Phil Gyford


Wednesday 1 October 2003

PreviousIndexNext Online autobiography tools?

The other night, while making a late dinner, I heard Chuck Palahniuk on Radio 3’s Night Waves talking about his new book, Diary. He thought that as the baby-boomers retire they’re going to want to archive things, to document their lives.

I can’t be the only person to have thought of this, but there must be a market for a simple online tool geared towards autobiography. Imagine a weblog-type application, with emphasis on organising historical material, rather than recent events. Seamlessly tie it together with photo gallery tools and ways of storing and displaying video and audio. Looking toward the “nice to have” features, there could be categorised archives of historical events to give a larger context to the person’s life; choose what kind of events you want to display alongside the tales of your youth.

Of course, not every pensioner is going to be in the market. But while some people are talking about how weblogging will never be mainstream, I think this archival tool could certainly attract people who’ve never heard of weblogs, let alone had a desire to start one. Assuming, of course, it is simple and resolutely non-techy. Which is why, to pre-empt anyone, “You can enter historical events into tools like TypePad,” is not the answer.


I've managed about 50 or 60 thousand words in the last three months, the main tool if you could call it tool was the absence of a television, it blew up in April and we have been without it since.
The problem with developing a tool or an aid is choosing an organising principle, you could do it by year, by decade by job by educational establishment (Friends Reunited is a help here). In my case though I just stumbled upon themes and then built on them. A recent one believe it or not was hair, another was smells, bars, cinemas, leisure activities, seasonal events. I would write a few paragraphs of reminicenses, post them to a local newsgroup, these would trigger responses from people, which would in turn help me think of other things. Its been very fruitful. The point is that I have had to accumulate quite a lot of material before I could start to see how it fitted together, so having a template wouldn't have really helped me at the start.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 1 October 2003, 8:15 pm | Link

I've recently posted an article that looks at scrapbook making in the 19th century, and compares it to blogging. My point, which I unfortunately bury right at the end of the article, is that blogging is already a vernacular medium, despite all the noise generated by the uber-bloggers. More people are using blogging tools to talk about their lives and experiences than there are talking about more global issues. We need to recognise and value its role as a vernacular medium, like diaries, photo albums and biographys, and find ways to preserve this fact. Tools that recognise the vernacular role of self-writing as well as the public role of connectivity would definitely help with this. We fetish instant connectivity, and history loses out as a result.

Posted by Matt on 2 October 2003, 10:52 am | Link

Matt's interesting article is here:

Posted by Phil Gyford on 2 October 2003, 11:15 am | Link

I agree and am actually in the process of designing a web site to do exactly that...creat your autobiography as I think there is a market for it. COMING SOON!

Posted by Bob on 6 December 2006, 6:56 pm | Link

Hi Bob -
Anything ever come of this online auto-biography tool?

Posted by Jim on 22 March 2009, 8:47 pm | Link

Check out Maybe suits the bill?

Posted by Stacia on 1 September 2009, 4:39 am | Link

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