Entrepreneurship Personal Physical + digital Time

A personal On This Day

My boss’s wife posts photos of their (super-cute) son on Facebook almost every day. When he grows up he’s going to be able to look back at pretty detailed record of his childhood.

Google recently released a neat video about a father who emails his daughter every day from the day she was born:

I’ve been thinking about how much of my life is being recorded in one way or another, and how I might be able to look back on it in the future.

The record is comparatively incomplete for the first 15 years or so, but over the past decade and a bit (since I got my first email account aged 15) more and more material is being recorded – mostly, of course, online.

It’s pretty straightforward to look back in time at grand historical events. The BBC’s On This Day has been going for a long while (though it doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2005). Wikipedia has a page for each day of the year too – here’s today’s.

Keeping track of what you were doing personally on a particular day in the past is much harder. But it will probably get easier in time, and the results could be rather interesting.

One way of doing it might be to create a personal version of On This Day.

Each day you would receive an email summarising what were doing on that date in previous years.

Information could be drawn from emails, your calendar, Facebook, Twitter, SMS records, photos, Spotify, YouTube, and your browser history. There are a whole bunch of services that store the digital ‘artefacts’ we create (emails, Fb posts, tweets etc) – and of course those artefacts all time-stamped.

The content of the email would be curated according to your recent activity on those services. For example, if on 9 December 2010 you emailed 50 people, but since then you had only emailed five of them on a regular basis, perhaps the content relating to those five people would be of most interest to you in the email you received today, on 9 December 2011.

Obviously there would be privacy issues a-go-go.

But as we create more and more artefacts about ourselves, and since the digital artefacts we create will likely outlast us, there’s going to be a lot of historical information about each and every one of us available to look back on.

I think that the knowledge of the existence of that information will mean that we’ll start to see ourselves as objects of historical interest.

Those digital artefacts are like the fragments of the past that are collected together in museums, illuminating a particular historical period.

Finding a way of accessing, understanding and examining them – the fragments of our own personal history – is definitely a problem worth solving.

Update: this product already exists! Check out timehop.com, who thought this up a year or so before I did!



If you liked this post, you might want to read this: A time machine for interests