Coding Challenge!

Well, okay, not really a challenge, but a longstanding wish.

My friend Matt Frost and I periodically taunt one another with reminiscences of Stikkit, a web service that debuted about six years ago and died two years after that. Few traces of Stikkit’s existence remain online; perhaps the most extensive is John Gruber’s early review.

Stikkit was a text-entry box backed by a tremendously intelligent parser that could reliably figure out whether what you were typing was a phone number, address, email address, contact name, list, or bookmark. (Stikkit could relate all these things to one another too: recognizing email addresses in lists, etc.) The great, great thing about Stikkit was that it produced structured data from unstructured input. The user typed in plain text and got back something much more. As soon as I started using it I knew that my seemingly endless quest to find a usable, flexible, and powerful organizational system had come to a satisfying conclusion.

And then Stikkit’s inventor, Rael Dornfest, shut the company down and went to work for Twitter. Twitter bought all the intellectual property Dornfest had developed for Stikkit and, as far as I can tell, used absolutely none of it.

Nothing like Stikkit has appeared since 2008. That needs to change.

Here’s a thought: several years before Dornfest built Stikkit, Simson Garfinkel had created an alternative to Mac OS X’s Address Book called SBook, which had its own sophisticated parser. (I have sometimes wondered whether Dornfest picked up anything from Garfinkel’s earlier work.) He shut that down too, but open-sourced the code.

So how about this: Some talented programmer should start with Garfinkel’s old code and build a desktop app for the Mac that works like Stikkit. In fact, Notational Velocity is part of the way there, with its ability to recognize links and make them clickable in simple text files: maybe something could be borrowed from that, and added to. If the data can be stored in text files rather than in a database, that would make it easier to create a corresponding iOS app that could be reliably synced with the desktop version via Dropbox.

(Of course, another web service a la Stikkit would be possible too, but it’s so nice to have local copies of one’s data.)

So whaddya say, coders? Can someone make this for me?