The unintentional journal.

I’ve long kept track of my life in journals and notebooks throughout my life. During high school and college, writing was a daily activity in which I reveled, detailing every little thing of interest in my life, and scribing what today would amount to embarrassing amounts of minutiae. But it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. When my life got busier and technology permeated it at a much denser level, I sought out pieces of software to with which to continue this practice. We have an amazing wealth of just such software on iOS, and I’ve tried tons of apps to capture my thoughts in a meaningful way. There’s a real value in being able to use your iPhone or iPad to do this, because increasingly, they’ve become the tools we have with us the most, even more than a pen or pencil, it seems.

What I’ve come to realize is that my brain has a hard time making the conscious choice to actually journal the thoughts I want to keep when I have them. My current favorite app to do this is Day One. It’s a wonderfully designed suite of apps that works across iOS and Mac, and syncs with iCloud and Dropbox. Even with a gorgeous app everywhere I might find myself, I often forget to capture things, or decide something isn’t worth putting down (you can actually set reminders to add entries to Day One, but that seems weird to me, as useful as it might be). As I’ve grown busier in my older age, the desire to write daily bits about my life for later reference is still there, but subsumed by other things.

The other realization I’ve had as I worked through this is that for the past few years, I’ve actually been keeping a fantastic journal of just about everything I think is worth talking about and remembering. It’s on my iPhone, my iPad, and my Mac, and I spend tons of time in it every day. I’m always motivated to read and write in it, and I have thousands of entries about good things, bad things, funny things, and everything else.

It’s Twitter.

The problem is, unlike a journal I might keep myself, I can’t go back and read the first page. The limitations of Twitter’s current architecture make it impossible for me to flip all the way back to the beginning and trace my path forward. Twitter allows access only to what amounts to a small chunk of your most current tweets. I’ve done some searching and there are a few tools that seemingly allow you to search further back through your timeline, and see older tweets, but all I really want is one button within my twitter.com settings that says “Download My Tweets”. I want a plain text, big fat sheet of everything I’ve said, from the first stupid musing to my last LOL. I want to be able to back this text file up in a thousand different places and across multiple services. But most importantly, I want to have it because up until this morning, it simply didn’t occur to me that I’ve been using a tool for almost four full years that has served as a surrogate for my old notebooks, without once thinking how utterly valuable I might find it. I had always assumed I’d think of it as conversation – a fleeting vapor of chat with others that I’d be comfortable releasing into the ether of the web. But as it turns out, I want those thoughts back. I want the journal I was unintentionally writing all this time, in my pocket.

If you’ve got a recommendation for a tool that can help with this, I’d love to hear about it.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.