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Time will eat us eventually: the Reminder UI

Matt J of the BERG has written a really wonderful response to my post last week on the New Aesthetic:

It’s the lossy-ness that reveals the grain of the material and process. A photocopy of a photocopy of a fax. But atoms. Like the 80′s fanzines, or old Wonder Stuff 7″ single cover art. Or Vaughn Oliver, David Carson.

It is – perhaps – at once a fascination with the raw possibility of a technology, and – a disinterest, in a way, of anything but the qualities of its output. Perhaps it happens when new technology becomes cheap and mundane enough to experiment with, and break – when it becomes semi-domesticated but still a little significantly-other.

When it becomes a working material not a technology.

Go and read Sensor-Vernacular. Also, if you missed it, I’m continuing the exploration at

This week, I want to talk about time-based interfaces. Or Reminder UIs. Or: another thing I don’t have a name for but I shall make by showing.

Photojojo’s wonderful Time Capsule sends you your Flickr photos from a year ago. You hadn’t forgotten them, you just hadn’t thought about them for a while. They will make you bittersweet happysad, but mostly happy, and you will be glad you outsourced your brain to a machine that has the capacity to remind you to feel this way.

There’s an extra, semi-hidden feature in Time Capsule that most people haven’t noticed: Talk to the Future. At the bottom of every email you can send a message to your future self, which will be included in your reminder in a years time. (This is pretty close to Slowpoke, which is, er, still in Beta, but I will finish it, I promise, if someone tells me a really easy way to send 1 off postcards programatically, and pay for them.)

The thing that I am thinking of isn’t just reminder services, but here are a few more.

James Wheare‘s TwitShift (which he promises to bring back up eventually is back up) retweets you from a few years back (you can choose 1, 2 or 3). Sometimes this is good, or interesting, or revealing (see above). Sometimes less so: I think I had more fun in March at SxSW last year than I did staying in London this year. I had to turn it off for a while. But still. In an age, socially and technologically, when history seems to be flattening out, it is good to have tools to remind us that it has texture.

Foursquare And Seven Years Ago (awesome name) does a similar thing for places you went to. The data cloud is our memories. They may be Soylent Green; they might also be cryptosam, our own emissions that reveal in hindsight deeper truths. Every man his own stylo.

Also: Rob T is messing with me.

Finally, Amazon does something rather nice with the Kindle when you log in online:

Kindle stores all the bookmarks you make in books and while it would be even better if it allowed you to share them properly, it’s nice that it gives you this little bump when you log in. I’ve got hundreds of dog-eared books and I never revisit them: there’s a little link to jump back to something – a mark, an action, a moment – I made over a year ago.

There is more to the time interface than the reminder, and it’s different to a simple timeline, which is just red dot fever in history, but. But but but. There is something there. I was just in Manchester. I’d never been there before, but one of the strongest cultural influences of my life took place there: it echoed in the stones, it was around me. I could feel my hopeful 18yo self trembling at my shoulder. Time is a working material: we can cut and shape it.

Have a lovely weekend. See you a year ago, next year.

UPDATE! Totally forgot to mention that I was prompted to post this by reading Paul Ford’s Time’s Inverted Index, which you should read too, and everything Paul writes.

3 comments so far:

  1. James Bridle says:

    I just realised I should have titled this post “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.

  2. […] Time Capsule — send your Flickr photos from a year ago. I love that technology helps us connect not just with other people right now, but with ourselves in the future. Compare TwitShift and Foursquare and Seven Years Ago. (via Really Interesting Group) […]