A private online five year diary

Part of my 2011 retrospective highlighted that i want to spend more time on fun pet projects.

As i was doing my retrospective i had an idea for an online 5-year diary. My mum has one, actually it used to be my nanna’s, and now mum is continuing it. I have heard, and i can imagine, that there is something rather nice about seeing what you were doing on this day years ago, and the memories it brings back.

Some people keep them going for much longer than five years: here’s one i found on flickr that spans one day over 11 years!

Pop's diary
Pop’s diary, by Rob Fenwick

I went to look in the shops to get some ideas about what 5-year diaries are like. Some key points i discovered: they have a bookmark so that it’s easy to get to today. They often have a lock and key: that gave me the idea that these things are private. They have a space at the top for reminders of birthdays and anniversaries.

I wanted to start my own online 5-year diary on the beginning of the year. On the 1st of January i began coding a Rails app, and by the evening fiveyeardiary.herokuapp.com existed! it looked like this:

Talk about lean startup! :D

By day 2 i’d grabbed the Twitter Bootstrap CSS and applied some styling like this:

As startup ideas go, this is quite terrible, because you have to use it for a year before it becomes really useful! So i decided to experiment with other views. As it’s a web app, we can mix things around in ways that you can’t in a physical book.

For example, wouldn’t it be interesting to see what you do every monday?

Or maybe you’d want to see it like a traditional diary, a week at a time:

Once i’ve got a few months in, it might also be interesting to see what i do on the same day of each month. We can do that! :)

I’ve been using it now for 3 weeks and i’m really liking it. As time goes on i’ve found i write more, and my entries have become more personal. Hence the blurring out! ;)

I really like the fact that this is not social and it’s not networking! Nothing i write here is going to appear in someone’s RSS feed, or get cross-posted to a blog, or announced on twitter or facebook. This is my private space for my private thoughts.

Soon i will add search capabilities. I have a vague idea about mood analysis of what you’ve written. I also see the possibilities of mobile apps, which is quite exciting. I’m aware that people will want to use this in very different ways, so i’m waiting to see what people want most.

If you would like to start your own five year diary, writing as much or little as you like every day, you can find it, currently here: fiveyeardiary.herokuapp.com. It may move at some point, but your private notes will be migrated securely.

It’s also open source, so if you prefer to host your own it’s easy to do so, either locally or on heroku. You can find out how at github.com/sermoa/fiveyeardiary

I’m keen for feedback, so please let me know what you’d like to see, and i’ll see what i can do! :)

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2 comments on “A private online five year diary

  1. I think this is a brilliant idea. And not just because I’ve had a number quite like it :-).

    I’ve often thought of a blog-like system with a delay between posting and publishing – say 1 year – so the posts appear as letters to yourself from the past. My only concern with having a system like yours completely online is that the internet changes so rapidly from year to year, that I don’t know whether Ruby or the site will even exist in five years time.

    Anyway, this will be worth watching develop.

    • that is a valid concern. i’m good at starting things, not very good at keeping them going long-term. i’m sure Ruby will still exist in 5 years time, and so long as i’m still using the site, i’ll continue to maintain it. but if i lose interest, then, yeah. sad things can happen.

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