What I Learned This Week #4

What I Learned This Week (WILTW) is my way of documenting my learning moments – small and big.

The Digital (In)permanence

I remember when I got an email that Google Drive would begin deleting items chucked into the digital bin after 30 days. On a scale of things to worry about, it was a small change – really, the files found themselves in the trashcan for a reason. But it was a sign of times to come. 

Our digital warehouse of choice is not infinite. When you think about it, your emails, photos, audio snippets, and so on take space in whichever cloud storage to which you uploaded them. They accumulate and grow because it’s not natural to declutter your folders. It’s just not in our minds.

What about when you die? Google now removes accounts that go inactive after a certain time so if someone stops dutifully logging in once you expired, your data will be erased. By the way, I cannot help but think of our leftover cloud storage as the modern form of exegi monumentum.

I wonder, how do people preserve digital memories? I once held a one-person scan party, where I digitalised birthday cards to save them on my drive. It was inspired by the Minimalists and their advice to reduce physical clutter. I screenshot happy moments (nice emails, photos, messages that made me feel all warm inside, moments of joy) and paste them into a Google Doc, which I download as a PDF once a year. Then I erase the file and with such tabula rasa (wow, this entry is really making me work my memory for Latin phrases), I go into a new year. 

I remembered that the main heroine in the fictional mystery thriller book “These Toxic Things” by Rachel Howzell Hall worked as a “digital archaeologist” – a job where she pieces together a person’s life story from the artifacts they hold dear in a start-up Memory Bank. Once she finishes her excavations, she hands the client a box which projects a film-like composition featuring pieces of memories put together by Mickie, the main character, with accompanying narration. I wonder if that will become a thing one day.

These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall

Buy it on Amazon.de

This is an affiliate link – if you click on it and decide to purchase the recommended product, I will earn a small commission.

What I learned from this is that I should spring clean my folders and download files and e-mails that I want to keep regularly. 

This week’s ruminations on death and digital legacy were inspired by Tate Ryan-Mosley’s article “How to preserve your digital memories” published in the MIT Technology Review on the 22nd of May, 2023. LinkedIn kindly served it up to me yesterday.

A definition I looked up: cumulative advantage

I was reading the book “Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business and Life Against All Odds” by Mark Schaefer, which I did not enjoy for several reasons. I did look up the term on Wikipedia and thought it was interesting enough to list it in my WILT entry:

“A preferential attachment process is any of a class of processes in which some quantity, typically some form of wealth or credit, is distributed among a number of individuals or objects according to how much they already have, so that those who are already wealthy receive more than those who are not. “Preferential attachment” is only the most recent of many names that have been given to such processes. They are also referred to under the names Yule process, cumulative advantage, the rich get richer, and the Matthew effect.”

Source: Wikipedia entry for preferential attachment, redirected from Cumulative advantage

Quote of the Week

I recently reread some of my warm blanket books – books I go back to for a mental hug. The Guards storyline of the Discworld novels works wonders.

“No, but you thould never mith an opportunity to improve yourthelf, I alwayth thay.”

Igor in The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

100+ Educational and Entertaining Websites

I have a confession to make. I am a hamster. I hoard. But not just everything – I hoard websites that I use for learning or killing time. Here’s a list of websites that I have hoarded because that is what I do.