Lifestream – Could it be the next big thing?
(Update: I have created Lifestreamblog.com as a resource for information moving forward)
I had already started pondering how we use so many sites on the web that stored information helping define who we are prior to writing “10 Web Widgets to Share Interests on Your Site“. That post goes into the concept of sharing information to provide insight to others and ourselves, but just adding web widgets and badges from sites isn’t a very elegant way to present the information and doesn’t offer much flexibility. I was already starting to plan the creation of a page that would provide this content in a clean fashion using RSS feeds.
The way I discovered the Lifestream concept was by clicking on the link at the top of Bharath Kumar’s site. A page titled Lifestream intrigued me as my mind made a connection with functionality behind the name. Unfortunately, beyond having a title, the page was blank. Well I’m a frequent visitor to his site since I use his 3 column K2 mod as the theme for my site. I then happened to land on this page linking his plugins and saw one titled “Lifestream Manager”. All wide eyed with excitement I quickly clicked on the link. Bah, another dead end. At that point it didn’t matter. I was a man on a mission and all I needed was a search engine and keywords to begin my quest.
After spending way too much time going off on a search result linkfest, I was able to find what appears to be the origin of Lifestreams based on this Yale project page. the implementation of the concept I was seeking though appears to have been the brainchild of Jeremy Keith. He explains his thoughts behind it in a post as well as providing the PHP script he used to create his Lifestream. Nevertheless, I was in search of a plugin for WordPress so I made my way to the Chris J Davis site. Proving how small the web makes the world, Chris was inspired to write a WordPress plugin after visiting Jeremy’s site as well as reading a post from Michael Heilemann. I’m thankful for Chris to have made the plugin available, but it’s by no means plug and play. You need to make special edits depending on which version of PHP you are using, you may need to run some feeds through a third party (like Feedburner) and the included CSS in the page template may not play nice with your theme. But still I decided to read the comments and hack away and with the help of a modified version of the code by Gunnar Hafdal and some of my own tweaks I was able to get mine up and running. I have also since seen another plugin created based on Chris’ by Elliot Back but haven’t given it a whirl yet.
Now that it finally works, all I can think of are ways to improve it, hoping it evolves and watch it proliferate across the web. After reading much of the comments from people talking about the concept you get a sense that people are very excited about the prospects of aggregating all of their info in one place for both personal activity monitoring and a central location for friends to check in. With all the different sites we use for specific purposes this makes so much sense.
The most common feature request I’ve seen is to add the ability to archive the feed content. This is particularly important for feeds that expire over time such as the last.fm recent tracks feed. The original concept was based mainly on the display of timestamped data. Adding the flexibility to organize content using categories or tags would be nice as well. Adding a legend definition in the header would be a great addition too.
With all the buzz I see surrounding Lifestreams, I think they are going to start spreading like fire. I plan to follow it’s progress as well as becoming an evangelist for them. Perhaps someone can start to design an icon standard which seems to help in the adoption much like what is being proposed for OPML and Share This.
So go out there, create a Lifestream, and share it with the world!
Directory of People’s Lifestreams
- Jeremy Keith – adactio.com
- Jeff Croft – jeffcroft.com
- Emily Chang – emilychang.com [Story]
- Paul Friedman – twochains.com [Story]
- lai hiu yeung – nicesoda.com [Story]
- neverendingbooks.org [Story]
- Dennis Larsen – orgday.org
- Elliot Back – elliotback.com
- Chris Simmons – cjsimmons.net
- Christopher Ware – exploding-boy.com
- Nate Ritter – perfectspace.com
- Gilberto Creque – 716ink.com
- Michael Heilemann – binarybonsai.com
- Kristin Pishdadi – wiphey.com
- Chris Messina -factoryjoe.com
- Olivier D.
Development Efforts for Lifestreams
- PHP Script – by Jeremy Keith
- WordPress Plugin – by Chris J Davis
- Lifestream – WordPress Plugin – by Elliot Back (based on Chris’)
- Feedgrab – Expression Engine Plugin – by Andrew Weaver
- Life-Line by Olivier D.
Popular Data Sources for Lifestreams
(keep in mind that any RSS feed can be used so that opens up quite a few interesting additions)
Lifestream Stories on the Web
- Watching the Lifestream by Jeremy Keith
- My Data Stream by Emily Chang
- Lifestreams could help create new personalised discovery engines by Sam Sethi
- Using Yahoo Pipes to Create a Lifestream by Jon Rowett & Newsgoat.com [see them here]
- Mashup using Pageflakes to Create a Lifestream by Me
- Be your own big brother by Mike Gunderloy
- Wired article based on the Yale project by Steve G.Steinberg
- Lifelogging, An Inevitability by Kevin Kelly
- Your Syndicated Chronological Life by Steve Poland
- Spying on Myself & 2007: The Implicit Web by Fred Wilson
- Planet Venus (mentioned by others as an alternative)
- Timeline, available WordPress Plugin, and RSS2Timeline Tool
- Dandelife (site drawn from Lifestream inspiration)
- Microformats (hCalendar)
- MyLifeBits (project at Microsoft Research)
- APML (Attention Profile Markup Language)