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Saturday
Jun202009

Why did you start recording everything? 

Why are you recording everything?—has been a question from the start. It depends who’s asking and when they asked. In the beginning, when I wasn’t sure why, the technology answer was -- “because we can”. Furthermore, in a decade, disks will be a terabyte and this will enable the storage of entire lifetime of everything we can hear and see, at least at a low resolution.

 

The actual project seed was Raj Reddy’s call from CMU to use the books I’d written as guinea pigs for the Million Book Project. As we describe in chapter 2 this triggered scanning articles I’d written before the professional organizations decided to digitize them. Shortly after starting this decade long project, my boss and mentor, Jim Gray, observed “There are a lot of interesting questions about recording everything. You’re in research. You should try to answer some of them.” In 2009 there are many answers to “why?” that are intertwined with a belief that having everything in your life in cyberspace is the inevitable, constant, quest of personal computing evolution. So everyone will ultimatly have their lives in cyberspace.

 

Going paperless by never storing or transmitting paper has been a long-term goal. Encoding desk and office chachkas, collectables, ephemera, and memorabilia gets rid of most of the rest of office clutter. “Less” equates to a “green technology”. Just having life’s working bits including pesky bills, wills, medical records, and even manuals accessible anywhere all the time, means that I can live and work anywhere.

When the screen saver started showing pictures from its e-memory then ambience and bio-memory refresh rationalize the effort that ultimately becomes part of one’s immortality.

Thad Starner, who has consistently transcribed his conversations in real time using a Twiddler keyboard the longest agrees—saving everything in e-memory to aid our bio-memories is the most important reason to capture everything. The idea of a permanent, infallible e-memory as the most important "why" escaped Thad, Jim, and me for a long time because we have become so dependent on our e-memories.

 

The confidence and freedom of having help to remember is quite wonderful. Indeed we've come to think of the partnership: bio-memory has the meta-data or in essence, a URL, to our e-memory where the records, facts, and truths are held.

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Reader Comments (3)

I'll give you another reason for recording everything, Gordon. Our E-memory will survive the physical death of our biological brains. It may be the only sort of afterlife possible at this point in time. It's a rather paltry attempt at cheating death, but it sure beats the alternative, which is to expire and fade into obscurity. I'm hoping that with enough data stored, and maybe with a molecular scan of a vitrified brain, it may be possible to reconstruct a decent model of the original personality. I'd settle for existence as a disembodied simulation any day, especially if it gets me off the planet and somewhere interesting.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Swift

Dear Dr Bell
On the basis of premature foresight I explored (and published on) the arrival and prospects of multimedia to the private home by developing 1974 - 1998 an ”Experimental Home” at the department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen.
www.bjerg.psy.ku.dk
This involved early home computers, time-lapse video from all rooms etc (but analogue - and thus posing extreme complications). From the arrival of the first laptops I have been exploring the possibilities of digital journaling, and when the first PowerBooks arrived I began the prototyping of a piece of software for an electronic diary, based on HyperCard.
Instead of local language Danish I chose to create an English user-interface.
Being tied to Mac - and with the doubt of whether HyperCard was freeware or not- the prospects of the enterprise was not too bright, until the arrival of the "Revolution" program, which permits the production of standalones for both Mac, Windows and Linux.
I have myself daily used and gradually improved that program (www.phenomenalog.dk) since 1997, adding more and more features (and options for hiding them).

The most "original" feature is the option for use of a text supplementing pictographic shorthand, enabling swift (automatically time indexed) reference to "typicality’s " of actions and events, primarily of bodily, household and info-handling nature.
With only 450 (some very lousy) pictograms, distributed as ASCII characters in 12 preliminary fonts, this is just conceived as a germ for a coming user-driven global glyph-vocabulary, fitting the personal everyday-lives across cultures and languages.

As this is basically the result from my lifelong state-financed research, I decided, from the start, that this should be freeware, and relatively open source, to facilitate translation of interface to other languages and creation of target-group oriented versions,
I have been continuing the development con amore since my retirement 1999 up to the present version 16.0.4 – but rather isolated, and dependant of occasional voluntary help from skilled programmer.
I think the expectable power of user-driven development for a tool with these general and global useabilities is such that I will hold on to the freeware feature, as long as micro-payments are not yet implementable.
One of the positive – but also problematic - features of the program is, that it is extremely user-tailorable: it is more like an empty apartment, which the user can furnish and inhabit according to personal relevancies:
*That you can organize and distribute personally most relevant glyph-buttons in 16 areas surrounding the diaryfield,
*That you can label and quote to max 35 sedimenting thematic memo fields.
*That you can produce reporting link buttons to any program, folder or file on the notebook, thus approaching an operative system quality of the diary.
*That you can employ a built-in browser capacity to produce and arrange subjectively labeled (reporting) www-link buttons on a personal 2D "cyberspace" window.

However all these "freedoms" come to mean, that start-up and enjoying the options of the program must be a slow and gradual process: Acquainting oneself with the various options and tricks, discovering useable glyphs, deciding and labeling relevant thematic fields, clarifying most relevant www-links etc.

I have presented papers on the topic in COST298 conferences: Moscow 2007 and Copenhagen 2009, without getting much response.
This summer I staged a long discussion of the program in an existing linkedin group: ”Metacognition: learning to learn”, and now formed a dedicated LinkedIngroup; Personal Electronic Diary -with 18 members – ”interested” – but not actively engaged to the point of downloading and testing the program.
I am approximately your age (born 1935) and reading about your new book I thought that the relative affinity between our two enterprises, - and their difficulties - might be such, that you would consider replying, and perhaps advice me how to reach the goal of establishing a small scale pilot experiment of beta-testers, in order to break the ice.
Best regards
Kresten Bjerg

October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKresten Bjerg

Kresten Bjerk, has a rich, open ended, open source tool for the creation and evolution of diaries that he introduced in 1998 www.phenomenalog.dk. Bjerk describes his effort:

The most "original" feature is the option for use of a text supplementing pictographic shorthand, enabling swift (automatically time indexed) reference to "typicality’s " of actions and events, primarily of bodily, household and info-handling nature.

With only 450 (some very lousy) pictograms, distributed as ASCII characters in 12 preliminary fonts, this is just conceived as a germ for a coming user-driven global glyph-vocabulary, fitting the personal everyday-lives across cultures and languages.

As this is basically the result from my lifelong state-financed research, I decided, from the start, that this should be freeware, and relatively open source, to facilitate translation of interface to other languages and creation of target-group oriented versions,

I think the expectable power of user-driven development for a tool with these general and global useabilities is such that I will hold on to the freeware feature, as long as micro-payments are not yet implementable.

One of the positive – but also problematic - features of the program is, that it is extremely user-tailorable: it is more like an empty apartment, which the user can furnish and inhabit according to personal relevancies:

*That you can organize and distribute personally most relevant glyph-buttons in 16 areas surrounding the diaryfield,

*That you can label and quote to max 35 sedimenting thematic memo fields.

*That you can produce reporting link buttons to any program, folder or file on the notebook, thus approaching an operative system quality of the diary.

*That you can employ a built-in browser capacity to produce and arrange subjectively labeled (reporting) www-link buttons on a personal 2D "cyberspace" window.

However all these "freedoms" come to mean, that start-up and enjoying the options of the program must be a slow and gradual process: Acquainting oneself with the various options and tricks, discovering useable glyphs, deciding and labeling relevant thematic fields, clarifying most relevant www-links etc.

I staged a long discussion of the program in an existing linkedin group: ”Metacognition: learning to learn”, and now formed a dedicated LinkedIngroup; Personal Electronic Diary -with 18 members – ”interested” – but not actively engaged to the point of downloading and testing the program.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Bell

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