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

Development Efforts for Lifestreams

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

Related Projects

This Post Has 67 Comments

  1. Not to take anything away from Jeremy(who is a friend and a great web developer!), but I don’t think the Lifestream concept was his idea. I launched mine many months before his post (although I called it a “tumblelog” back then) — and it wasn’t my original idea, either. I definitely stole it from somewhere (although I can’t remember where, exactly). I do think Jeremy may deserve credit for the term “Lifestream,” though — and it’s a great term!

    I really love the Lifestream concept, but I take issue with the way most people are implementing it. It seems that most people are using RSS feeds as their source — which is a terrible idea. RSS feeds expire. Each feed only has so many items in it — and to make matters worse, that number is going to be different for each feed. So, your Lifestream may contain 20 flickr photos, 50 del.icio.us links, and five tracks from Last.fm. The result is that most people’s lifestream looks great for the first several days back, but then get all sparse at the bottom, where only one or two sources are still providing imformation. That’s not ideal. Ideal is to archive them forever.

    And it’s really easy to do that, too — all of these services offer publicly-accessible APIs right alongside their RSS feeds. The difference is that the APIs get you full data going back in time as far as you want. I’m currently importing data from flickr, ma.gnolia, upcoming.org, google search, google video, last.fm, twitter, youtube, and cocomment — using each service’s API. Every photo I’ve uploaded to flickr is available — not just the last 20. Every photo I’ve favorited is available — not just the last 20. And so on. I’ve got several more ideas on how to make Lifestreams better, too — but those will have to wait until I write them. :)

    Lifestreams are an awesome concept, but the way most people are using them,frankly, is baby stuff compared to what is possible.

  2. Not to take anything away from Jeremy(who is a friend and a great web developer!), but I don’t think the Lifestream concept was his idea. I launched mine many months before his post (although I called it a “tumblelog” back then) — and it wasn’t my original idea, either. I definitely stole it from somewhere (although I can’t remember where, exactly). I do think Jeremy may deserve credit for the term “Lifestream,” though — and it’s a great term!

    I really love the Lifestream concept, but I take issue with the way most people are implementing it. It seems that most people are using RSS feeds as their source — which is a terrible idea. RSS feeds expire. Each feed only has so many items in it — and to make matters worse, that number is going to be different for each feed. So, your Lifestream may contain 20 flickr photos, 50 del.icio.us links, and five tracks from Last.fm. The result is that most people’s lifestream looks great for the first several days back, but then get all sparse at the bottom, where only one or two sources are still providing imformation. That’s not ideal. Ideal is to archive them forever.

    And it’s really easy to do that, too — all of these services offer publicly-accessible APIs right alongside their RSS feeds. The difference is that the APIs get you full data going back in time as far as you want. I’m currently importing data from flickr, ma.gnolia, upcoming.org, google search, google video, last.fm, twitter, youtube, and cocomment — using each service’s API. Every photo I’ve uploaded to flickr is available — not just the last 20. Every photo I’ve favorited is available — not just the last 20. And so on. I’ve got several more ideas on how to make Lifestreams better, too — but those will have to wait until I write them. :)

    Lifestreams are an awesome concept, but the way most people are using them,frankly, is baby stuff compared to what is possible.

  3. Not to take anything away from Jeremy(who is a friend and a great web developer!), but I don’t think the Lifestream concept was his idea. I launched mine many months before his post (although I called it a “tumblelog” back then) — and it wasn’t my original idea, either. I definitely stole it from somewhere (although I can’t remember where, exactly). I do think Jeremy may deserve credit for the term “Lifestream,” though — and it’s a great term!

    I really love the Lifestream concept, but I take issue with the way most people are implementing it. It seems that most people are using RSS feeds as their source — which is a terrible idea. RSS feeds expire. Each feed only has so many items in it — and to make matters worse, that number is going to be different for each feed. So, your Lifestream may contain 20 flickr photos, 50 del.icio.us links, and five tracks from Last.fm. The result is that most people’s lifestream looks great for the first several days back, but then get all sparse at the bottom, where only one or two sources are still providing imformation. That’s not ideal. Ideal is to archive them forever.

    And it’s really easy to do that, too — all of these services offer publicly-accessible APIs right alongside their RSS feeds. The difference is that the APIs get you full data going back in time as far as you want. I’m currently importing data from flickr, ma.gnolia, upcoming.org, google search, google video, last.fm, twitter, youtube, and cocomment — using each service’s API. Every photo I’ve uploaded to flickr is available — not just the last 20. Every photo I’ve favorited is available — not just the last 20. And so on. I’ve got several more ideas on how to make Lifestreams better, too — but those will have to wait until I write them. :)

    Lifestreams are an awesome concept, but the way most people are using them,frankly, is baby stuff compared to what is possible.

  4. Jeff…great comment. Thanks for clearing up the history a bit. I’ve also since added a blurb about the Yale project I had also bookmarked when doing my research.

    You are not alone in the recommendation to use API’s over RSS. I think using them when available is definitely the way to go, but also optionally allowing RSS feeds to be added with ability to archive should be an option as well. RSS is so common, is easy to implement, and opens up the gates of creativity for people with unique uses.

    I look forward to following your progress.

  5. Jeff…great comment. Thanks for clearing up the history a bit. I’ve also since added a blurb about the Yale project I had also bookmarked when doing my research.

    You are not alone in the recommendation to use API’s over RSS. I think using them when available is definitely the way to go, but also optionally allowing RSS feeds to be added with ability to archive should be an option as well. RSS is so common, is easy to implement, and opens up the gates of creativity for people with unique uses.

    I look forward to following your progress.

  6. Basically this is a version of Facebook’s notification functionality. There were privacy issues in that implementation.

    At some point, Yahoo is going to merge these services – del.icio.us, upcoming.org, flickr.com, mybloglog, etc.

  7. Basically this is a version of Facebook’s notification functionality. There were privacy issues in that implementation.

    At some point, Yahoo is going to merge these services – del.icio.us, upcoming.org, flickr.com, mybloglog, etc.

  8. I think using them when available is definitely the way to go, but also optionally allowing RSS feeds to be added with ability to archive should be an option as well. RSS is so common, is easy to implement, and opens up the gates of creativity for people with unique uses.

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with RSS, per se, it’s just not the ideal for this. The big problem with RSS is there’s no way to keep your Lifestream data in sync with the original source. For example, if I change a title or description on one of my Flickr photos from a year ago, the data in my Lifestream will get updated accordingly, since I’m using Flickr’s API to check that sort of thing. That’s not possible with RSS.

    For me, the cool part of all this is storing my own data. I’m getting to use the great tools that go along with Flickr, ma.gnolia, Last.fm, etc — but use them to display my photos, links, and iTunes tracks on my website. The Lifestream is only one view of that data. I can imagine several others (for example, check out my geo view. RSS can accommodate a basic Lifestream, but it can’t facilitate the syncing of data between your local database and external web services.

    The first time you make a typo when adding a del.icio.us link and notice the mispelling on your Lifestream, you’ll kick yourself. If you had been using the API, when you fixed the typo on del.icio.us, it would have been fixed on your site, as well.

    Bottom line: these things shouldn’t be archived, they should be synced.

    Basically this is a version of Facebook’s notification functionality. There were privacy issues in that implementation.

    Well, ignoring the fact that these Lifestreams came out well before Facebook’s notifications (Facebook didn’t add the mini-feeds until September of 2006!), the really big difference is that these are people voluntarily doing it for their own data. In other words, there can’t be a privacy issue. I’m choosing to put this stuff out there, rather than Facebook choosing it for me.

    But you’re right, it is a similar concept.

    At some point, Yahoo is going to merge these services – del.icio.us, upcoming.org, flickr.com, mybloglog, etc.

    Actually, there’s no evidence Yahoo is moving in that direction. There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. But, even if they do merge them, how does that affect Lifestreams? Unless you only use Yahoo web services, that wouldn’t help anything.

    Most of us aren’t Yahoo-only, are we?

  9. I think using them when available is definitely the way to go, but also optionally allowing RSS feeds to be added with ability to archive should be an option as well. RSS is so common, is easy to implement, and opens up the gates of creativity for people with unique uses.

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with RSS, per se, it’s just not the ideal for this. The big problem with RSS is there’s no way to keep your Lifestream data in sync with the original source. For example, if I change a title or description on one of my Flickr photos from a year ago, the data in my Lifestream will get updated accordingly, since I’m using Flickr’s API to check that sort of thing. That’s not possible with RSS.

    For me, the cool part of all this is storing my own data. I’m getting to use the great tools that go along with Flickr, ma.gnolia, Last.fm, etc — but use them to display my photos, links, and iTunes tracks on my website. The Lifestream is only one view of that data. I can imagine several others (for example, check out my geo view. RSS can accommodate a basic Lifestream, but it can’t facilitate the syncing of data between your local database and external web services.

    The first time you make a typo when adding a del.icio.us link and notice the mispelling on your Lifestream, you’ll kick yourself. If you had been using the API, when you fixed the typo on del.icio.us, it would have been fixed on your site, as well.

    Bottom line: these things shouldn’t be archived, they should be synced.

    Basically this is a version of Facebook’s notification functionality. There were privacy issues in that implementation.

    Well, ignoring the fact that these Lifestreams came out well before Facebook’s notifications (Facebook didn’t add the mini-feeds until September of 2006!), the really big difference is that these are people voluntarily doing it for their own data. In other words, there can’t be a privacy issue. I’m choosing to put this stuff out there, rather than Facebook choosing it for me.

    But you’re right, it is a similar concept.

    At some point, Yahoo is going to merge these services – del.icio.us, upcoming.org, flickr.com, mybloglog, etc.

    Actually, there’s no evidence Yahoo is moving in that direction. There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. But, even if they do merge them, how does that affect Lifestreams? Unless you only use Yahoo web services, that wouldn’t help anything.

    Most of us aren’t Yahoo-only, are we?

  10. Hey,

    I saw your comment on the Wink Widget post. This concept is something that I believe in strongly. I’ve written extensively about my notion of a Digital Life Manager. Very similar to a Lifestream.

    As a former Yahoo! employee, I should say that I tried to get Yahoo! to think seriously about this concept. It’s definitely in the ether there, and they have so many of the pieces, but the issue is tying them together. Right now everything is so compartmentalized. It’s very difficult for the organization to get organized.

    Please read my post(s) on the DLM. I’d love your feedback.

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/2006/02/calendar_chatte.html

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/digital_life_manager/

    By the way, I’m also the Product Manager for Wink… so the ability to claim and tie your online identities and content together is the first step to creating something more meaningful… ;) Baby steps.

    Thanks,
    -beach

  11. Hey,

    I saw your comment on the Wink Widget post. This concept is something that I believe in strongly. I’ve written extensively about my notion of a Digital Life Manager. Very similar to a Lifestream.

    As a former Yahoo! employee, I should say that I tried to get Yahoo! to think seriously about this concept. It’s definitely in the ether there, and they have so many of the pieces, but the issue is tying them together. Right now everything is so compartmentalized. It’s very difficult for the organization to get organized.

    Please read my post(s) on the DLM. I’d love your feedback.

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/2006/02/calendar_chatte.html

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/digital_life_manager/

    By the way, I’m also the Product Manager for Wink… so the ability to claim and tie your online identities and content together is the first step to creating something more meaningful… ;) Baby steps.

    Thanks,
    -beach

  12. Hey,

    I saw your comment on the Wink Widget post. This concept is something that I believe in strongly. I’ve written extensively about my notion of a Digital Life Manager. Very similar to a Lifestream.

    As a former Yahoo! employee, I should say that I tried to get Yahoo! to think seriously about this concept. It’s definitely in the ether there, and they have so many of the pieces, but the issue is tying them together. Right now everything is so compartmentalized. It’s very difficult for the organization to get organized.

    Please read my post(s) on the DLM. I’d love your feedback.

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/2006/02/calendar_chatte.html

    http://www.itsbeach.com/blog/digital_life_manager/

    By the way, I’m also the Product Manager for Wink… so the ability to claim and tie your online identities and content together is the first step to creating something more meaningful… ;) Baby steps.

    Thanks,
    -beach

  13. Hi —

    If you want to see one possibility of implementing the Lifestream, take a look at Jaiku. Our approach is to to focus on mobility, commenting, and, especially in the future, sharing one’s life with a number of typically distinct small groups (ie, to emphasize private sharing as opposed to public self-expression).

    Here is an example of a typical short discussion around an interesting update.

    “”” Best, Petteri. “””

  14. Hi —

    If you want to see one possibility of implementing the Lifestream, take a look at Jaiku. Our approach is to to focus on mobility, commenting, and, especially in the future, sharing one’s life with a number of typically distinct small groups (ie, to emphasize private sharing as opposed to public self-expression).

    Here is an example of a typical short discussion around an interesting update.

    “”” Best, Petteri. “””

  15. Hi —

    If you want to see one possibility of implementing the Lifestream, take a look at Jaiku. Our approach is to to focus on mobility, commenting, and, especially in the future, sharing one’s life with a number of typically distinct small groups (ie, to emphasize private sharing as opposed to public self-expression).

    Here is an example of a typical short discussion around an interesting update.

    “”” Best, Petteri. “””

  16. What do you think of Jaiku? It seems to be doing the Lifestream concept as well, aside from the fact that it’s a Twitter lookalike. I don’t know much about Jaiku though, i.e., if all entries are archived forever, etc.

    I am intrigued by all of this and want to come up with a way of implementing this in my site. Perhaps when I move things around. :)

  17. What do you think of Jaiku? It seems to be doing the Lifestream concept as well, aside from the fact that it’s a Twitter lookalike. I don’t know much about Jaiku though, i.e., if all entries are archived forever, etc.

    I am intrigued by all of this and want to come up with a way of implementing this in my site. Perhaps when I move things around. :)

  18. What do you think of Jaiku? It seems to be doing the Lifestream concept as well, aside from the fact that it’s a Twitter lookalike. I don’t know much about Jaiku though, i.e., if all entries are archived forever, etc.

    I am intrigued by all of this and want to come up with a way of implementing this in my site. Perhaps when I move things around. :)

  19. Jaiku is a good platform for this currently as well as setting up a public page at Pageflakes. But very soon Dandelife will be releasing a new feature set that will probably put them in the lead. Stay tuned at lifestreamblog.com

  20. Jaiku is a good platform for this currently as well as setting up a public page at Pageflakes. But very soon Dandelife will be releasing a new feature set that will probably put them in the lead. Stay tuned at lifestreamblog.com

  21. Jaiku is a good platform for this currently as well as setting up a public page at Pageflakes. But very soon Dandelife will be releasing a new feature set that will probably put them in the lead. Stay tuned at lifestreamblog.com

  22. He thanks for the advice is there any site that will translate this information in to polish for me

  23. He thanks for the advice is there any site that will translate this information in to polish for me

  24. @Mark
    i looked at your lifestream and then at the elliot back wordpress plugin and i noticed his didn’t have any twitter implementations. Your lifestream has it and you said that you used the same plugin — how did you implement that one? is there any other WP plugins that implements twitters and pownce (out of the box) without extra coding – not really a coder.

  25. @Mark
    i looked at your lifestream and then at the elliot back wordpress plugin and i noticed his didn’t have any twitter implementations. Your lifestream has it and you said that you used the same plugin — how did you implement that one? is there any other WP plugins that implements twitters and pownce (out of the box) without extra coding – not really a coder.

  26. ignore my previous comments … i’ll have to experiment with adding twitter and pownce as in the instructions. btw: the Chris Davis WP plugin link doesn’t exist as it looked like he changed his blog around.

  27. ignore my previous comments … i’ll have to experiment with adding twitter and pownce as in the instructions. btw: the Chris Davis WP plugin link doesn’t exist as it looked like he changed his blog around.

  28. Ahaan… I will follow.

  29. Ahaan… I will follow.

  30. RSS feeds are probably one of the biggest ways if anything else IMHO.

  31. RSS feeds are probably one of the biggest ways if anything else IMHO.

    1. I’ve replaced your links Olivier. Thanks for the update.

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