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Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Runner
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the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006





tinderbox

Lifestreams: a storage model for personal data
Eric Freeman and David Gelernter, 1996 , (Paper URL)
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lifestreams is a storage model that hides the file system and indexes everything according to time. Its chief motivations are

  • that storage should be transparent (we shouldn't have to come with file names),
  • that directories (and hierarchy) are lousy structuring mechanisms,
  • that archiving should be automatic,
  • that smart summaries should be possible,
  • that reminding should be convenient, and
  • that personal data should be accessible anywhere and everywhere without compatibility headaches.

Lifestreams is an answer to these observations. It is a "time ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create and every document other people send you is stored in your lifestream." Lifestreams are organized on the fly via find operations (think Apple's Spotlight). Archiving is automatic because streams are naturally organized into past, present and future. To see what you've done, you dial the viewport backwards; to set reminders, you dial it forwards (Freeman and Gelernter claim this is intuitive but I'd like to see the user tests. To me it sounds like a cute idea that only abstraction loving computer scientists would love...)

The paper includes several examples such as a contact management, e-mail and bookmark sharing (Lifestreams are a fairly natural way to implement something like del.icio.us). There are a lot of good ideas here but it doesn't seem as if enough attention was paid to how people actually use their computers to do their work. Indexing by time is helpful, yes, but we are also very spatial creatures and need to be able to structure our work in a multitude of ways.


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