Inbox: Thanks for the memories

00:01, Dec 12 2012
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If memory serves, a common theme running through this column is my complaining about my poor recall skills.

Perhaps it's because one of the primary purposes of computers and technology is to remember things and store data: login credentials, browser bookmarks, music files; or perhaps I genuinely just have a rubbish memory.

For some reason, maybe because we've had a year that includes four-yearly events such as the Olympics and the United States elections, I've spent a bit of this year looking back.

Four years ago I had just finished a degree in Dunedin, and was trying to work out what to do next.

I remember reading a few articles about something called a "Global Financial Crisis" and wondering how many months it would be until it was fixed.

I remember sitting in our dingy flat watching the results come in from the US elections, and wondering how this Barack Obama guy would do.


I remember hearing people talk about this "Twitter" thing, and wondering whether it would ever catch on.

But I couldn't tell you exactly what I was doing this time four years ago, probably not even this time last year.

I don't have a firm idea what my favourite songs, favourite foods, or my overall life goals and priorities were.

I could probably hazard a guess, or look back over old Facebook posts or playcounts from iTunes, but it's hardly in-depth, conclusive stuff.

But vague memories and educated guesses are all I have, because I've never been much of a diary writer.

I like the idea of it, and I've bought diaries before and tried to get something started, but the effort involved was always slightly too much.

But lately I wondered whether technology could help.

As hinted at before, our social media usage should offer a reasonable summary of what we have been up to, but I wanted something more.

Dozens of journalling apps are available but, while looking, I found one that seemed to be close to what I was after. It was also free, which sealed the deal. is an app you install on your iPhone. You can open it at any time and jot down a note or take a picture.

But for the lazy journaller like myself, it also has the all-important setting that prompts you to write something down.

So daily at 10pm, my phone would vibrate, and I'd pick it up to be faced with the question, "how was your day today?"

At first, I'd tap out a few sentences summarising the major successes or failures from the day - most entries ended with "tired".

I write hundreds of words every day but, for some reason, these were the hardest to get out.

I generally try to write with some idea of the audience in mind but, in this case, the audience was me, in several years' time.

The other interesting thing about is that you can connect it to your social media accounts. Once you've signed in, it pipes all of your tweets and status updates into the same timeline as journal entries you've written.

It's odd to see them all jumbled together - status updates written with the aim of impressing an audience sitting next to personal entries stripped of irony and intended to be read again only by myself.

I was going to dedicate the rest of this column to examining this conflict in detail, and perhaps ponder whether, when we look back on these days, our digital record will show us what we wanted others to see, rather than what was actually going on with us.

But while I was considering this tack, my app crashed. I had to reinstall it, and my previous entries were lost. Forgotten.

So, perhaps I'll finish with a more prosaic concern: nothing digital is foolproof, and perhaps for our memories we're better off trusting the analogue.

Overall I enjoyed my foray into diarying, and I'll probably move on to the much-praised (but not free) app Day One soon.

But I'll do so with the knowledge that, at the end of the day, I may have to fall back on the old grey matter, or a pen and paper.

I'll try not to forget that.

The Nelson Mail