I discovered a really smart phone app this weekend called Glympse. It’s a pretty simple app that helps users share their location. Using your phone you can send an SMS or email to anyone letting them track your location.
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In the design of the app, the developers must have really thought hard about people’s hesitance to share their location because they designed a timeline into each notification. So, if we were meeting somewhere and I was running late, I could send you a link that would display my location on map and that link would only work for a configurable amount of time, (say 30 minutes). During that time, as I moved around you could see where I was on the map. After 30 minutes, the link goes dead.
I’m pretty excited about this little bit of functionality because I think we’ve entered into a new phase of how we deal with our connected life. We have so much data and so many connections, sometimes the data or the connection would be better if it wasn’t permanent.
What if the systems that carry more temporal data really started to reflect that data’s ephemerality? Twitter is decent example of a designed to decay system, tweets only hang around for a handful of weeks. What if restaurant reviews created a year ago carried less weight than the ones made last week? What if past-date promotional emails just disappeared from my inbox? I have loads of weak Facebook connections that I wouldn’t miss if they just expired? (No offense, but that let’s me focus on the people I have greater connection with).
Right now we live at the end of the digital firehouse, everything just lands in our lap and we have to decide what to do with it. Some of The most meaningful online interactions mirror their real world counterparts. For the moments that matter now but not later, we will begin to have to design for disappearance.