The following is a slightly edited transcript of my presentation during PDA2017. I’ve also shared my thoughts about PDA here.
Our lives are now digital — most of our interactions are mediated by online, digital tools
Our shared memories, and digital legacy, are scattered all over the internet.
It makes it really hard to keep track of one’s digital footprint.
We started Kumbu, because there wasn’t a simple way for people to safe keep their digital life.
There’s so much data, and so many apps. How do you figure out what to keep and what to cut ?
Besides, once you start saving content, it very quickly becomes to complex to manage.
And as we add new formats, new apps, etc, it gets more and more difficult.
To give you an idea by what we mean by formats, let’s have a look at what kind of things people like to archive.
First there’s the physical stuff: Could be photos, letters, invoices, etc — that’s mostly what’s in my shoebox at the moment. They’re fun to look at, but I couldn’t tell you what’s in them, and I have to go to my mom to look at them. Oh, and there’s nothing in here from after 2002.
Then there’s digital files : those are usually digital representation of physical things — things like word documents, Digital Photos, etc — those maybe in Dropbox, organised in folders. I can mostly access them from anywhere, but I have a limited amount of metadata — beyond pictures I mean. Also it’s very rare that I go back and look at this stuff.
Ok now we get to the interesting stuff: Born Digital content. These things are not necessarily inspired by the physical world. I’ve used apps and services to create them, and that’s where they live: gmail, facebook, amazon reviews, etc. I have no way of saving them, and when a site disappears, I lose most of the content. Granted, there’s a lot of stuff there that I don’t care for, but there’s also posts, messages and photos that are near and dear to my heart
And beyond that, there’s Born Mobile content — from apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Vine, etc — These are mostly isolated silos, and most people lose their content when the app folds (like vine did). It’s a big mess currently.
Kumbu aims to provide a solution for archiving from digital files onwards, with a strong focus on Digital Native content, and keeping an eye on what can be done for mobile native, when possible.
So what did we build ?
At heart, Kumbu is a save button for the internet. It’s integrated into every website, app and social network.
It’s very easy to use, just one click to archive content, and it provides fun things to do with your memories — you can organize them, tag them, and share collections with friends.
While saving, you’re building your souvenir box — and we’ve designed it to be super private, and respectful for how you want to manage you’re personal data.
We’re aiming to strike the right balance between usability, security and making sure you can always access your content in the future. It’s a complex debate, and we’re aiming at both educating the public around these topics, and hiding most of the complexity from our users.
So here’s how it looks like: Whenever I’m on Facebook, and I find something interesting to me, I can just click on the “Kumbu” button, and send it into Kumbu. A copy will be safely stored. I works the same for Instagram, or WhatsApp. And on a blog post as well.
I can see all of these in beautiful collections, and sharing them with friends.
You can build a collection for your kid, or for an event (we’ve been doing that for PDA too)
It’s very simple to use, and I can do that from anywhere.
So we’ve launched our beta in January, and we’ve had a wonderful reception by many users, from all over the world — many of them first time users of such applications. Talking with them, they told us they’d see themselves using it for many different cases, and we’ve learned a lot along the way — some of which I wanted to share with you in closing
The first concept I want to put forward is that there is value in archiving the personal, for personal reasons. Not everything needs to be part of the commons, and there are things that are destined to stay between a close circle of people — a family, friends, etc
The second is that Privacy is desired, but not valued. People like it, but not enough to pay for it or understand it. And they’re happy with more features, even if those mean relinquishing some of their privacy…
The third is that there is value in making an effort. From the get go, we designed kumbu in a way where you have to pick the stuff you want to save, manually. We believe there is value in this process, and that it can be beneficial — if you let apps do all the work for you, all your memories will look the same — Big Analytics and Machine Learning can speed up the process, but will make you less of an individual — which is fine for professional stuff, but for personal life, maybe people value their self more
Ok and finally, archiving on its own is a tough sell. People see the need for it, but not the value necessarily. We all have to figure out new ways of integrating archiving, preservation and transmission into more value added packages — we’re exploring several of those, but we also welcome every initiative in this area.
And with that, I’m going to thank you for your time. We’re still around with the Kumbu Team, and we’ll be happy to meet and exchange throughout the rest of the conference.
(polite applause as we’re rushed out of the room for running late)