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A Life Well Documented

Recently I realised that two seemingly completely different projects were, in fact, both facets of the same project. They both led me to putting more detail about my history into web sites and (once they are complete) this will mean that my life will become far better documented.

The first project started when I dug out an old box of photographs. I was relatively late into digital photography so I have huge numbers of photos which just linger in boxes and albums instead of being enjoyed on Flickr. Also in the box I found the negatives for most of the films so I decided to start getting the negatives scanned in and put on CDs (if anyone is interested, it looks like Boots are the cheapest place to get this done).

This scanning is still in progress, but when I got the first few CDs back I realised that there were lots of photos of holidays and that I only had the vaguest of ideas when some of these holidays took place. So over the last couple of weeks, I’ve done pretty much all I can to tie down the dates of all of the holidays I’ve taken in the last fifteen years. I’ve gone through old passports looking for stamps. I’ve searched for email confirmations of flight bookings. I’ve even gone through my invoicing records to see which days I didn’t invoice clients for (an unexpected advantage of being a freelancer). As I’ve been going through this process, I’ve been adding the trips to my Dopplr account.

The project has expanded from just covering holidays. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in that time and I’ve also added those details to Dopplr. I don’t think I’m very far from having a complete record of every conference and meeting that I’ve ever spoken at.

The other project which eventually led in the same direction was my discovery of Songkick. Songkick aims to produce a complete directory of gigs. Users can add details of gigs they attended and mark themselves as having been at gigs added by other people. Trying to track down the dates of obscure gigs you attended in the late 1980s turns out to be a surprisingly addictive pastime. I’m sure I’ll never get everything into my account, but it’s certainly fun trying. I don’t even mind that the first gig I ever attended was supremely embarrassing.

Songkick currently has one obvious omission. It would be great if they would publish a users list of gigs (or “gigography” as they call it) as an iCal feed so that I could subscribe to it in Google Calendar. I’m sure that something like that will be added to the site soon.

There’s an obvious crossover between these two projects of course. Some gigs (more usually, festivals) can also count as holidays. Every time I went to Glastonbury or the Cambridge Folk Festival, that’s going to need to be listed in both Dopplr and Songkick.

Two interesting projects. Neither of them will ever be 100% complete, but it’s fun trying to get as close as you can. Of course, they both appeal to the “High Fidelity” style list geek in me. If these tools had been available thirty years ago I would certainly have been using them. And that would have given me an incredibly rich set of data about how I spent my time. One that I’m now painfully trying to piece together a bit at a time.

I’m fast coming to the conclusion that you can’t ever have enough data about your life. I’m now looking for new data sets that I could add to my life history.

3 replies on “A Life Well Documented”

A colleague a long time ago recorded everything he ate, with a best guess at the fat/calorie/sugar/salt values. He also logged exercise, even if it was walking to work from the train station.

The graphs and aggregate data he could produce really appealled to my inner nerd, but I’ve never found an app that made it easy to do (and I’m not sure I have the will power to keep it up to date).

I’m curious to know whether, and to what extent, your interest in amateur genealogy influences the kind of personal data you’re happy to make public. Is this the sort of level of information you’d love to know about your ancestors, or would you say you’re chronicling your various activities more for your own benefit?

Interesting question. I think this is mainly for my own interest. I know that I’d love to have data about my life thirty years ago in the same level of detail as I will have of this period of my life. And, yes, I’d be in heaven if I had even a fraction of this detail about my ancestors.

The fact that a lot of the information is public is just a side-effect of the systems I’m using to record the information. But, of course, if I was worried about the information being public then I’d just record the same data in private spreadsheets. I don’t worry at all about making this information public. Anyone who reads my blog for any length of time already has a good idea how dodgy my musical taste is and where I like to go on holiday.

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