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.
I continue to be amazed at the things we have available to us - we generally live in the future. But every once in a while the past intrudes with full force. As in when I tried to connect an HTC Evo to a Mac laptop with a USB cable to transfer a bunch of video. At first, I got absolutely nothing. Then I went into settings on the Evo to discover that there is a setting to change the USB connection from “charging only” to “mount.” Easy, I thought, until I noticed a pop-up on the Mac saying “Unrecognized volume” with three options “Format”, “Ignore” and “Eject.” I very gingerly moved the pointer so as to not accidentally hit the “Format” button and gently tapped “Eject”, sighing a (pre-mature) sigh of relief.
Turning back to the Evo, I suddenly see an unhappy SD card icon flashing. I go to camera to find that there is no archive — not a trace of the video. At this point, I am in a minor state of panic at the thought of having lost the video that Susan and our youngest spent the morning recording. Again, this time on the Evo there is the helpful suggestion of letting me reformat the SD card. Not quite willing to give up, I turn the Evo off, take out the battery and reboot. Going back to the camera, the Evo initially still shows no sign of the videos, but then flashes as “Searching for images” on the screen and after doing that twice finally recovers the videos.
At this point I search around and find that other people have run into this problem. Someone provides a solution using USB debug mode but I couldn’t get that to work either. In the end, I wound up transferring the videos via Bluetooth which is quite slow compared to a USB connection. It seems incongruous that one could have a device as powerful as the Evo and then have it stumped by a seemingly trivial problem. This whole experience reminds me of something else that never seizes to amaze me: engineers can make airplanes fly but they can’t get the cabin temperature to stay in a comfortable range. Oh well. Maybe it’s good to have some reminders of the past.