Lifestreams – A Primer

What is a Lifestream?

Aggregating RSS feeds is not something new, its been around for a few years. As web users we leave our digital footprints at these services, be it twitter, youtube, flickr or last.fm. A majority of these services provide RSS feeds. An aggregation of  your various digital footprints is your Lifestream. Some people also refer to it as “Life Casting”, “Activity Stream”.

Why on planet earth would one create a Lifestream?

If you are like me when you want to share content that you create and like, then your audience is craving for a Lifestream. Case in point my brother, he has a moblog, a personal blog, a photoblog and a flickr stream. And I for one am tired of checking multiple sites/feeds.

Any good examples of Lifestreams?

Kevin Rose, Fred Wilson (he is a VC), Steve Rubel are good examples. I have a Lifestream as well.

How does one go about creating a Lifestream?

There are several services that allow you to aggregate your life stream. I am currently using tumblr to aggregate my Lifestream.
Here is how I have created mine:

flickr + delicious + blog + twitter + blogroll favorites = my life stream

I have also made a twitter feed for my lifestream using twitterfeed.com this way anybody can follow my lifestream on twitter.

Steve has taken this one step further and integrated what he calls his reply stream: responses to his twitters + inbound links for his blog (I wonder what happened to his blog comments?)

Aren’t you worried about posting some much information online?

Most of the stuff that I post online and made public are things that I want to share with other people. For instance my personal pictures are flickr are protected. But it is a good idea to make sure you are a bit cautious. I don’t advertise my feeds on a network like Plaxo’s Pulse. It aggregates Lifestreams of all the folks you are connected to. My audience is different on here than it is on Plaxo. You could also use some of the other services to protect your life streams.

Other than aggregating feeds is there any other reason to create a lifestream?

One of the exciting things that is happening is APML. It is mark up language that captures ones attention. The idea is to compress all forms of Attention Data into a portable file format containing a description of ranked user interests. Check out an excellent post of Attention profiling written by Marjolein Hoekstra @ Cleverclogs.com here. Lifestreams offer the right kind of data that can be used to convert into APML. So why should you care? Remember every-time you try a new service that ask you to setup your personal preferences be it my.yahoo.com or netvibes or spotback (reminds me of the days where you had to train the computer for text to speech!). In the future you will only plugin your APML. Even better you could  sign in with your openid and authorize access to your APML and voila the service is personalized! A couple of things need to happen for us to get there:

Need a service that convert a Lifestream into APML

There is one such service that does that today, Engagd.com. Check Emily’s excellent post on conversion of a Lifestream into APML. But this service doesn’t seem to be working properly as yet and hence have not been able to review the quality of data that it produces. Dandelife claims to support APML but I have not been able to get it working.

  • Need web platforms/service to support consumption of APML

At the moment there is only one service that consumes APML, Particls. Others such as bloglines, newsgator have promised to support the standard. Please check out the APML workgroup and members area for more info.

You have got me interested in Lifestreams, How do I keep myself up-to date?

Mark Krynsky’s excellent Lifestream blog can be found at lifestreamblog.com. I will make an earnest effort to post my finds and updates on here as well.

Is there a market leader in this space?

There are several services at that provide life aggregation. A comparison of some of them can be found here at lifestream blog (its not upto date). This space is starting to heat up with Google’s acquisition of Jaiku and funding(750K) of tumblr.com, but the fireworks are just beginning! So sit back, relax, get yourself a drink and enjoy!

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