(and Some Thoughts on My Current Digital Life)

Information overload is a well-known condition these days and the situation is only getting worse as more useful web sites, more  granulated social networks and more cool media outlets gain popularity and battle for your attention.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that and increasingly, I find myself wishing there was a single web site where all aspects of my digital life – personal, professional – could combine in one place.  I call this idea (which, if it were to come true, would mean a small metal fabricator would be in for a BIG payday!)

What would a single spot for your digital life encompass?  Let’s take a step back…

First off, I need to define what my Digital Life is.  For all that I do on computers and all the time I spend on the Internet, it really all boils down to a few main elements:

  • E-mail
  • Web surfing
  • Digital Photos/Videos
  • Music
  • Documents

That’s it.  Five things.  Now, let’s see how I work in those five areas (with things that are local to my computer rather than cloud-based in italics):

  • E-mail – Thunderbird for main account, Gmail as back-up I give to companies when I want to be on their mailing list but maybe not dealing with all their e-mail regularly/spam-catcher account
  • Web surfing – Firefox & Chrome
  • Digital Photos/Videos – iPhoto as main repository with iCloud enabled, also YouTube for some video clips
  • Music – iTunes was my main home for music but recently has been supplanted by Rdio which only lacks in some of my favourite artists – big (Beatles) and small (indies like Sam Baker)
  • Documents – OpenOffice for local archive of stuff going back to undergrad essays but have increasingly been transferring old stuff and creating new stuff in Google Docs

So you see what a mish-mash it is and also how things may come and go?  For awhile, Flickr was my main choice for hosting many of my photos.  But then, not even replaced by a better service, we just stopped using it.  (I think the amount we used it wasn’t enough to justify the paid account so we let it slip.)

There are lots of sites trying to be this all-in-one shop – Facebook is the obvious one but their blatantly abusive approach to user privacy is discouraging.  Google is another contender but they’re not much better than Facebook in the privacy department although they put up a slightly better front.  Right now, they’re probably the site that comes closest to being that all-in-one shop.  But beyond privacy, I always worry about outages and unexpected changes.  Google Docs recently updated their underlying software and so you were encouraged to update to the new version – except you got a pop-up that all your revision history would be lost.  For most of us, not a big deal but if you’re an author who’s counting on that revision history as you complete your work, that change could be disastrous.  Apple may be the best positioned as they’ve got the media-sharing stuff down (photos, video, music) and do have e-mail server capabilities although most people (even Apple fans) don’t use MeMail as far as I know.

Amazon is somewhat similar but also seems purely focused on external content they sell rather than being a place where you can share your own photos, videos, etc.

And there are lots of little up & comer sites that could perhaps grow into a type of – Evernote, DropBox, etc.

There are lots of unresolved questions of how this service might work – privacy and guaranteed access are two of the biggies but there are also questions around cost, security (can I easily set one area to be private, another to be only accessible to certain people and other areas to be completely public) and function (Google Docs continues to improve but is still a long way off from being as flexible as MS-Word.)

Anyhow, that’s my current billion dollar idea.  Anyone reading this is free to take it and run with it.  I’d just be glad to not feel like I have to follow six different social networks to stay in the loop with what’s going on in my world!

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  1. From Head Tale - Random Thoughts on 2013 #tedxregina #yqr (and My Hypothetical TED Talk Topics) on 05 Jun 2013 at 9:26 pm

    […] who’s used this blog to propose everything from a way to improve maternity leave benefits to a new one-stop-shop-for-your-digital-life (er, instead of Google) to  an idea to make people’s birthdays into a new stat holiday, […]

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