No Context

Right now, as I write, it’s 3 pm GMT 15 January 2021. The date is under the title of this piece. So anyone reading this tomorrow will know that I was writing this yesterday. And anyone reading this a week from now will know I wrote it last week. And they’ll know that Donald Trump was still President of the United States back then, and Boris Johnson UK Prime Minister. They’ll know the context in which I was writing, what was going on back then, what was happening.

The same is true of a lot of other blog posts and emails and newspaper articles. Most of them are also timestamped.

Now I also watch a lot of videos as well as reading a lot of stuff. And the odd thing about videos is that a lot of them – most of them – have no timestamps. And so when I’m watching them I’m always trying to figure out when they were shot. And it’s not obvious.

For example, here’s a video of Dave Rubin talking to someone called Patrick Byrne. There’s a date under the YouTube video that says 13 January 2021. Was that when it was shot? Or was that when it was uploaded? Or is that when somebody decided to draw attention to it? It’s not clear which.

It would be much more clear if one or the other of them had a calendar behind them, and maybe a clock as well. Some videos have digital timestamps showing time and date.

But neither have any of these. And so there’s no context. They could have been talking a day ago, or a month ago, or a year ago.

The only way to figure out when they were talking is to listen to what they’re saying, and look for timestamps in their words. For example if one of them says “Donald Trump spoke yesterday to the nation,” that could maybe provide a timestamp. But you have to listen very carefully for such clues. And very often there are no clues.

There’s a lot of stuff in the background. A fireplace and various bits and pieces. There’s plenty of space to put a calendar, or a written date on a piece of paper. But there’s nothing giving any clue of the date.

Sometimes I find myself watching something and suddenly realising that it was created 10 years ago.

So a lot of times I watch and listen with interest, but afterwards I’m usually left wondering when it was shot. Could be yesterday, or last week, or last year. There’s no context.

Too bad, I guess.

I’ll never know.

About Frank Davis

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6 Responses to No Context

  1. Margo says:

    I agree – it’s annoying.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Some kind of date is the first thing I look for! Good point, Frank.

  3. Emily says:

    I agree with this too. It actually annoys me the most with blogs that don’t list dates. It feels completely wrong but you’ve put your finger on exactly why. Context is essential.

  4. RdM says:

    OT, 13 hrs apart, the 3rd day of Prada Cup (round robin challenges to see who will contest the Americas Cup from NZ later) racing in Auckland New Zealand earlier this afternoon here.

    If you were curious about what summer looked liked here, the shape of the harbour, the reason it’s sometimes called the City of Sails, a strong yachting fraternity, and have some time, look here:

    These astonishing hi-tech boats which will get on their foils and sail/fly at 4-5 times actual wind speed, like 40-50 knots, 40 knots is 74.08km/hr, or 46mph, 50 knots is 93.6kph or 57.5mph.

    But dropping off the foils in low wind, suddenly back down to wind speed … as in yesterday.

    Today, windier, I missed it, so am about to review the afternoon sailing myself …

    3 hours of background footage and commentary … ;=})

    We do know though that American Magic capsized … and so lost to Luna Rossa, the Italians.


    Auckland, New Zealand – New York Yacht Club American Magic, the U.S. Challenger for the America’s Cup, capsized in a strong gust of wind while leading around the final mark during a Prada Cup race shortly before 6:00 PM NZDT on Sunday, January 17 (January 16 U.S. time). All team members onboard were quickly accounted for by the team’s on-the-water safety personnel and declared safe.

    The team’s AC75 racing yacht, PATRIOT, was damaged during the incident and began taking on water. American Magic received rapid assistance from the three other America’s Cup teams, along with America’s Cup Event Ltd, the race management team, the Coastguard New Zealand, the Auckland Harbormaster, and local fire and police personnel.

    Efforts to stabilize PATRIOT and get the yacht back to shore are currently underway. American Magic is sincerely thankful for all of the assistance rendered to the team following today’s incident.

    Accurately dated, then …

    It’s about 11:17pm here as I post this …

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