2/29/12: One year later, various online services have tried to address this topic. Timehop is the best expression of this blog post. And, of course, Facebook itself launched Timeline.

I just read a great TED talk by Dan Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, on experienced vs. remembered happiness. (TED has a transcript for every video. Wonderful.)

It’s fascinating from so many angles. The one I want to focus on: ”How much do we consume our memories?”

Looked Again At That Amazing Beach Photo from 2009? No?

His answer is, not much. True. But is that really because we’re that uninterested, or because it’s too much effort? Pre-Facebook, how much did most people consume their friends’ lives? How about now? Technology enabling a natural behavior. Hold that thought.

I rediscovered this old Livejournal (Yeah. Remember Xanga? Or… Myspace?) entry recently:

I’ve also wondered what would happened if I found my soulmate (assuming there is such a thing, or its equivalent, yada yada) sometime before, say, 2012. Wouldn’t I be just as happy working on something enjoyable (still a small tech company, just not a highly risky all-life-consuming one with huge potential) if I’d managed to obtain the greatest thing? (“…to love and be loved in return.”) I think I would.

so summary, the two best-case scenarios for my happiness in 2016: 1) google jr. 2) kalvin jr.

I can’t believe I wrote this. In fact, I’ll deny writing it right now. Wow.

Anyway, the point is, the times I stumble across a great [IM/email thread/journal/photo] from years ago, almost always while searching for something else, I’m delighted. I think this is a common feeling. Sometimes I even learn something. But it’s too much trouble to do actively, there’s too much friction.

Twitter: Way Easier To Consume Than that Old Blog You Can’t Remember the Password For

Consuming new content, on the other hand, is easy. It’s just like watching TV; it’s a 24/7 cycle that focuses so much on the shiny now. But the past, particularly when it’s personal, can be far more valuable than the present. It comes with free added perspective and context.

We just don’t notice because–oops–it scrolled off our feed. Realtime web? More like unrealtime web. (Try looking at Bieber results on Twitter. Go on. Wait 30 seconds. There will be a few hundred more tweets since you started, if it’s a slow Bieber day. Just like real life… if humans formed a global hive mind.)

Rediscovery As a Core Philosophy

There are services that offer rediscovery as a feature. Memolane and Momento, which look beautiful, feel like next-gen scrapbooking and diary-ing, respectively. But there’s a big difference between a feature in an existing product and building a product around a philosophy. I want a service whose core essence is resurfacing personally meaningful content, preferably relevant to this moment. Not just organize or aggregate it, but actually resurface it.

Like Ohlife‘s “peek at the past” feature, or Facebook’s Photo Memories feature (did you know it doesn’t show you photos of anyone you’ve ever been in a relationship with on Facebook?), but for everything, not just old photos of my friends. If Twitter is a discovery engine, I want a self-driving rediscovery car. One that feeds me delectable rediscovered-content grapes. (See: Hedonism-bot)

In Summary

The Internet is capturing more and more of our past. A lot of it can be meaningful or relevant to our lives today. And it’s just sitting there unloved and forgotten! Let’s figure out how we can get it more attention.

BTW, Twitter says: 38,092 new Bieber tweets since you started searching.


6 Responses to How can we make it easier to rediscover great content from our past?

  1. Jkuo says:

    I find that i have better, way more powerful memories when i stay off the internet. It’s always the most precious stuff that i keep to myself or relay to other people in person. And there’s no need to remember my emo livejournal self – good thing i forgot the password :)

  2. Mon says:

    “What defines a story are changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very, very important and, in this case, the ending dominated.”

    …well, shit.

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