile version of Scribble — it was the future, and I was excited to be able to carry around all my to-do's in my pocket. http://m.scribbleit.net/ wasn't an iPhone specific site exactly, but a stripped down 'mobile' version. No images, no video embedding, just a simple list and a way to add and track your scribbles.
The mobile version of Scribble offered all of the same features as the main site — suggestions, sorting, editing etc. — less the file uploading.
In the spirit of throwing the kitchen sink into the app, I decided to add a few other features that I didn't really use, but thought were cool. Just to list a few:
- RSS feed
- RESTful API
- Twitter integration — DM @scribbleit your to-do, and it would be added to the top of your list (which reminds me, I need to delete that account).
- Email email@example.com and the content would be added to the top of your list.
End of an era
If it weren't for Scribble, I would be doing something very different for a living, and I wouldn't have discovered the passion I have for the web.