The Internet has a funny memory. We are concerned with the lack of privacy and that nothing is ever forgotten online. It is possible that in some NSA database somewhere is every piece of information ever placed on the Internet. But a lot of time the Internet forgets.  And the Internet is a curious mix of the missing, the broken and unremembered.

Its hard to find stuff on Facebook. That photo you saw in that group you’re a member of two months ago. Good luck finding that again without scrolling through months of posts.

A few months ago the image below started doing the rounds on Twitter it was from flowchainsensei   From the style of the image I knew it was Hugh MacLeod.


So I went looking for it. It was only when I went back that I realised Hugh’s original was different.

Knowledge Experience

Despite both being widely shared, there was very little reference back to the original when the new one was shared. Frequently there was little reference to who created the new version either.

Then in the last few days I’ve seen this variation on the meme. Also funny as “everything on the internet eventually results in reference to cats” (Casey’s 5th rule)


When I try to figure out who created it I get “Found shared in the Web, by Unknown Artist.” among other links. The oldest link to it I’ve saw is on this page from the 5th of Feb 2014.   There is also a link to it on Facebook from the same date. Eventually after a litte digging the original traces back to Ron Letkman on Twitter. (Ironically his own website appears to be part of the Internet’s Memory Gap)

There is also a variation on the theme here .  And a tumbr on Hughs image here

Also creative

I like the way ideas can get cut and sliced and shared on line. That we recreate and build on each others work and ideas. I’m bothered by the way that it can be hard to track back the evolution of these ideas over time. You can sometimes find the information if you dig. But who’s going to dig?

A few years ago Simon McGarr wrote about the Meaning, Memory and the Media.

News media want things to be new. They feel inhibited from reporting things unless they have a ‘news hook’, whether or not the information would be of value.

Because of this focus on the new, memory is devalued. The ultimate logical extension of this is 24hr news, which has all the time in the world to report, but only the memory of a goldfish with which to do it.

His question asked in a broader context, and relevant in this narrower one was

For citizens with a memory, the question of how our country got here is not a difficult question. The hard question is how we get elsewhere?

How do we get elsewhere?

The image at the top of this is from Martin de Jonge on flickr shared under a creative commons license