Lots of noise about calendars lately. Online calendars have not made any advances in the past several years. It's been pretty pathetic really. Calendars can rank right up there with email, search, news, etc. as one of the most sticky applications (is there another word for "sticky" I'm sick of that term). But the lack of innovation has made desktop apps prevail.
For the past 8 months or so, as the Web 2.0 rush has gained momentum, there have been several attempts at building the next generation online calendar. For the most part, they are cute applications that let you drag and drop crap around and create events inline and what not. Almost all are considering some kind of social software angle and one even has the balls to charge you for their service. Most are also thinking about how to reach the corporate or enterprise market. While I admire these efforts (even envy their ability to get a chance to work on them), it seems that these guys are missing the bigger picture.
There is so much more that can be done with the calendar. Let's take care of the obvious. Yes, pretty much every digital calendar interface has sucked big time. But some good design sense and sensible use of AJAX can take care of that. Next, calendars should be social applications. I want to be able to share events and my calendar with those in my social network, and even those who aren't. You've been able to do that for years, albeit there is better thinking in this area today than in the past. Okay got that stuff out of the way.
Now let's move on to what a calendar can do. When my children were babies we had a wall calendar in their nursery. Every time they did something monumental or even mundane, we'd jot it down on the day it happened. We'd often paperclip a few photos from that month on there as well. "Spit up," "first solid food," "Isaac's poop shot clear across the room while changing his diaper," "first tooth," "rolled over today", etc. etc. These are some examples of the kind of stuff we'd keep track of. It was easy and convenient and now we have a pretty cool little archive of their first year or so of life. We still like to look at it every now and then.
What if we did that for our own lives? What if we did it for our entire life? We're getting somewhere now. Diaries have been around since cave paintings. Man has always had the desire to say "I was here," or to document the events that took place in their immediate surroundings. And of course we still do this today. Two of the most important social developments in the past couple of years has been the explosion of blogging and the creation of Flickr. These events have sparked the imaginations of so many and have been the impetus for the Web 2.0 phenomenon. There are open and distributed social apps for nearly everything now. And many more are on the way. People are blogging, moblogging, podcasting, vlogging, link sharing, rating, reviewing, file sharing, asking, answering, and interacting in so many ways. There are now more means to express yourself and to conveniently reach an audience than at any point in our history. Yes it's a lot of noise. But it's your noise.
This poses a problem. If your blog is here and your photos are there and your video is over there and your email is down there, and so on and so forth, how do you keep track of it all? How do you effectively share it? And most important how do you make meaning out of it all over time? Marc Canter has been evangelizing his idea of the Digital Lifestyle Aggregator for years. This is dead on. I called it the Digital Life Manager before I knew about Marc's thing. I don't get out much. But I'm happy to say that there are many similarities.
The Digital Life Manager is a single platform for you to keep track of your distributed digital life and "life media," then share it and archive it for the rest of time. The calendar plays a big part of the experience as all life media is time-stamped or can be tagged with a creation date and time. Everything you do can be archived. It's up to you. It's not just about aggregating, it's about archiving and making meaning out of the content.
Here's a quote from Rick Rashid of Microsoft that caught my eye:
"you can store every conversation you've ever had in a terabyte. You can store every picture you've ever taken in another terabyte. And the Net Present Value of a terabyte is USD 200."
Another story I tell is about the birth of my son, Isaac. On that day, I took photos, video, and wrote about my feelings as well as the detail of the events. This was in 1999, but since my parents were stuck in Little Rock, AR, I quickly created a site with this content on it to share. I'm sure many of you have done the same--perhaps a wedding or some other important event. What if I had the Digital Life Manager? I could put my photos on Flickr, my video on an online storage site or (god forbid) something like YouTube, and my words on my blog or in the integrated journal. I could do it all at once or even over time. All of this data would appear in the Manager on the date and time that it was created. And that day can be seen for the rest of time. My family could comment on the day and perhaps even sync their Life Managers with mine on the same day, so we could view the event from their perspective. Now what if just by living my life each day new content is created? For life is content no matter who you are. Isaac's "wall calendar" could go on forever--for my life and then his. And so on.
The calendar, of course, is also important to manage the future. The events of tomorrow are the content of yesterday. Planning to attend a party or a meeting at work potentially has life media associated with it. For the meeting, there's the invites, the agenda, the presentation, and the notes. All shared with those you choose, but accessible from a single place. For the party, there's the directions, the wish list, the photos, and the hung over rant about how no one loves you that follows.
The DLA (or DLM) can keep track of it all. No matter where the content lives or is created.
The calendar is just one visualization. There are potentially any number of views that can be mashed up to your taste. But essentially the overarching theme is the temporal nature of the life media.
Apple's iLife should be considered a form of a DLM and with the addition of .mac integration and iWeb, it's getting more real.
Another term for this is "Life Caching." I really like that. It's catchy. Life Caching is essentially the same concept. Thanks to trendwatching for distilling it so well.
"TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed this emerging mega trend 'LIFE CACHING': collecting, storing and displaying one's entire life, for private use, or for friends, family, even the entire world to peruse. The LIFE CACHING trend owes much to bloggers: ever since writing and publishing one's diary has become as easy as typing in www.blogger.com, millions of people have taken to digitally indexing their thoughts, rants and God knows what else; all online, disclosing the virtual caches of their daily lives, exciting or boring. Next came moblogging, connecting camera phones to online diaries, allowing not only for more visuals to be added to blogs, but also for real-time, on the go postings of experiences and events. And that's still just the beginning."
The point is, this kind of content and life media is not going to go away. The next generation of users will actually have the majority of their life events if not entire life digitized in some form or fashion. It's happening already, just ask Isaac.
I'm anxiously awaiting the launch of 30boxes. I think that this might just be the first service to demonstrate how this experience could be realized. I also can't wait to see the result of Broadband Mechanics' hard, and I'm sure amazing, work. And I of course work for Yahoo! Who knows what we're cooking up? Combine My with 360 and Calendar (and Flickr and Delicious, and Upcoming...) and you have a start. Very exciting stuff!
What if instead of just tagging photos or sites, you tagged your life?
Okay. I'm tired, and it's late. I need to crash. Thanks for scrolling down if you made it this far.