Cory Doctorow on Lifestreaming Contextual Snapshots Using New Tool Flashbake

photo by Joi Ito

Yesterday I was listening to the latest TWIT podcast when guest Cory Doctorow started discussing a current project he began working on to annotate and illuminate his creative process while authoring a new book. He does this by taking incremental digital snapshots of his working book file and pulling in other data files at that same moment in time.

Here’s details from his post

Enter Flashbake. Every 15 minutes, Flashbake looks at any files that you ask it to check (I have it looking at all my fiction-in-progress, my todo list, my file of useful bits of information, and the completed electronic versions of my recent books), and records any changes made since the last check, annotating them with the current timezone on the system-clock, the weather in that timezone as fetched from Google, and the last three headlines with your by-line under them in your blog’s RSS feed (I’ve been characterizing this as “Where am I, what’s it like there, and what am I thinking about?”). It also records your computer’s uptime. For a future version, I think it’d be fun to have the most recent three songs played by your music player. The effect of this is to thoroughly — exhaustively — annotate the entire creative process, almost down to the keystroke level.

Flashbake, is the tool he is using which he created in collaboration with Thomas “cmdln” Gideon. It’s a set of Python scripts that check your files for changes (in this case his book text file) every 15 minutes, and checks in changes to a local git repository. Git is a fast growing version control program similar to Subversion. So every 15 minutes the new revision is recorded and along with it Timestamp, weather, recent blog posts, computer uptime, and recent songs listened to data is also pulled in.

This method of Lifestreaming takes the original concept, but wraps the data around a specific context (in this case the book authoring process) as opposed to just standard aggregation. I find this to be a pretty interesting development in the evolution of Lifestreaming. I recently wrote about Storytlr which also allows you to take portions of your Lifestreaming data to curate a story that revolves around an event and could include multiple contributors.

I could see people in other creative areas take Cory’s methodology and find other applicable tools and data sets to provide their own custom contextual Lifestream. Some hypothetical examples could be:

  • A graphic designer saving 15 minute snapshots of their PSD and pulling in data such as colors palletes, shapes & filters used, music tracks listened to, recent Flickr photos viewed, current mood, recent design sites visited.
  • A developer saving 15 minute snapshots of their CODE pulling in data such as, Task manager resources, caffeine intake, current blood pressure, recent IRC discussion logs, Desktop image snapshots.

Those are just two quick (and possibly goofy) ideas but by expanding a Lifestream to incorporating local machine data beyond simply using 3rd party web services you can open up a whole new world of archiving your Life.

I find the idea of associating contextual and local data to Lifestreaming interesting and do think it could provide us with much more insight into our creative processes and even other areas we define. This could be an interesting experiment to conduct if appropriate tools are created to accomplish it.

You can hear Cory talking about it at around 50:10 into the Twit podcast. You can also read his full post over at his site here.

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