February 18, 2009
Ephemerality and Regeneration
Before reading Rex’s interview with 4chan’s founder, I didn’t realize that those boards were so ephemeral:
The lack of retention lends itself to having fresh content. The joke is that 4chan post is a repost of a repost of a repost. There was a guy who was downloading every image from /b/. He calculated that 80 percent of what’s posted has been posted before. So it’s survival of the fittest. Ideas that are carried over to the next day are worth repeating. The things that are genuinely funny get carried over.
I actually like that a lot. Reminds me of, er, life itself. DNA getting transcribed again and again. Little mutations along the way.
Now, of course, there’s great value to the opposite, to durability and accretion. (See, e.g., Matt’s vision for news.) But I wonder if we’ll get tired of always leaving a digital paper trail, and if ephemerality will sometimes be considered a feature.
For instance — am I alone in this? — I wish I could set Twitter to auto-delete tweets older than a week or so.