Bringing Time Back to the Web (Or: The Struggle for Depth)

Evan Williams apparently recently said that there is an issue with all of us being stuck in a kind of “continuous present” on the web (ironically, I can’t find that quote right now).  I am certainly stuck in that all powerful present many days.  There is so much new output hitting the web every day that one can barely scratch the surface of it, let alone delve into the past. Google has only aggravated this problem by tilting their search algorithm more heavily towards recency.  Techmeme — one of my daily go-to sites — only aggregates the day’s output.

The power of the present is another example of a type of “filter bubble.”  And just like I have called for an “opposing views reader”, what we need to do is surface time explicitly.  I am not a fan of Facebook by any means, but timeline may turn out to be an important contribution to the future of the web.  Similarly there is something quite magical about Timehop as a way of bringing our own past back to us.  Just the other day my Timehop email reminded me that a year earlier we had picked up a dog from a shelter.

Now imagine a version of Techmeme that links today’s topics to their historical precedents using a kind of timeline view.  Or think of a search engine that adds a time dimension to the results navigation — so that instead of having to explicitly ask for older content you can just “scroll” into the past.  Thinking about this has given me a whole new appreciation for the importance of what Brewster Kahle and the team at the Internet Archive are working on.

PS The thoughts here were inspired by an interesting conversation I had yesterday with Nick Hasty from Rhizome which has another interesting archive in Artbase (thanks, Nick).

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Posted: 2nd March 2012Comments
Tags:  time web search present past

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