I keep thinking that I’ve drummed this point home, but perhaps not, so: it still amazes me that almost everything we do online has a timestamp (if not two), and yet services are so bad about exposing them, and especially about using them as a way to organise your stuff.
Flickr has a calendar view (which perhaps isn’t as obvious as it should be, but it’s there). Tumblr has dated archives, even if they only show you them at a crude resolution. Elsewhere, though? Barely anything. Sigh.
“Using real-time services inadvertently creates rich personal life archives, but they’re currently hard to get at. Let’s fix it”
I’m glad to see such a well-thought-out post emerge, because I certainly couldn’t have written one that good. There are a couple of things I’d like to add, though.
Firstly, I’d like to mention one site Ogle doesn’t: Flickr. Perhaps he doesn’t mention it because it’s not “real-time” (although neither, really, is Dopplr). However, it managed to tick all three of his demands, more or less:
- APIs with no limits - Pro users can fetch their entire library, and search by date (posted or taken)
- Infrastructures for historic data - the site doesn’t care if your photos are 1, 10 or 100 years old; it can find them anyway
- New UI patterns - how about archives organised by calendar?
None of this is to say that the site is perfect. The archive pages seem to go unnoticed by many, and they’re not necessarily the most effective way to find things. (I’ve noticed plenty of friends who use tags with date information, since tag navigation is more prominent.) However, the comprehensive API let Photojojo build their Time Capsule service, and if one wants to experiment with a new UI idea, the data’s there.
Secondly, I’m encouraged by the response to a couple of iOS apps recently. Momento (review) and Tweet Library (review) both offer the archives that web services themselves seem to be neglecting (although, of course, in the case of Twitter both are hamstrung by the current 3,200 post limit of the API). The realisation of the post-real-time web (as Ogle has it) might have its detractors - note the first comment on the Tweet Library review, arguing Twitter has a paradigm of forgetting, and see @snookca’s comments in this discussion - but perhaps third party apps are a nice way to encourage services to open up archives for everyone.
He goes on to compare the way that older sites - like Flickr - expose an archive, whereas newer ones - like Facebook - don’t, despite the fact that some of the promotional commentary for the Places feature has been about looking back in twenty years. In other words: “Facebook could be such a repository today, if it actually cared about history. It has given no evidence of such concern.”
And actually writing on paper, that’s still the best.