No time to blog? Why you should start your own lifestream…

Frank Gehry's Fossil Watch
This is my only analogue watch, beautifully reminding me that I’m out of time…

Face it, there’s a lifecycle to everything…
Many of us who’ve been in the blogging game for a while know what it’s like… we blog less, read less blogs, and comment less as we spread our time over a widening array of matters in life (e.g. work, new hobbies, social networks, etc). In fact, I don’t react on the latest news as much as before, I do less pushing / promoting of my posts, and I find myself reading much less RSS feeds already. Instead, I revert to good old word of mouth, with my friends being an organic info-filter, telling me things they know would be up my alley (recommendation). I’m taking time back for myself, to get things done, to live life in a fuller way. In other words, I’m reminded to blog for pleasure, not pressure.

Does this mean we’re dropping out of the blogosphere?
Hell no. In a while you’ll see how by blogging less, we could be blogging more… [zen moment there]

Here’s what I mean…
Influential blogger and writer, Liz Strauss, recently combed the blogosphere and took soundbites from various A-list bloggers to give us her “5 Leading Bloggers and 5 Reasons on Why We’re Blogging Less“. It’s fun reading about this emergent “blogging less” meme, and if you’ve got no time (that’s why you’re here), here’s my clinical assessment from it:
1. We have to work ($$$).
2. We are busier (less time)
3. We’ve less attention (talk shorter)
4. We blog less, to blog more (make every word count)
5. We’ve got a life (I’d rather be _____ing than blogging)

What can we do about it?
Right from the start we’ve known that meaningful blog posts are valuable on the web. By meaningful, I simply refer to posts that help make sense of our world. One of the uses of understanding how things work is to ultimately save us time. I’ve subscribed to the notion that laziness is the mother of ingenuity, so I love figuring out how to do less, yet produce more. Long time readers might know how I’ve yearned for the day when blogs could have a synergistic relationship with us humans, by auto-magically publishing things that matter to us (e.g. tagged when we raise our eyebrows). I’ve been in this space for a while, from sharing a how-to on daily del.icio.us blog posts (tried Pukka: the faster del.icio.us bookmarker for Mac?), to lifecasting which involves real-time video sharing (watch interview). I’m trying out new ways blogging without having it take over my life… enter Lifestreaming.

What the heck is a lifestream?
Amazingly, the only recollection of “lifestream” on Wikipedia refers to “Gaia (Final Fantasy VII)“. I didn’t think that it’s a new concept, but perhaps there’s little consensus on what it is. The earliest reference I found came from a dissertation topic encapsulated as the “Yale Lifestreams Project Page, Circa 1996“. On it, a pretty good definition of lifestream emerged…

What are lifestreams?
A lifestream is a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create and every document other people send you is stored in your lifestream. The tail of your stream contains documents from the past (starting with your electronic birth certificate). Moving away from the tail and toward the present, your stream contains more recent documents — papers in progress or new electronic mail; other documents (pictures, correspondence, bills, movies, voice mail, software) are stored in between. Moving beyond the present and into the future, the stream contains documents you will need: reminders, calendar items, to-do lists. You manage your lifestream through a small number of powerful operators that allow you to transparently store information, organize information on demand, filter and monitor incoming information, create reminders and calendar items in an integrated fashion, and “compress” large numbers of documents into overviews or executive summaries.

Where did the idea of a “lifestream” come from?
Lifestreams had its beginnings in David Gelernter’s “chronicle streams” (in his book Mirror Worlds) and was first described as a structure for managing personal electronic information in his Washington Post article “The cyber-road not taken” [Kevin: Can anyone find this article?].

Lifestream as a desktop metaphor (precursor to Leopard's Time machine?)
Source: sigchi.org/chi96/proceedings/videos/Fertig/etf.htm

Interestingly, my investigation into lifestream not only revealed the above 1996 dissertation paper from Yale, but of David Gelernter’s book entitled Mirror Worlds (Dec 1992). The paper essentially turned Gelernter’s lifestream into reality as an alternative to the desktop metaphor as seen in the image above (also watch video demo). Perhaps a precursor to a flagship feature of Apple’s upcoming “Leopard” operating system: Time Machine?

OK, I’m sold. So how do I make my own lifestream?
Since we’re spending more time on the social web, there are clouds of personal data streams we’re giving off already. As Steve O’Hear succinctly explains, “[w]ith the explosion of the social web, it’s becoming increasingly common for each of our online activities — such as uploading a photo, publishing a blog entry, bookmarking a web page, or listening to music — to leave its own digital trail (usually in the form of a timestamped RSS feed). The problem is that each trail lives in a different location on the net. However, a number of web services exist which make it possible to aggregate this data, to display a chronological view of a user’s online activities — a concept commonly referred to as ‘Lifestreaming’.”

Several popular (and crafty) bloggers have made their own lifestream. Chris Davis has a beautiful one, Emily Chang’s pretty nice too, Steve Rubel uses Tumblr (his mobile rss aggregator), Adactio has a colorful one, and Michael Heilemann of BinaryBonsai has a WordPress one. One of the earliest usable lifestreaming service which I’ve played with is twitter competitor Jaiku as seen below…

my jaiku lifestream
See my Jaiku in action here…

As you can see, Jaiku aggregates my online activity (blog, del.icio.us, flick, last.fm, Upcoming, twitter, etc) into a convenient time-stamped lifestream. You can also check out biologist / eco-activist Siva’s blog on how the Jaiku widget works as a useful lifestream promoting his various content living beyond his blog (see top left of blog).

If you’re interested to learn more about lifestreaming, check out Mark Krynsky’s Lifestream Blog. I think it’s great for learning all kinds of tips, tricks and services you could use to start your own. From self-hosted ones (advanced users) to ready-to-use ones like Jaiku (it’s easy, it’s all there (see gallery).

Stay tuned: In the next blog post I’ll show you how and why you should start a lifestream using Twitter.

  • http://www.entrepreneur.com.sg Entrepreneur

    Interesting. This is the first time I’ve heard of it: lifestreams. While its intellectually intriguing, I also think that the word “life” in and of itself is much more meaningful. :D

    Cheers!
    http://www.entrepreneur.com.sg

  • http://harmlessbananas.blogspot.com brian

    Kevin, now i know why you’re one of the best -)

    Ever since i started working, i too have been affected by

    1. Time (I try not to blog at work.. although i’m going to recommend to my director that if a brainwave occurs during some company downtime, i’d like to talk more about my pet subject, digital communications)

    2. Space (Ever since my laptop died, i actually can’t blog on the fly if i were in a cafe of sorts. Twitter helps bridge that gap and Jaiku receives streams from my blog, Flickr and Twitter. Facebook also receives streams from my blog. I might start to Twitter more frantically if it helps keep me afloat in the blogosphere.)

    3. Quality (Well thought blog posts, or even streams of consciousness aren’t effective when your brain is fried.. like you say, blog less to blog more.. gotta make these things count sometimes.)

    4. Social Bookmarks (I love this post, I’m gonna tag it, and other people can find it. More people should do it! or at least the people I know)

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    @Entrepreneur: Glad to be of service. :)

    @Brian: I’ve a feeling you’ll like lifestreaming. While it’s useful for personal use, it might be spam-like for public viewing. I’m quite busy as well, but I hope to write about how we can setup twitter to track and publish relevant online (and offline) activities. When twitter asks “What are you doing?”… we’ll deliver. ;)

  • http://leafmonkey.blogspot.com Monkey

    i really need a lifestream but then the conclusion of the post seems like a jaiku ad *sigh* ok i’ll go get a jaiku account :x yet another account!

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    @Monkey: Just to clarify why I said Jaiku make lifestreaming easier (and better than Twitter)…

    Jaiku beats twitter in the lfestreaming game because:
    1. Twitter can’t lifestream on its own. Twitterfeed is a third-party tool.
    2. Jaiku’s feed aggregation service is clever; it clusters similar posts to make postings less spam-like (e.g flickr batch upload = one grouped post instead of multiple posts on Jaiku lifestream)
    3. Jaiku’s blog widget has clickable links, twitter doesn’t seem to do so.

  • http://leafmonkey.blogspot.com Monkey

    i agree that jaiku is smart if you are starting from scratch. but since i already went through the hassle of setting up twitterfeed, now jaiku seems like anticlimax. But I’m still keeping my mind open about jaiku. I like the clustering feature especially. But I am unsure why jaiku is not picking up my new blog and twitter posts since I added the feeds. Meanwhile I’m shopping for a better way to manage all my thoughts with a better lifestream.

  • http://tinkertailor.blogsome.com tinkertailor

    sorry – no time to read your post. but, nice watch ;)

  • http://imknight knight

    i hope this is not too late,

    what about compare jaiku to tumblr ? do you think tumblr can use for lifestream too ?

  • laurence zankowski

    kevin,

    eric has also authored with his (then wife) some headfirst books for o’reilly publishing…

    http://cs-www.cs.yale.edu/homes/freeman/lifestreams.html

    we started a small business together early 90’s using firstclass by softarc, just before web hit… lots of history but not for here.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Thanks for the link Laurence!