Year of Making Things Nice

Getting digital without getting technical?

A digital life is to be revered if we are to ensure the future has the information it needs to understand the past.

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It began slowly.

A little bit here. A little bit there.

Eventually, the momentum started to build.

Now, each time I sit at the computer I tidy more and more. The end is in sight.

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The last five years have been increasingly digital, but there was no long-term plan. There was a system, but the system kept changing cause I’d forget what the system was! It’s time to clean up the files.

It’s actually a good time to clean up, what with the studies finished (for now?) and while I’m stuck in the middle of this city-to-country transition. It’s time to make things nice.

My past work colleagues would be aghast if they saw the state of my personal filing. At work, I was the filing guru. Electronic documents were systematically titled to make things easy to find. They were categorised and grouped as logically as I could in this illogical world of ours. If a document sat in two categories, it would be copied and placed in both. Ruthless I was.

Last year, I had the bizarre idea I would scan all my hardcopies before moving so I wouldn’t have to move them. HaHa.

Then I had the bizarre idea I would scan them while I was house sitting, fill in the time. HaHa.

With much relief, I abandoned bizarre ideas and started small. When transferring the car registration from ACT to NSW, I scanned all the documents. It was a very small but very important step in the right direction.

Digital archiving strategy

A number of great libraries and museums around the world are encouraging us to develop a personal digital archiving strategy. Libraries and museums are supposed to collect documents and photos that will explain to future generations how we lived in our society in our day. That’s going to be very difficult when so many hit the delete button on their digital files without a thought for the future.

The libraries and museums are worried there will be a huge gap in the historical record because we don’t treat our digital lives with the same respect that was accorded to the paper documents of old.

It was a different attitude. Paper documents were stored in a specially designed cabinet, a piece of furniture that had one, and only one, function. It created a kind of reverence. If the document was particularly precious, it might be put in a safe for safe keeping.

Now, we store our lives on our mobile devices to be easily lost when the device drowns or explodes. Even the word “mobile” downplays any sense of importance. Some will back up their mobile files to a digital cloud that is owned by a company, to be sold or traded when the company goes bust. Perhaps the company will just stuff it all up one day and lose everything. Too many eggs in one basket.

It’s time for a personal digital archiving strategy.

Having taken that very small but very important first step, I went looking for examples of personal digital strategies. Check these out:

The US Library of Congress:  Not very technical, so a great place to start.

Columbia University Library:  Getting a bit more technical, so dig in here when you feel ready.

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Before I start archiving, I need to get things organised. This new digital world needs somewhere nice to live. It’s time to embrace the concept of keywords.

In the lingo of records management, a keyword has to be broad enough to capture a lot of your life in one swoop, but not so broad that the title is meaningless.

My laptop came with a folder (aka library) called “Documents”, but that is a useless keyword – too broad and quite meaningless. I decided to create more libraries and titled them using my chosen keywords; one for Employment, one for Travel, for Reunions, Rentals, Writing and so on.

Under each keyword will eventually sit many other folders. For example, in the Travel library there is a folder for my Car and another for Sydney. When I visit more places, there will be more folders in the Travel library.

Under Writing, there is a folder for this blog!

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The next step will involve scanning, and the number of files will grow as I digitise more and more of my life.

This will take a while … but it will be nice.

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And yes, I have backed up to a removable hard drive!

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References

Library of Congress, “Personal Archiving: Preserving your digital memories”, http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/

Columbia University Libraries, “Personal Digital Archiving: Online Resources”, http://library.columbia.edu/locations/dhc/personal-digital-archiving/online-resources.html

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