Time capsule survey

A friend and I were discussing things a week ago and this concept popped into my head of a time capsule website, where you could read something written by someone a {time period} ago and write something of your own for a stranger a {time period} in the future.

I like this idea, and I could make the technical side of this idea happen; what I'm wondering is whether enough other people like this idea that it'd be worth me spending the time on it. So this post is that question.

How it'd work
For the first year after launch, it'd be seeded with diary material that's in the public domain, because otherwise it'd be boring. So you'd arrive on this page and it'd say "100 years ago today, someone wrote: {random diary entry}".

Then below this would be a box asking you to write about something that you think will be forgotten in a year's time. (Or some other prompt, or a choice of prompts.)

You'd type stuff in the box.

There would be metadata, with explanations why each is necessary. Definitely:

  • a timestamp, autogenerated. (Needed so it can be retrieved at the appropriate point in the future.)
  • language, to allow for multilingual capability

and I think demographic metadata (for purposes of "Am I getting sufficiently diverse submissions or do I need to reach out to other audiences?" and potentially for research/historical value, see below on human ethics discussion):

  • a city- or country-level location, guesstimated by computer but correctable. (Plus because it might be cool to give future-people the entry closest to their location.)
  • gender? age? ethnicity? sexuality? religion? I don't know, what would be useful/appropriate/intrusive? Anyway they'd all default to unspecified, and have a dropdown menu with options including a "write-in" option that'd pop up a box (whose contents would be added to the drop-down menu for future visitors)

And then before you hit the 'submit' button there'd be a permissions section (here's my attempt at being a good human ethicist), telling people that:

  • linky link to privacy policy, which will be:
    • I'll keep their submission as private as I can but NSA and warrants exist
    • the text only (no demographic metadata) will be displayed to someone in one year's time and potentially at other intervals thereafter (eg ten years, a hundred years (I can dream big))
    • I may publish aggregated demographic data but it won't link in any way to the entries
  • in the event that I can no longer maintain the website they can choose whether I will:
    • delete all their data
    • include their entry, but not the demographic metadata, in a bundle licensed CC-Zero and posted to figshare for the benefit of researchers and other interested parties
    • include their entry *with* the demographic metadata in said bundle

In a year's time, visitors would start seeing these user-submitted entries.

Important enhancement: email list/RSS feed/twitter that sends out a random entry each day and prompts people to make a submission.

Create your own free online surveys now!
Powered by Polldaddy