Start-Up Scribr Wants to Help Your Twitter Feed Survive the Coming Web-pocalypse

Published on January 6, 2012
by Drake Martinet

The Web constantly reinvents itself, which is great for the progress of technology, but not so much for anyone trying to find a permanent home for their online stuff.

But there is hope for future generations who want to see what people of 2012 were posting on the Internet: Scribr, a brand-new company based in Santa Clara, Calif., is building a service to help users’ social Web content survive, long after even mighty Facebook’s servers have stopped spinning.

Scribr provides a way of collecting all the stuff a user has shared via the social Web, so that a few years or decades from now all those tweets, check-ins and Facebook photos will still be around for perusal.

Like any other API-driven Web service, users start by logging in to Scribr, connecting their various social accounts, and waiting for the service to ingest all the data they’ve ever posted to Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo’s Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare.

Once finished, Scribr lets users order a physical book of their collected postings, printed on demand by Lulu, one of the Web’s larger on-demand printing concerns.

Though a chronological book of online life may seem like a pretty simple thing to collect, Scribr co-founder Adam Henson explained that getting a book with that many tiny parts to make sense takes a fair amount of secret-coding sauce.

Henson used the example of users posting a picture to several services with a single click as the sort of obstacle Scribr had to overcome before its first book rolled off the press.

“We don’t just de-duplicate [similar posts across several services],” Henson said. “We roll those up into a single, more rich piece of content.”

Scribr boasts another brilliantly obvious feature to get users adding content to their books: Auto-journaling via email.

Users can sign up to receive daily emails, which arrive with a subject line like, “How was your Thursday?”

After a user replies to that email, Scribr adds that content to all the other posts and photos it has accumulated for publishing.

Henson said Scribr’s next move is to clean up the code base and add a few more social services to the list, all ahead of opening to a larger beta community by the end of January.

The project, which has been bootstrapped by the three co-founders for the last year, has roots in the “quantified self” movement, whose practitioners gather and retain all kinds of data about their lives — from steps taken to text messages sent, and just about everything in between.

But Henson’s aspirations for Scribr are much more about bringing the benefit of gathering life’s data to the millions of people who aren’t into life-logging.

Henson explained:

“We want it to be as easy as possible for the masses to do this, because most people just aren’t good at taking the time to write a journal.”

Like many of the very new businesses written about on AllThingsD, Scribr has all kinds of obstacles to overcome before it is ready for mainstream use. The Web site and printed book still have a beta level of polish, and the market for these books, from which Scribr plans to make its money, is still unproven.

Right now, users pick the date range, and their printed book is essentially a chronology of their social Web lives during that period. But Henson said Scribr is already getting requests for printed products that its system is capable of making but that its founders never conceived of.

“We’ve already had one request from a group of Civil War reenactors who want to make a sort of yearbook from several of their members’ Facebook accounts, and another from a guy who wants to make a book out of his recently deceased father’s Facebook account,” Henson said.

These possibilities are only a few of the things that come to mind for a service that can bring together all kinds of posts and personal media and drop them into an organized and more indelible format.

There is something admittedly reassuring about a tangible product.

“At the end of the day, I’m really glad I have that book on my shelf,” Henson said.

Scribr is betting that someday, when Twitter or — gasp — Facebook go the way of Yahoo’s now-defunct GeoCities, other users will be glad to have that book, too.

Henson chatted with me about the future of Scribr, and in this video he shows off the beta version of a Scribr book. Enjoy:

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