Take A Ride In The Digital Time Machine:
We now live an age where almost everyone is carrying a camera on them at all times, due to the wide adoption of camera phones. People are now able to take pictures, and share them at volume, and speeds that have never before been possible in our history. Some could argue that our culture has shifted in a way that instead of taking pictures to preserve a moment, we take a picture to document, and instantly share who we are with, where we are, and what we are doing- the purpose is not to necessarily ever revisit these images. I am often guilty of this behavior. I snap pictures of a sign on the street, a delicious looking meal, or one of my friends doing something funny, then share it on one or more social networks, and then forget about it. People might comment, or like the picture, but in a few days time, the picture just like the moment I captured simply becomes a memory.
In a digital environment where everything is happening in real time, our actions, and our focus on shared content is often ephemeral, many companies are taking notice, and trying to tap into the power of nostalgia. The earliest, and most effective example of this for me was 4SquareAnd7yearsAgo, which is now Timehop. 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo was built at a Foursquare hackathon using the Foursquare API. The service would access your check-in history, and send you an email every morning with a look back into time of where you had been on that exact date a year ago. At first glance you might not understand the appeal of this service, but day after day you will start to see how it makes you take a look back, and relive some of the memories from the past. The service reminded me about trips I had taken by showing me check-ins at various airports, friends’ birthday parties at bars, and restaurants, and first dates that had been forgettable, but were not, due to the power of Foursquareand7YearsAgo. The team behind FourSquareAnd7YearsAgo, Jonathan Wegener, and Benny Wong became a part of the TechStars NYC program, and created Timehop, which creates a rich experience similar to 4squareand7yearsago but incorporates other services. I am fascinated by Timehop, and will discuss it further in a separate post.
Cloud services that host an individual’s entire photo collection are in a unique position to effectively tap into a strong sense of nostalgia. I use a great service called Snapjoy to seamlessly backup my entire iPhoto library in the cloud. If anything ever happened to my laptop, and external hard drive which both sit together on my desk, the only thing I wouldn’t be able to replace would be years of pictures, but with Snapjoy, I no longer have to worry about it. One day I received an email from Snapjoy that said something along the lines of remember this, and displayed a picture of me in college dressed up for Halloween, and that was it. It was simple, but effective. I ended up loading up that album, and emailing a few of the pictures to some friends from school, and it was a great way to reconnect with some old friends, over some shared memories, that most of us hadn’t thought about in years. It is easy to take thousands of pictures, save them, and never look at them again. But the real magic lies in services like Snapjoy that can take the images, and recreate an emotional connection between an individual, and a moment in time.
There is probably no place more prominent on the web, that people share pictures, thoughts, and life changing announcements than Facebook. Facebook is the network where the people we make our memories with, can also share the ride in the journey back in time. The journey has become easier than even before with the introduction of Facebook Timeline. Sam Lessin, who came to Facebook via the acquisition of drop.io, led the Timeline project. The new profile layout encourages people to share life events, whether it is a new job, an engagement, or a trip to Australia. It is a genius strategy. As we share more with Facebook about what we have done, where we have been, and whom we care about, it is likely that we will stay with the service for longer. I have been on Facebook since 2004, and can now easily access the silly things my friends and I posted to each other when we were still teenagers. Facebook is now the place where my friends’ weddings are being shared, and soon where announcements of expected children will also be shared. With Timeline I can seamlessly move through time, and see how me, and the people I care about have grown up over the years. Being an effective tool for people to travel through their own history might be the biggest obstacle other social networks will have when trying to take user attention away from Facebook. Nostalgia is a powerful force.