We're all Gelernter Now.

by William Grosso

Related link: http://www.timespring.com




Well, not really. But has anyone else noticed that time-based tagging is becoming
more and more important to the way we store and process data?


It's kind of fascinating. In 1996, David
Gelerntner
proposed LifeStreams.
To quote from the abstract:


A lifestream is a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create is stored in your lifestream, as are the documents other people send you


To put it crudely, documents are indexed and accessed by when you saw them, instead of what folder you placed them in.


It's a neat idea, and one that has mostly languished near the fringe of computers.


But, last year I noticed that debuggers were starting to become time-based (and see also retrovue, which is a similar product). The basic idea: store all the events that happen in the program in sequence, so that debugging becomes less like abstract thinking and more like rewinding / replaying a movie. The key insight: the state of the program is important. But perhaps more important is how you got there (and, by the way, Bil will be speaking at this year's OOPSLA about debuggers).


A few weeks ago, I ran across the idea of
continuous backup. The key idea: rather than do static filesystem backups (e.g. "every day, at midnight we backup the servers"), record all the events that are happening to the disk, and create the ability to backup to any point in time (not just to a small number of predefined discrete points).


These all seem, to me, to be variations on similar ideas. The core idea: tracking and tagging all information that comes in by time (and then using that for search, debugging, or restoring respectively) is a simple one. But it's interesting, if only because we so often use spacial metaphors ("where is it on my desktop") and so rarely use time-based ones.


P.S. The main url, for Timespring, is for the first continuous backup company I ran across. I saw what they're doing and thought "Bil Lewis's Debugger for file systems."



Have you seen time creeping in anywhere else?


3 Comments

anonymous2
2003-07-26 13:55:02
Not only time, but location also.
http://www.geourl.org
In all its metadata that has been increasing. Whats remaining is to make interfaces that use the metadata and give what the user wants.
bazzargh
2003-07-28 02:23:03
Older reversible debuggers
Some older datapoints in this area...


ZStep 94, a time-reversal debugger in maclisp from 1994 -
http://web.media.mit.edu/~lieber/Lieberary/ZStep/ZStep.html


The paper below (1996) surveys a number of time reversal tools, including ZStep, and describes a programming environment where you can reverse time, alter the tool, and continue -
http://www.serc.net/report/burnett2.pdf

martinlindner
2004-01-20 03:49:23
are blogs lifestreams?

i found your note while googling on the same track (what happened to gelernters idea), but beginning with a different (?) observation: blogs are lifestreams.


if i had a blog on my pc and using it permanently for "notes" and "stories", commenting and interlinking myself, that would come as close to a lifestream-interface as i can think. so the collaborative blogosphere would be something like a collctive lifestream ...