We’re having a Happy Hour at Esri R&D Center and we’d love to see you there!
Stop by between 5:30 and 7:30pm to check out what we’re working on, and meet lots of people interested in maps and the future of mapping.
Are you a developer? Pick up a free license to mapping apps, APIs, and SDKs here.
Simply bring your curiosity and we’ll bring the food and drinks. See you there!
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Esri R&D Center Portland
309 SW 6th Ave., Suite 600, Portland, OR
As I write this, I’m doing a backup of backups…
I gathered up my hard drives from age 13. Now I’m dumping them into a single 2 terabyte drive, and I’m still keeping them on hard drives. From there I’ll put the data on a 250 gig partitioned drive on my iMac connected to a Time Machine Backup. Time Machine allows you to use a portable external hard drive and set it up as a permanent backup for your main drive.
I’ve been finding lots and lots of backups. Some hard drives have the same content as other drives. After this many years, I expected most of the hard drives to fail. None of them did. Even the Iomega zip drive from my first job in the dot com boom. I expected to have lost everything, but I haven’t really lost anything.
I’m lucky. I know plenty of people who stored their files in weird formats, or only on a few hard drives. Many of these drives failed before the data was archived off of them.
Hard Drives Fail
Remember when you had a desktop computer and having files in it felt safe? Now that’s no longer the case. There’s this compulsion to move everything online. Online on remote servers “in the cloud” is not close to you, but even further away.
Did you know that the median lifespan for a hard drive is six years?
If you take all of the material out of the average computer and print it out, what do you get?
Cutwater agency did this in a campaign for Maxtor hard drives and took it on the road to the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 2007. They took 8 years of digital photos, printed them out, and stuck them together into the pile you see above.
Ironically, the agency that made this campaign no longer has publicly avalable evidence of the campaign. I took the photos of the campaign from their website years ago, but the photos are no longer there!
Archiving for the Long Term
The Persistence of the Whole Earth Catalog
Every time I think that what I’m doing online is exciting, I look at the Whole Earth Catalog and remember that most of the data I have online will be gone in 30 years.
The thing I like most about the Whole Earth Catalog is that it is printed material.
Paper loads instantaneously, doesn’t require a database, and will stay stable for decades. The Whole Earth Catalog has a lot of long-term information that’s useful, and even universal, today.
Archiving by Sketching
My grandmother Jo Case wanted to archive historic buildings in Salt Lake City, Utah. Instead of taking photos, she drew sketches of them. A lot of the buildings she drew are no longer there. Her sketch notes are beautiful and encapsulate a time no one can go back to.
These sketches were put into an archival book and given to family members. Copies were also made available to the public. Are there still copies of her images around? You bet!
Small Print Run Books
Former Portlander Matt Stadler created a service called Publication Studio for writers and artists to independently publish low-volume copies of their work.
Publication Studio prints and binds books one at a time. This is a great way to make an otherwise inaccessible work available to the public in the physical sense. There are currently eleven Publication Studio sibling studios.
I try very hard to keep physical notebooks of everything I think and do. This image shows 4 years of notebooks. I used a different size of book for each year for easy sorting. The question is, how can one back up physical notebooks? Notebooks themselves are stable, but these notebooks only exist as a single copy of themselves. There is one original.
One solution: zines!
I made lots of drawings and notes during my college classes. One of the best classes for sketch notes was a summer Paleontology course. At the end of the course, I made the drawings into a small zine. I went to Kinko’s copies and made 3 copies of each page, then I hand-bound them into a small book using glue sticks and folded pages.
The zine-creation was a simple process, nothing special. But it meant that I had some history of the class and my experiences. Because more than one person has the Zine, these memories are likely to stay around longer than if I just had a single copy of the notebooks.
While I made my Zine at Kinkos, you might be able to find a Zine support center in your community. Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) charges a small membership fee that allows access to Zine-making resources, classes, and 3 photocopy machines. There’s also a substantial Zine library on site to give you ideas about how large or small a Zine can be.
Portland’s XOXO conference Kickstarted a memory book that was assembled over the next 3 days of the conference. The book was entirely composed of submissions from XOXO attendees. Each backer had a page in the book to submit a photo, a story, a funny drawing – as long as it fit on a 5×7” piece of paper. The XOXO book ended up becoming a great collection of memories from the event. The book was printed cheaply on basic green paper and was spiral bound, and backers paid the printing fees. There are many copies of this book out there, and some may survive more than a decade.
Print Your Photos
I’ve often flipped through a physical family photo album and lamented that all that will be left of my generation’s memories will be crappy pixel images.
Postagram is an iPhone app allows you to send real postcards from your Instagram photos Just type in your friend or family’s address and use the in-app purchase to take care of the postage and handling. No post office necessary!
Did you know that most Walgreens stores have digital printing stations?. Come in with a USB stick and leave with a bunch of photos.
What to do with all of these photos? You don’t need to keep them – send them to your family! Chances are, there’s a scrapbooker/family archiver in there somewhere and that person will thank you. And you’ll thank them later when you have your memories intact after your next hard drive fails.
You may lament now about not having time for things because of a busy lifestyle, but chances are there are plenty of relatives that would love to be updated with your images, and are far luckier in that they may have a far better better work-life balance than you.
Archiving Audio and Video
Audio is perhaps the most difficult thing to archive. I have over 80,000 hours of it, and there’s not much I can do but slowly go through it and decide which pieces to keep. What’s worse is that I have analog tapes going back to when I was 6 years old and started making podcasts and radio shows. I’m terrified to learn how long that lasts. There’s even a RadioLab episode that talks about loops, loss of data where you can listen to a loop that literally dies in your ear. While the entire podcast is worth listening to, the segment on analog audio loops begins at 21:05.
One way to save video is to use a program to save screen-caps and print them out into an annotated album.
Send it to Archive.org
If you’re going to send it to Archive.org, you should make sure to also make a donation. Archiving data is expensive and they need your support! It’s like asking someone to host your garbage for a while – like for the next 10 years. Be polite and donate!
Remember that the most mundane things are the ones that may be the most interesting to your future self. Your desk at work that you always sit at? When you leave your job you’ll regret not having a photo of it. What about the house you grew up in? That local business or club you went to that is no longer there?
Long Term Storage Solutions
The Egyptians carved the history of their lives into Sandstone. These human histories were an arid environment. Pharaohs were preserved in order to have everlasting life. Mummies live on in museums, and writing on cave walls still exists today. What of yours will exist in one thousand years? Perhaps a styrofoam cup you used 10 years ago?
What’s the point of archiving anything? Culture? Memory? How can we make better ways to pass things down through story, written word, or culture? How can we ensure that what we do isn’t just an exciting thing on the web for 20 minutes but for generations? And finally, what real-world techniques can we used that have been good at standing the test of time?
You could just dump things. You can’t feel bad about losing things you’ve chosen to discard. It will make you more free. Move on into the future.
Purge – you won’t be sad about lost memories if you purposefully purge them.
When you’re thinking about dumping things, think of the keyframes you’d like to keep to help you to remember everything else, or know that your brain will probably remember everything. But if you were to share something with a future kid of grandkid, what content would you like them to see?
For me, it’s simply wanting something to exist to prove that I existed.