Nostalgia: There’s an App for That

So, can I borrow the car keys? (Image from Man of Steel; Warner Bros. 2013)

I decided to share some conversations I’ve been having with one of my best friends, Imtiaz Yakub. We started out as goofball friends in graduate school, got our PhD’s, and managed to fit in a reasonable dose of partying before settling down with families and jobs. Over the past few years we both fell in love with the process of entrepreneurship, and part of that process is birthing an idea, tearing it down, and building it back up.

We want to start sharing the ideas we’ve had, the grand visions we couldn’t execute, and the lessons we’ve learned from that. Because if you have an idea you really care about, you’ve got to set it free. So here we are, putting ourselves out there. NOSTALGIA is Part 1 of our series, Tbone & Mane.


Mane: So Tbone, what was an unexpected challenge you faced after you became a father?

Tbone: Trying to build lasting memories for my family. When you’re sleep-deprived and always stressed about feeding and changing the kid, connecting with the wife, and making sure your finances are on track, it’s really easy to forget to enjoy the actual moment of a smiling baby.

M: So true. I see pictures of my child at 1 month and I feel like I was too frazzled and tired to remember it. I have probably thousands of pictures of my family on my phone, my computer, and scattered across different people’s Facebook feeds. But it’s not organized.

T: So if you were trying to remember a specific event, like your kid’s first visit to a neighborhood park, could you find those pictures?

M: Not a chance. I’d have to remember exactly which date we took the pictures, I’d have to figure out whether it’s on my phone or my wife’s phone…it would take an hour to track down one picture, so I just wind up not doing it.

T: Right — you can easily search by date or filename, but not by the context of what’s in each photo or video clip. Well, what kind of interface would make this possible?

M: How about the holographic interface Superman had with his father Jor-El? You could have actual conversations with the digitized memory of your deceased parents who could answer intimate questions about your origin story. Beats the heck out of Siri!

T: Speaking of elderly parents, my folks are obsessive grandparents who want me to share every tidbit of their grandchildren’s lives — don’t get me wrong, I want to do it — but there’s no way I’m going to email them huge batches of photos every day, and I don’t put up family stuff on Facebook because every time I want to post something I have to think about who might see it: drinking buddies, colleagues, “randoms” I met at a party ten years ago…it’s just too cumbersome to adjust the intended audience every time I want to upload a photo (especially on Facebook mobile).

M: A-ha — so you want a social platform for your family, where personal material won’t accidentally be visible to ex-girlfriends or people you’ve fired (join the club).

T: For sure. But even more, I want my memories sorted in a way where they’re searchable without having to remember specific dates or filenames. Like having a Wikipedia page of my life, where I can hyperlink over to people and places that are important to me.

M: Isn’t this already available in Facebook albums? You can backdate your photos, and then tag people and locations.

T: Absolutely. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the idea of sorting your rich media into a personal narrative, but it’s a real need nonetheless. In fact Western Digital is starting to deliver tools to help you curate your stuff instead of just dumping it all onto an external drive that you never access again.

And sure, you can add locations, names, and even emotions into your Facebook posts but the platform isn’t really built to do a deep dive into one person’s history: see how long it takes you to scroll to what someone posted just a month ago. Like Twitter, the default interface shows you what’s happening right now with everyone you know; it’s kind of an information overload.
If you only wanted a few drops of water, you wouldn’t stick your head in front of a firehose.

M: Okay but have you tried that? Super fun. Anyway, you didn’t really comment on my Superman hologram idea…no good, huh?

T: Actually, Microsoft might already be on top of that! But I think you’re onto something: Let’s say you wanted to hear about your dad’s childhood; you could just ask him. But when your child wants to hear about your dad several years down the line, she may have to get her information about her grandpa filtered through you. And you’d never be able to accurately capture all his childhood feelings and memories. So how do you enable your daughter to learn firsthand about her grandpa? With some kind of living, interactive archive of his memories. Like the holographic home movies in the film Minority Report.

M: That scene was sad. And kinda creepy. But still, the ability to immerse yourself in an important memory is really powerful, and shouldn’t require a prohibitive level of hardware or user expertise. Complex tech is definitely NOT the way to share more memories with elderly grandparents.

T: Agreed. Photos, videos, and prose are all you really need to capture a special moment in time. But how do you arrange it all so you can easily go back and revisit a memory?

M: That sounds like a question for another post…

Postscript: This concept (and others we’ll discuss in the future) led us to develop and launch Pulsa8. It’s a family-themed social network that helps you archive and share memories with the people that helped you form your most memorable experiences. Build your legacy.

If it’s nerdy, cool, or silly, I tweet it: @V_truvius

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