My Digital Soapbox
On Memolane, The Importance Of Digital Archives & The Digital Age Privacy Paradigm

Think about all of the digital content you create every day and share across various social media services.  Now think about how often you actually stop and reflect on all of the information about your life that is scattered around the interwebs. You don’t do that very often, do you?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily look back at all of those Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Foursquare check-ins, Last.FM scrobbles and Youtube videos all on one intuitive and visually appealing timeline?  Thanks to Memolane, an innovative startup funded by the creators of Skype, it is now possible. 

While there are some big time investors throwing money at Memolane and they’re playing up the curation angle of the service, I believe it should be looked at less as a revenue generating venture and more as the main tool for a non-profit organization. A service like this could play a major role in the effort to build viable long-term public archives of personal digital content on the internet. Less people are writing in personal journals, instead depending on social media channels to chronicle their every day lives. With Twitter, humans are sharing their every move in 140 character quips, but after 3,200 tweets, all of that information goes into a Twitter-imposed abyss. Facebook posts are always accessible, but the user experience is designed to focus on the here and now, not to reflect on the past.  

As the digital age privacy paradigm becomes more ingrained in the public conscience, tools such as Memolane will become important educational tools. Back in 2010, when the Library of Congress acquired Twitter’s entire archive, LOC’s Matt Raymond wrote “Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.” Perhaps if teenagers become more aware of how permanent their flippant tweets can be, incidents such as the recent one involving Washington Nationals draftee Zach Houchins will be avoided in the future. 

I have really strong feelings about this topic, but there is obviously a fun side to services such as Memolane (and iJourney) The HTML5 interface of Memolane is slick and user friendly, perfect for a nostalgic trip down memory lane or for syndicating your various social media activities on your blog for all to see. There is also a lot of room for improvement. I’d love for them to add options to visualize the experience and make it a scrap book alternative for the digital age - perhaps they can integrate something similar to Intel’s recent Museum of Me digital app.  On a more granular level, I’d like to see Memolane introduce a time overlay on the Y-axis, so we can see the time of day for all of our activity. 

I have worries about the scaleability of a service like Memolane because of how data-intensive the process of accessing social media activity can be (just ask Twitter). However, product lead and co-founder Nikolaj Hald Nielsen says “The 3200 limit is a relic of Twitter’s past that they have not fixed yet, not an intrinsic scalability issue.” Regardless of future developments, the existence of a startup such as Memolane is an important step in giving users access to the digital archives that we create every single day. For that, we should all be thankful. 

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