MyLifeLots – Gordon Bell in the New Yorker

Its not every day that PIM makes it into the hallowed pages of the New Yorker. Well, May 28’s New Yorker has an interview with Gordon Bell of MyLifeBits fame – a “lifelogging” project which is archiving a stream of his life experiences – well that much which is currently digitisable:

  • Photos (58000 and counting, thats nearly as much as some of my more prolific Flickr contacts). For this he uses a “SenseCam”, a device he wears round his neck which uses infrared to detect people and scene changes which it promptly takes a photo of.
  • Phone conversations (I wonder if he plays a “this conversation may be recorded for life archiving purposes” when calling data centres)
  • Window management on his desktop – e.g. opening and closing applications
  • “Ephemera” such as wine bottle labels.

Although the article has little new in the way of technology – it does have a few interesting anecdotes:

  • Bell cites 3 major “eiphanies” in starting MyLifeBits – (1) Raj Reddy’s late-90s book digitization project made him realise the technology was possible, (2) Vannevar Bush’s legendary Memex papers of the 1940s were an early influence, raising the possibility of hyperlinked documents and images,  and (3) a desire to make a “personal transaction processing system”, one which can prove you did X or said Y at time Z. Maybe this will come bundled with MS Windows 2008? (-;
  • Bell has a personal assistant to help him with the scanning. I think we can forgive him this, he’s in his 70s.
  • Retrieval is still the challenge. Modern computer technology makes experience capture and storage trivial. However, how does one get back to that particular photo of the cute girl you met at the party last week? Microsoft’s Horowitz details time-based retrieval techniques (e.g. show me “July 4th 2007” but it remains to be seen how well this scales to an archive of the size of Bell’s)
  • Bell is based in San Francisco where he likes to stir things up by wearing a C.I.A. cap. I like his style!

More on MyLifeBits here.

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