Saturday, March 1, 2008


During a phone conversation a few years ago, my friend Alan coined the term "dataclypse" to describe the habit my computers had developed of exploding once a year. This was probably not a matter of poorly chosen equipment or bad luck. It was a symptom of my tendency to overload and subsequently destroy any technology I regularly worked with.

At the time, most of my creative work was done entirely on the computer. On average, I had 5 audio files opened in Audacity, a few files open in Reason for sequencing, some OpenOffice documents for editing, and an instance of Firefox with 40+ tabs open. For a modern computer that probably isn't too heavy a load, but my computer wasn't exactly up-to-date. I remember several instances of critical data loss due to the way I treated computers.

I also performed maintenance and repair in a slapshod manner. On one occasion I lost 30GB of data when I accidentally reformatted the wrong partition. Since I had no organizational method, I threw out as much data as possible in order to keep the dataclypse at bay. I allowed my artistic materials to become a jumbled mess because I focused on a "final product" that would emerge from the chaos. Each project led up to its own micro-dataclypse in which the relevant working materials became lost in a sea of files or deleted completely. Because of this, a lot of things have slipped through the cracks that might have proved useful in the future.

I work in a relaxed and chaotic manner. There is no changing that, which is probably a good thing, because the work I do is dependent upon the chaotic environments in which it is created. But setting up technology to automate backups and keep my working environment somewhat stable in the long run might deter future dataclypses. It will take some effort to set up, but I believe that it is possible to use some basic techniques to immerse myself in creative pursuits while retaining data for personal and historical purposes.

Implementing a fancy organizational system is not something I'm likely to follow through on any time soon. I bought Getting Things Done a few years ago but I never got around to reading it. After listening to a talk by Jason Scott on archiving, I've decided that the best method is to throw everything onto a huge external hard drive with no thought about organization whatsoever. Hopefully whatever storage format the data I collect ends up on will be readable by weirdo historians of the future so that scans of Byte magazine and my incoherent ramblings will be available to generations to come.


Comrade Jhonka said...

Another word to coin to describe you would be datacane, because you are truly a hurricane of information and media that does have the tendency to destroy electronics. However, in the eye of the storm that is you there is that jewel of media/information that makes it very worth the risk.

Still another quick fix I could suggest for you is to get a mobo that has space for about 4gigs of ram because I know how many programs you like to keep open. This way you can stay exactly how you are, mining information and such, and not have to worry about dataclypses.

If you can crash a comp with 4gigs of ram, then sir you are one true Digital Deva.
p.s. I know you can crash 4gb of ram, I'm just wondering how long it would take. :)

Ross said...

yeha, and pretty soon i'll be needin a datacane to get around this joint, in Internet years we're gettin OLD!

i actually got a free computer from my employers the other day, it's an HP crappo but it's got 3.5 ghz processor 2gb ram and 250GB scsi hard drive. which, to me, is a supercomputer.

madame said...

yeah, i use gmail accounts as storage space. just send yourself some invites and name 'em appropriately. obviously you could back that shit up somewhere else as well, but really, i think google is fine. as soon as you get enough data emails to yodata1 at gmail, check them all and archive them. that button you never pressed on the top menu bar.
if/when space filled open yodata2 at gmail etc.
also do occasional data dump uploads to yodata3 at gmail of bookmarks and shit to make space on your maChine for your mcdonald's spreadsheet if you finally get that promotion. insert smiley here.

my blog is locked, hopefully keeping out creepy google people doing searches for shitting and children with guns. also, now twice as nasty.

username: actualreader
pw: montaigneoutofmolehill

Alan Peart said...

I don't even remember coining that word, and it's a good one!

I don't think there will be any historians of data in the future. I don't think anyone will be going through our writings for the simple reason that history itself may disappear as a concept altogether, and I'm not sure this is a good thing or even exactly what I mean, but I just think no one is going to be researching this age as we research earlier ages.

So use it now, or throw it away! hehe

Ross said...

Hmmm, maybe just the idea of a historian will shift. But there are definitely people now who are doing it. Just look around the links on the right - "digital history hackS" or even OR even the underdogs, the guys who archive old computer games. the idea of history might change, but i doubt it will go away.

The desire for retaining information and sustaining narrative across generations is something I have always felt, and I don't think technology is going to change that. But yes, the "digital dark age" is definitely a possibility, unfortunately..