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Musings, Media and Microcode
Are Weblogs an Incarnation of Lifestreams?
by Eric Freeman
November 29, 2004
Summary
An interesting (old) post in Artima's Java Buzz titled "Are Weblogs an Incarnation of Lifestreams?" by Hugo Pinto asks if Weblogs are the first widely-adopted incarnation of LifeStreams? As it happens I'm finishing up a historical piece on Lifestreams that is going to be published by MIT Press and I've been asking myself that very question.

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Someone pointed me to an interesting (old) post in Artima's Java Buzz titled Are Weblogs an Incarnation of Lifestreams? by Hugo Pinto. In it Hugo comments that "it struck me that the very concept of time-based information storage/publication/retrieval is just what we do while blogging. Mr. Gellernter, I believe Weblogs may just become the first widely-adopted incarnation of your so beloved LifeStreams."

As it happens I'm finishing up a historical piece on Lifestreams that is going to be published by MIT Press in an upcoming book on "going beyond the desktop metaphor" and I've been asking myself that very question. Of course, at some level a Weblog is just an online diary, however it is also certainly true that there were aspects of Lifestreams that would arguably qualify as the first web log. In fact, in about '96 we had a full fledged web-based lifestreams up and running that was serving more or less as a blog for The TAP Project at Yale. If we'd only been smart enough to call them weblogs the rest would be history. ;)

To the larger point, certainly Weblogs would qualify as a subset of the Lifestreams system. Lifestreams use a weblog-like data structure to store your electronic life as it unfolds and combines that with a couple powerful operations that allow you to manage, filter, track your electronic life. It also extends the time metaphor into the future, so that you can post information to the future part of your weblog as a natural reminding function.

In doing a little research for the chapter, I came across something David and I wrote in about 1995:

The stream is organized by time because it is intended to function as an electronic diary; Its not just a file cabinet for information, it tracks your daily experience as it unfolds. Such a record is inherently useful which is why people keep journals or diaries or used to.
If nothing else, it's good to see we have renewed interest in personal diaries. ;)

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About the Blogger

Dr. Eric Freeman is at heart a computer scientist with a love for designing, building and taking apart software architectures. Named by MIT's Technology review as one of the top 100 young innovators, Eric is currently co-writing a book for O'Reilly and advising clients on Internet strategy. Previously, Eric was Director of Engineering at the Walt Disney Internet Group where he drove the company's broadband efforts. Eric is also an expert in distributed computing and coauthor of Sun's official JavaSpaces book. Eric holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, where he worked with David Gelernter on Lifestreams.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2004 Eric Freeman. All rights reserved.

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