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Devolution of the Diary

The question "How many people keep a daily journal" on Askville by Amazon provoked responses that range between "more people" and "less than half". Whatever the real number, people have been keeping diaries for hundreds of years. Wikipedia says that a work called To Myself by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius could possibly be one of the first diaries ever written.

One might think that keeping a diary is a more feminine passtime. However, the appropriately named website,, provides a short list of famous men who kept a journal:
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Charles Darwin
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Captain Cook
  • Winston Churchill
  • Sir Edmund Hilary
  • Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton gives three main reasons to keep a journal:
  1. Your children and grandchildren will want to read it.
  2. It can bring you to your senses.
  3. Journaling grants you immortality (Woody Allen: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.")
  4. Journaling improves your health.
There may actually be something to points 2 and 4. According to a 2009 article in The Guardian writing about your feelings tend to make you a happier person:
Brain scans on volunteers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions.
I googled for reasons why writing a diary could be bad for you, but all I found was this article that provides six reasons why you shouldn't eat dairy. The only down-side I can think of is that your little brother might get a hold of it and publish your inner-most thoughts all over the Internet for the world to see.

As a modern and connected society, where we feel the urge to share our deepest and darkest secrets, we no longer need to keep a physical diary hidden under the pillow. Blogs abound where anyone can say anything about anything [insert self-referential link here].

Ironically, a blog post published a graph depicting the increase in the number of blogs between October 2006 (36 million) and October 2011 (173 million).
It’s no surprise that the growing number of blogs mirrors a growth in bloggers. Overall, 6.7 million people publish blogs on blogging websites, and another 12 million write blogs using their social networks.
There is no longer any need for your little brother to expose you to the universe - free tools are available that allow you to do that very easily yourself.

Vlogs (video logs) are less prevalent, possibly due to the effort involved in recording and producing them. However, some vlogs are quite successful, such as YouTube millionaire sensation, Ray William Johnson's Equals Three or the soon-to-be-famous me, my brotherS & my dad (sic).

The problem with written blogs, like their physical counterparts, is that they are long-form. Some people don't have the patience (or, sadly, the skills) to write complete sentences. A Facebook status update or a 140-character tweet is a convenient way to get it all out there. Although putting your emotions into words might make you feel better, it's not all good. The Telegraph described a journalist's stream of tweets from the funeral of a 3-year-old boy as "truly uncomfortable reading":
There's a cold detachment to the messages, caused, no doubt, by the need to condense an emotionally charged event in to 140-character messages. But it demonstrated that even in today's permissive society, where make-ups, breaks-ups and the minutiae of daily life are shared through social-networking sites, some things should never, ever be "live blogged".
However, blogging, Facebooking or tweeting are merely selected outtakes of your day, so maybe it's not enough. Your readers want more detail. Much more detail. Welcome to lifelogging. defines lifelogging as the continuous capture of a large part of one's life. Thankfully, says that it isn't necessary to share your every moment with all of your friends:
Lifelogging in its purest form is done using a gadget to capture all moments throughout your day, and is normally a private practice that isn't shared with others.
In the Robin Williams film "The Final Cut" parents choose to implant a memory chip in their baby's brain. The chip records everything the child sees from that moment on. Williams plays a "Cutter" who's job it is to edit the video of the person's life into a film for screening at his funeral.

There's also a short film I once saw online, which I can't locate right now, in which it is popular to wear a miniscule device called a "grain", which records everything you see. The technology allows you to share your memories with others and display video recordings of your life on a big screen.

Joy to us all, that technology is almost here.

Memoto, a tiny, wearable camera automatically takes one photo every 30 seconds - that's 2880 photos a day. It timestamps and geotags the photo instantly, providing you with a visual, searchable record of almost everything you experienced. And the best bit - the photos are stored in the cloud.

This device is something only the CIA could love. I don't understand why anyone would want a permanent record of every aspect of their life entrusted to the flawed security of the cloud - I'd sooner trust my personal diary to my younger brother (oh, hi, R.)

Apparently, $50,000 worth of Kickstarter funding in five hours (a total of $157,095 as of writing this blog), and $651,000 of seed funding suggests that there are people out there who would actually use this technology. Would you?

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