Lifestreaming is " a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life." It started out as something visionary, but was downgraded over time to mean "all of your social media activity in one stream."
Lifestreaming is nice. The problem is that your "electronic life" isn't your actual life -- you know, where you go in the physical world, what you do, who you meet and even how you feel? Isn't that the stuff we'd really like to remember?
Besides, do we have to share everything? And are the things we share the only things we want to remember?
I love social media, and I even use Google+ as my personal blog. But there are many things I'd like to remember -- ideas, thoughts, experiences, pictures, videos -- that I don't want to share with the general public or even anyone at all.
Where does all that stuff go? Evernote, right? Well, not so fast.
There is no sharp line between what's public and what's private. It's more of a gradient from aggressively public (pushing content at people), passively public (making it available for those who come looking for it) to semi-public (available to people I know) to semi-private (shared with close family and friends) to private (only me).
Any of these kinds of content might be part of what I want to remember in my "real-life stream."
Why Google+ is best for 'real-life streaming'
Google+ is the most capable system for "real-life streaming" that I'm aware of, for four reasons.
First, it's a social network, so all levels of social sharing or nonsharing can go in the same place. You don't have to post once to share and again to save into your "real-life stream."
Second, it's searchable.
Third, it accepts texts, links, pictures, videos and other kind of data.
Fourth, you're not locked in. If you decide later to move your "real-life stream" if something better comes along, you'll be able to download it all from Google Takeout.
I know, I know: The idea of "real-life streaming" on Google+ may strike some as volunteering to have your privacy violated. The privacy issue is a topic for another column. This piece is about how you can personally benefit from the data harvesting that's already taking place.
Here's how to remember the places you go, the people you meet and the things you do -- and how you felt about it all -- all in reverse-chronological order on Google+.
Remember the places you go
Location-based social networking services like Foursquare can be annoying. Still, it's great to remember some places you've been, even if you don't share it.
Google+ does non-annoying location remembering and sharing with some surprising features.
Let's take a look at one of them.
This is the profile of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. If you hover your mouse pointer over his location information near the bottom of his profile banner photo, you'll see that the picture is replaced by his location on a map for as long as you hover.
This is cool for two reasons. First, Hadfield is currently orbiting the planet, so his location changes constantly. Second, this feature is available to everyone.
What does this have to do with "real-life streaming"? Well, nothing, except it's a bonus feature that happens automatically when you use Google+ to keep track of some of the places you visit -- whoever you authorized to know your location can see it by hovering over your profile.
Here's how to easily capture your physical location from time to time in your Google+ lifestream, and all the time on your profile banner picture.
First, go to Google+ Settings and check the box next to "Enable Location Sharing." Just below that, you can choose exactly who has permission to view your location. It can be everybody, nobody or anybody in between.
Next, install Google Latitude on your Android phone or iPhone. Under the app's "Settings," turn on "Background Updating."
That will update your Google+ profile with the location feature.
Finally, when you're at some location you want to remember in your "real-life stream," tap the "Check in" button, choose the location, and choose who is allowed to see your location. Then click "Check in here."
Note that the public or private settings don't affect your lifestream. No matter which you choose, the check-in will be visible to you on your Google+ stream. Also: A live link to the Google+ Local entry (with details about the place) will be added to your post automatically.
Google's approach to location check-ins is super non-annoying. There are no badges to unlock, no mayors and, best of all, no spamming your friends with your check-ins.
Even if you choose to post to "Public," that post will not spam the streams of people who have circled you. In order to see a Public check-in, they would have to actually go to your profile.
Also: when you turn off location sharing on your phone, the profile map goes away -- it doesn't retain your last-known location.
Once your post is in your stream, you can use the post's drop-down menu to add thoughts and notes or a hashtag, if you like.
Another way to remember the places you go is to "review" them on Google Local, which is integrated into Google+. Just click the Local button on the left of Google+ and search for the restaurant, hotel or business. Click "write a review," rate it, type a few words, then click "Publish." It won't spam your circles, but it will put the establishment under a "Reviews" tab on your profile. That "Reviews" tab becomes a permanent record of all the places you like best (and why).
Remember the people you meet
Google's integration between Gmail and Google+ lets you easily remember people you converse with via email.
If you use Gmail, just go to the Find People page on Google+ (the button is on the left). The top "Suggestions" include people you've chatted with recently on Gmail. Circle the people you want to remember to retain those connections.
Another way is when you do a Google+ hangout, you can capture screens with the faces of the people you're hanging out with and save it to your Google+ "real-life stream." Just click the new camera button at the bottom of the hangout screen. Others in the hangout will be notified when you do.
Remember your events
People use Events on Google+ to schedule meetings, talks and parties. But far fewer use it for its best purpose: Collecting everyone's photos from an event for posterity.
The Events "Party Mode" lets all of the invitees post their pictures of the event while it's happening to the shared Event page. They come flowing in in real time (you can even put them up on a screen at the event and a slideshow will flip through them live).
Best of all, those photos become part of your permanent lifestream memory of the event.
Remember your photos -- this time with emotion
Photographs are probably the best way to remember your real life. Google+ added two new features that enhance those memories.
The first is that Google+ now supports full-quality picture uploads (Facebook always compresses and degrades uploaded pictures). Note that if you turn on this feature in the Google+ Settings, any files larger than 2048 pixels will count against Google storage, where you get 5GB free but pay a monthly fee for additional storage.
Another fun feature combines futuristic technology with a trivial application. It's called +Emotion. By clicking one button, Google's technology reads the emotion, age and even species of every human, dog and cat in the picture, and will put a thought bubble on each showing that information.
The +Emotion feature detects moods, glasses, sunglasses, babies, dogs, cats and other things.
To use it, post a photo on Google+ to just yourself. After it's posted, click on it, then click on the smiley face button on the upper left. You can then "Share" with Public or just yourself.
Why 'real-life streaming'?
Your lifestream posts don't have to be public. They can be private, just for you, or they can include a combination of public, shared-with-family, and you-only posts.
That's the beauty of it.
It's easy to order your "real-life stream" into its own stream. By giving your lifestream posts a unique hashtag, then saving a search for that hashtag, your "real-life stream" will always be just a click away. For example, I could use the hashtag #MikesRealLifeStream123. It doesn't matter what the hashtag is, as long as it's unique. You save a search by searching for the hashtag on Google+, then click the big, red "Save This Search" button.
As we move into the era of wearable technology, more people will lifestream their real lives.
If you're looking forward to Google Glass, for example, that product plus Google+ will be the ultimate "real-life streaming" combination for capturing the world as we experience it.
But you don't have to wait for Glass. You can use existing Google+ tools to remember where you go, who you meet and what you do -- and how you felt about it all.
And you don't have to share it with anybody.
Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him on Google+. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.
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