I Want Sandy - perfect productivity email bot is free and public

IWantSandy is an email-based automated personal assistant that has just opened up for public signups. I've been using Sandy for a couple months now, and she's fast becoming indispensable for my life. All you do is CC your personal Sandy address on your mail and throw in keywords, like "Sandy, remember that this is the grocery list" or "Sandy, remind me to follow up on this with Fred on January 1, 2008" and the Sandybot will file away all your minutae for you. Sandy emails you with reminders (she can also communicate by Twitter/SMS). She can barf up all your remembers whenever you need them -- just tag your emails with the @-mark (for example @phonenumber @kids @kitchenrenovation @welding) and then ask her for all the items corresponding to a given tag.

The coolest thing about I Want Sandy is the "groupware" function -- if I CC you and Sandy on a message with a reminder, she'll remind both of us. No permissions, no groups, just CC in regular email. The service is free and live and open to all comers.

Sandy's a real Boing Boing-pal effort. It was invented by Rael Dornfest, the former CTO of O'Reilly Media, who (among other things) created the open-source blogging tool Blosxom and chaired the O'Reilly P2P and Emerging Tech conferences. Sandy herself is based on Tim O'Reilly's stellar personal assistant, also named Sandy. And bonus -- the little Sandy logo was designed by our own Mark Frauenfelder! The functionality in IWantSandy is really geared to personal-productivity freaks like me, who were inspired by books like Getting Things Done and the Life Hacks movement.


(Disclosure: I am proud to serve on the advisory board for values of n, the company that produces I Want Sandy)

See also: Meet Sandy -- free email assistant


  1. So if this is out, does that mean Rael has time to take a whip and a bucket and fix the Blosxom project? Some of those “coming soon” asterisks have been there for years, half the plugin links are broken and the rest are undocumented.

  2. I’ve been using Sandy during the beta phase for a few month now and really like “her” a lot. The best feature is, that I can send mails to Sandy from work and other mail addresses – so whenever I need to get some information out of my head I now can. Also Sandy is no data black hole. You can export the stuff you put into it.

    Of course I would not trust all my mails to a non-European service, and I don’t use the CC-Feature much for that reason. But even then, Sandy is pretty useful, if you email “her” directly. Also, most other email-providers have all my email, too, at some point. Plus: Would you fully trust a human secretary?

  3. I just starting using it after seeing it on Lifehacker. I’ve been looking for a easy to use and friendly system for reminders and such, and Sandy seems to have the functionality I’m looking for in a very use-able interface and with a simplicity and ease-of-use that’s refreshing for a web application. One gripe: no @biweekly tag — I’d like to be able to schedule reminders for things that happen every two weeks.

  4. what is this the 1950’s? i am sick to death of these all-compliant, all-serving female metaphors. i am appalled that the seemingly intelligent people involved in this project didn’t stop and think about this: women are not here on this earth to serve you.
    get over it.

  5. Looks good. Compatibility of some sort with gcal would be nice. I searched for gcal on the site but nothing turned up.

    Also getting a lot of “An internal server error occurred. Please try again later.” pages, but I’m guessing BoingBoing traffic is just overloading things.

  6. Chill out, Sammy. The fact of the matter is that most secretaries are still women – it’s not a ‘metaphor’ trying to subvert a gender. Additionally, if it were a man, you’d get the same complaints from the other side of the fence. Get over your self-righteous feminism and stop to think about context for a moment.

  7. Hmm, they could have used an androgynous name, like Sam or something… Sam is probably too short and common for this, but there are others.

  8. Cory wrote “Sandy herself is based on Tim O’Reilly’s stellar personal assistant, also named Sandy.”

    So it seems to me that the choice to use a female identity and name is more a tribute to an awesome assistant rather than some belief that women should be servants.

  9. For those who are sensitive to female stereotypes, they could add an option for a male avatar.

    If I had a secretary, it wouldn’t make me uncomfortable to have a female secretary. So, that sensitivity wouldn’t really affect me.

  10. Just for the record, Sammy & I had the very same first impression. I think it’s also the retro graphix. And the “fact of the matter” that secretaries are still women doesn’t help me to chill out.

  11. I had the same thought – “Sandy” can even be an androgynous name, but the art and pronouns throughout the site make it clear that this is a female algorithm that’s responding to your email.

  12. Sabik @ 9

    Sandy is an androgynous name. It’s a diminutive of Alexander or less commonly Sanford. Sandy Koufax is the best-known example I can think of. (He pitched for the Dodgers in the 50s and 60s and is one of the best pitchers of all time.)

  13. Many people are uncomfortable relating to a computer as an abstract bunch of math, so we attach human stereotypes to those bunches of math to make them more psychologically palatable.

    It’s interesting to see how computers, rather than forcing us to dispel our stereotypes as archaic and meaningless, can actually force us to apply logically nonsensical stereotypes to the machine in order to keep our own biases internally consistent.

    I’m waiting for “Juanita, your personal email junk cleaner!”

  14. Looks like Sandy’s popular today:

    An internal server error occurred. Please try again later.

    I’ll try and sign up later after the rest of the planet’s done.

  15. Yeah, I’ve sent Sandy three emails to try it out and she hasn’t replied to anything. This seems like a great program but they really need to prepare for large amounts of traffic. The last thing they need is for a bunch of people to become reliant on the program, and then have the server go down and a bunch of reminders don’t get sent out. That’s a sysadmin’s nightmare.

  16. Yeah, I’ve sent Sandy three emails to try it out and she hasn’t replied to anything. This seems like a great program but they really need to prepare for large amounts of traffic. The last thing they need is for a bunch of people to become reliant on the program, and then have the server go down and a bunch of reminders don’t get sent out. That’s a sysadmin’s nightmare.

  17. Re “It’s a diminutive of Alexander …” It is also a diminutive of Sandra (which may in turn be a diminutive or variant on AlexandrA)hence the gender ambiguity (not quite the same as androgyny)

  18. This seems like a good use for the Gmail “+address” feature. You can have Sandy e-mail you at username+sandy@gmail.com, then set up a Gmail filter to forward those to your phone as text messages. I’m away from the computer a lot, and I’m going to give this a try.

  19. I am experiencing the same problem. I signed up and…no reply! Maybe Sandy is having a cup of coffee right now..

  20. Samyy: “women are not here on this earth to serve you”

    Man that explains A LOT of things. Thanks for the tip!

  21. I spent two weeks during beta trying to get sandy to work. Every reminder message I sent bounced and the dozen + emails I sent to the support addresses suggested by sandy went unanswered.

    Sandy owes me about 4 hours of wasted time that I don’t think I’m ever getting back.

  22. When Rael asked me to draw Sandy, I was reading a book about the great Dan DeCarlo , the artist who did the most popular versions of Betty and Veronica. I also like Erin Esurance, so I’m sure there’s a little of her in Sandy, too.

  23. i find it very, very surprising that so many boingboing readers – who i consider a fairly progressive bunch – aren’t expressing outrage over how sexist this is. This comment:

    “what is this the 1950’s? i am sick to death of these all-compliant, all-serving female metaphors. i am appalled that the seemingly intelligent people involved in this project didn’t stop and think about this: women are not here on this earth to serve you.
    get over it.”

    is dead on. cory, i urge you to use your power on their advisory board to correct this. how? i’m not sure, but you could start by changing the graphics. our society has not come far enough that retroing images of stay-at-home i-love-lucy-moms is somehow now ok.

    what’s next? a Mexican “personal assistant” program that helps you empty your recycling bin and keep your computer hard drive clean?

  24. Am I the only one that’s wondering about such an old, pre-web-3.0 concept as a business model? I have to wonder how iwantsandy.com pays for this service. They have virtually no capability to serve ads to me, other than when I go to their website. Or has gmail made it completely acceptable that we pay for services with our privacy?

  25. @31

    I think the point is that we have changed enough as a society that such an image is just quaint. Seriously, how many women do you know who don’t have careers? How many have their own personal assistants?

    The Mexican analogy doesn’t fit because that’s true now. Oh, and the Mexicans performing menial labor in the US are not doing so because The Man is keeping them down. In fact, many would argue that the problem is that The Man isn’t keeping them from being employed illegally.

    And finally, to pull progressive rank on you, are you saying there is something inherently undeserving of respect in being a secretary? In being a full-time parent? In doing menial labor? ‘Cause that’s what arguments like that always sound like to me. My wife, who wanted to stay at home, and for whom I’m happy to work hard enough that she can, works her butt off at home, and I absolutely respect her for it. She runs everything from our diet to our finances, and does an incredible job at it. What is this idea that someone without a paycheck made out in their name is therefore a lesser person who needs to be elevated to the grand position of being employed?

    Preposterous. The service seems kinda pointless to me, but it’s a cute idea and a cute character if one is enlightened enough to appreciate it.

  26. And dude. Come on. It’s cute to add that disclosure at the end, but it’s very sleezy. How much stock have they given you? boingboing will never be taken serious as a news source until you start following some basic rules about shilling.

  27. The comments on sexism are a bit shocking to me – first and foremost, she was inspired by a real human being who is also female and happens to be fantastic at her job. That Sandy, inspired by this real person, would take on this real person’s gender is wholly unsurprising.

    When I look at the illustration of Sandy that Mark made I’m reminded not of some quaint “stereotypical 50’s servant,” but of my grandmother when she was young (Sandy bears a striking resemblance). She worked hard as a legal secretary during World War II while her husband fought in Europe and the Pacific, and then raised five kids. While raising five kids (a miracle I can hardly comprehend now that I have two of my own) she continued her career as a legal secretary and eventually earned a law degree. She sang in choirs, painted oil paintings, taught special education classes, and at the young age of 65 earned her second, though not last PhD.

    Sandy reminds me of the kind of woman my grandmother was. She was a servant, but the best possible kind of servant – she amplified her talents by sharing them with others and lifting up those around her, and if Sandy reminds me or others of the kind of woman my grandmother was, I’ll take it.

  28. Maybe I’ve been living in the Northeast too long, but I find the “cute and perky” thing annoying. I’d like it better if they would have an option to cut the crap. Or, maybe, configurable personalities? A surly plugin? “OK, boss, here’s your motherhopping reminder, now you better not ask me for anything else today”

  29. I have to agree, I find the presentation of Sandy disturbing.

    I’m betting some marketing person probably thinks it is cool to use old stereotypes to make artificial intelligence less threatening to the average person. But I personally find the old stereotype to be more threatening than a computer agent.

  30. From an email I received today:

    “Values of n [http://valuesofn.com], the company behind Stikkit [http://stikkit.com] and I Want Sandy [http://iwantsandy.com], will be closing its doors. Both services will going offline at close of business (5pm PST) on Monday December 8th, 2008.”

    So long Sandy and thanks for all the reminders!

  31. IWantSandy was bought by Twitter. I guess to keep competing technology off the market, since their first act was to shut down the service and strand anyone who was trying to make it a reality. (Twitter has no plans to integrate Sandy in it’s core product.) Value of n = Color of money.

  32. If you feel orphaned by Sandy, http://3mindme.com is a minimalistic solution that works. You can send/forward email to @3mindme.com (e.g., 3days@3mindme.com) and it will bounce back at the specified time. No calendar and other Sandy frills, but it fills the gap of a “snooze” button at your inbox.

  33. Hi,

    I was using IWantSandy.com some years ago and really liked it but “Sandy resigned” and since then I was searching for some simple Email reminder service.

    I test http://www.virtual.nu/ now I looks it works for me and is a good add on to my Autofocus setup ( Moleskine + pen :) )

    I use virtual.nu for:

    a- When I ask a question to someone by email I BCC virtual.nu for a reminder 2 or 5 days from today. If I didn’t get an answer I can remind the person when the remind email arrive.
    b- I get a E-ticket for a trip 2 month from now. Then I forward the email to virtual.nu for a reminder 56 days from now and I get a copy of my E-ticket just some day before my trip.

    I hope you follow how I use it. I know you can use it as a Todo / reminder but I do not use it as a todo reminder.

    Someone here using virtual.nu or some email reminder service that can share how you use it ?

    Note : Virtual.nu is a free service

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