10 Jan 2012

Life Analytics: Why Pictures of Sandwiches Are Never Going Away.

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Stop hassling your lunch date for taking a photo of their meal for the fourth time this week. That interestingly angled picture of a sandwich will surely evoke a really nice, pleasant memory in the years ahead.

Ah, the good ol' sandwich days.

Welcome to this generation’s way of documenting life and storing memories and emotions. Your lunch date’s grand kids are going to know their story through their Instagram photos, their social lives will be expressed through their Yelp reviews, and their financial history will be documented on Mint.com.

I’m a huge fan of digitally documenting every facet of my life in order to be able to step back and assess who I am not only through photos, but through a series of charts, graphs, and averages. It’s a seemingly cold way of looking at your life, but I’ll be the first to admit that I feel the same nostalgic emotions looking at a distribution chart of all my FourSquare checkins on any given day as I do watching a home video of a family outing.

As we leave our cameras at home in exchange for our photo-ready smartphones, and ditch our camcorders in exchange for watching the crowd sourced concert videos on YouTube, companies that develop solutions to consolidate all these facets of your life (where you went, what you took photos of, etc.) become extremely valuable.

The following applications are my favorite in achieving an arguably more colorful way of looking at the past:

Travel & Vacations: TripIt.com

TripIt tends to “take me back” to my vacation almost as well as looking through my photos does.  Why? Because TripIt visually represents nearly every step you took – every flight, every hotel stay, every tourist attraction, along with the cost of each. Hey, your vacation wasn’t 100% shits and giggles. You paid for that thing with your hard earned money. And that’s why TripIt helps the memory of your vacation feel much more real.


Runner up: TripAdvisor

While TripAdvisor does a classy job at allowing you to input and view all of the destinations you’ve been to, that’s as far as it goes if you’re looking to derive some sort of nostalgia from your travels on their site. Their tools are better suited for exploration and reading up on all of your friend’s bitchy reviews about the dirty hotel they stayed at.













Man... I gotta work on getting more friends.

Social Footprint: FourSquare

As much as people hate on FourSquare for not being a sustainable tool, or for being too intrusive, or whatever the case, it doesn’t a pretty damn good job at Man… I gotta work on getting more friends.summarizing your social footprint into one, exciting, adventurous story. If you log in to your account on your desktop, you can check out your pretty “Stats” page. What days of the week you go out most often, who you hang out with the most, and what spots you’re constantly hanging out at. Not only can you get a beautifully packaged story that includes these elements, but you can change the timeframe and check out what your lifestyle was back when.

December 23rd, oh yes, that day I listened to college radio on my way to the supermarket. Good times.

Audio Nostalgia: Shazaam

Okay, you know the feeling. Such Great Heights by the Postal Service somehow found its way on your Pandora station and you’re suddenly transported to a time when you had stupid emotions and you were crying over stupid boys. Yeah. Well, Shazaam’s “My Tags” function has a less intense way of transporting you back to a song memory.

Don’t worry, it’ll only take you back to a couple of months ago, when you were mindlessly standing in line at Starbucks and you really wanted to know what that sexy jazz song was playing over the sound system (probably Careless Whisper). Not a harsh memory, but a random memory you would’ve never come back to regardless.




Finances: Mint.com

Mint.com is arguably one of the most powerful financial planning and organizing tools for the average person… if you use it right. My husband and I both have had Mint.com accounts since we were in our late teens, and I can literally go back years into my Mint history and saw how each of us transformed from semi-irresponsible teenagers who spent 90% of their income on food and entertainment categories, to semi-responsible adults with more “mature” spending, such as rent and booze. I like to think that Mint will continue to retain all of this history so I can spend the next 10 years looking back and facepalming myself (I’ve paid THAT much in interest charges in the last five years? Geez…)

If I scroll really, really fast from 2012 to 1991, I still look like I'm drunk at the bar!

Wildcard: Facebook Timeline

Facebook is clearly thinking along the lines of a unified type of interface for these types of memories. The timeline feature is aiming to be this kind of memory-reliving experience in a nutshell. However, it’s never going to tell the full story. The check-ins you preferred not to make. The photo of the ugly, yet strangely artistic carpet at the hospital. It’s always going to be limited to the persona you wish to reflect on Facebook, which is why I’m categorizing the new Timeline as a wildcard. Going through photos of me in reverse while scrolling really fast tells a story that stirs up emotions, but is it enough? Yet to be seen.

Do you use any apps or tools that collect your day-to-day activity and spits it back out for you to revisit when you’re feeling a little nostalgic? Leave a comment below.

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