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Packrat: Track all posts, everywhere

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Had an idea on the way to work last week.

There are two (minor) problems I'd like to have a solution for:

  • I'd like to be able to see everything that friends post publicly, no matter where they post it.
  • I'd like to be able to keep a record of everything I post publicly, no matter where I post it.

I write stuff all over the place. Mostly in my blogs and on Twitter; but the blogs and Twitter forward to Facebook (except for the Twitter retweets and replies, which don't), and I post comments on friends' posts on Facebook and (sometimes) Livejournal and Dreamwidth and blogs and G+, and sometimes I post to G+, and occasionally I post a comment on a news article or something, and pretty much all of that content except for my blog posts is more or less lost to me. A week later, the chances of my finding it again are low to nil; which means I can't link to it, I can't quote it, I may not even be able to remember what I said.

Likewise, there are friends whose public posts (if they were amenable) I'd like to be able to subscribe to. A single feed where I could view everything they post publicly, without having to traipse around to a bunch of different sites.

(Yes, the latter could be used for bad stalkery purposes, which is why the subscription thing would be opt-in for the author; if the author doesn't want people seeing everything they post publicly in one convenient place, then they don't sign up for the make-my-stream-publicly-available part of my proposed system. Possibly nobody would sign up for that part, in which case that part would turn out not to have been a good idea.)

I can imagine various ways to solve these problems. But the one that occurred to me last week is this:

A browser extension that provides a nice little pop-up window in which to write everything that you write for public consumption.

Here's how I envision it working (written as if it already existed for ease of phrasing):

  1. I visit a page where there's a text box that I want to type into.
  2. I click in the text box.
  3. I press a keyboard shortcut, and my browser extension (let's call it Packrat, even though that's already the name of a Backpack client and a Dropbox add-on) pops up a window. The window provides a text box for me to type into, and some controls for what to do with the text when I'm done. It might optionally provide some rich-text editing tools. So far, this is fairly similar to tools like MozEx or It's All Text!
  4. I write whatever it is that I want to write.
  5. Here's the interesting part: now I can choose various options for what to do with the text. I can, for example:
    • Insert it into the text box and do nothing else. (For example, if this is an email I'm sending, then I may not want to post it to my public-facing feed.) (In this case, I might have just typed into the text box rather than starting up my extension in the first place.)
    • Add it to my private archive of things-I've-written, then insert it into the text box. Whenever I save something using Packrat, btw, it adds metadata about the URL where I was when I typed it (or, ideally, the related URL where it can be viewed), plus things like links to the conversational context when possible. Also time and date stamp. ...There are some issues to be worked out here; for example, if it goes to the archive before going into the text box, and then I edit it further directly in the text box, then the archive doesn't match the final public post. Also, there has to be a way to take into account the ability to write something now but delay posting it until later (like a blog's scheduled-future-posts feature), and there has to be a way to deal with later edits made to an an archived post. Maybe instead of a separate pop-up window, Packrat just tracks what I type into any text box? Not sure.
    • Add it to my private archive and to my public-facing feed, then insert it into the text box.
    • In addition to the private and public archiving, also post it to other places. For example, could have the option to post to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc. (This part is similar to services like HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc; I haven't tried any of those, so they may do some of the other things I want as well, not sure. But I doubt that those tools handle the case of comments that I post on someone else's posts.)
    • Email it to people.
    • Etc.
  6. After the content is in the text box, I click the web page's Submit button (or equivalent) to post it.

There are all sorts of flaws and issues to be addressed. For example, if I post the same item to Twitter, FB, G+, etc, then do multiple copies show up in my public-facing feed? What if I post an extremely similar but not quite the same item to all those places?

And, as noted above, I'm not sure anyone but me would want the subscribe-to-all-of-someone's-posts feature. Well, me and stalkers and celebrity-watchers.

But even without that piece, I'd find the save-everything-I-post-anywhere part useful.

Does something like this already exist? If not, anyone want to write it? I hereby release this idea to the world, for anyone to use as they like, for free; I disclaim all ownership of it, I'd just like to see something like it come into existence so I can use it.

1 Comment

Friendfeed (www.friendfeed.com) can aggregate a lot, at least for those of your friends who sign up with it (though that seems to me more likely than getting folks to install another plug-in).


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