How do you capture a moment online?

Posted: May 2, 2010 in social media, technology and the future

Remembering moments and accomplishments is as natural to us as breathing. We take photos to remember physical details.  We may keep a journal to remind ourselves of our thoughts at that time. If there’s been a write up in the newspaper about an award we’ve won, or a charity event we’ve helped organize, or any other moment that has significance to us, we clip out the article with the mention.

With the emergence of a truly social web, we now have services like Flickr, Twitter and Facebook, as well as our personal blogs and a variety of other tools that help us share some of those moments with our friends and our connections.  But that’s the web with the offline world.

How do we capture moments in time that are already happening on line?  I’d like an easy way to pull up the stories that came out of my Facebook status experiment for cancer.  I received about 40 stories on the comment thread about people within my network that had been impacted by cancer in some way.  I’m active enough on my networks that scrolling down to find that post is going to take awhile.  And in a few months time it will be nearly impossible to find.

One could argue that perhaps the experiment should have taken place somewhere that I had control over.  Like pointing people to my blog, etc.  But it wouldn’t have had nearly the impact it did as sharing the stories over on my feed on Facebook for the rest of my network to see each time a story was added.

Social media works when people act in the moment.  Movements, like Twestival, start with a single tweet.  But how do you capture a physical representation of the moment that tweet was sent?  Or the snowballing effect as it spread around the globe in but three short weeks? Sure you can hashtag something to label updates for a bit later.  But without the physical proximity to one another, like we get from being at the same event, or in the same workplace, school, community, club and so on, how can we possibly capture snapshots in time of important moments on the web?  How will we remember in a year’s time what those cancer stories were?  Or what interactions, or funny anecdotes or lessons learned come out of an initiative?

The social web is bringing the offline world online.  It’s great for sharing those things that happen offline with others.  But we seem to be missing an entire segment of this world.  It’s in all of the value, connections and interactions we create just by being online.  I’d like a way to take a “webshot” of a specific point in time, or several points in time that I think are important.  Even if it’s something as simple as Facebook implementing a “favourites” button for your own statuses, kind of like when you flag an important email in Gmail and it automatically pushes it to the top for you.  That would be one method.  But what about other services?  Other interactions and endeavours?  How do we document our online world?  And how do we go about preserving the memories we create as we go?

  1. Nell says:

    That’s a thought-provoking question, Wendy. My first idea was to use bookmarking tools (like but the Facebook example really throws a wrench in it as there is no “URL” persay for a Facebook status, like there is for a Tweet.

    Practical answers aside, it’s really difficult to know how to capture a “moment” – it could exist over multiple networking sites and have roots in or bubble over into “real life” – and who has the time to bookmark (or any other similar practice) every conversation that has meaning or you find particularly poignant?

    And maybe that’s the answer – there are so many things in life that go uncaptured: a look, conversations, unspoken words that fill the silence. We can’t save everything “offline,” so perhaps it’s too much to ask that we could do the same online.

  2. John Tyler says:

    I like using Evernote! They’ve made several improvements since i’ve first started using it.

    It’s an easy way to capture notes, screen shots, images, documents, on my computer and mobile devices. Now they also have Twitter integration to capture interesting tweets into your Evernote, and the ability to create more than 1 “notebook”. You can even invite others to share notebooks.

    It’s one way to capture the ‘online moment’ 🙂

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