2020-05-26

[Technology] Data Debt: part 1

Technical debt.  Time debt. 

My father is a bit older now, and he has been going through his Stuff.  Not just big physical Stuff like objects and thingy things.  But also informational Stuff, like receipts, letters, newspaper clippings, magazines, mileage notebooks.  Stuff he read or took notes on over the past several decades that have accumulated into quite a many boxes (formerly of shoes)or Piles or Stacks.  Sometimes, bags.

He's looking at all of this informational Stuff, and wondering, what was the point?  He definitely found value in some of it.  One of his joys in the past few years has been surfacing a memory of some event, of something he read or did, and then searching through his many records to find the Evidence of it.  I can understand the thrill.  Finding that newspaper clipping of something he did in our small town, once, or a letter from a friend from 2003, and hey, maybe Richard can find the phone number of the sender now, and hey, I did, and now my dad has renewed contact after a decade and a 1/2.

But there's a lot that he will never need, and never really did need in the end.  He has been meticulous in recording how many kilometres he has driven between gas refills, how much gas he added, and how much it cost.  It has given him a good sense of his spending in that regard, and of his cars performance.  It is all jotted in tiny notebooks.  Nothing digital.  Nothing that he can load easily into a spreadsheet now, and review larger trends.  And, honestly, numbers that he has not needed for three decades.

I love this history that he has collected, these peeks into his life and mind and priorities over the past several decades.  I do not get to enjoy them so directly, though.  I am reluctant to dig through his Stuff, it feels like an invasion of privacy.  He is shredding or recycling stuff now that he does not expect to need after all, which is most of it.  Saving information for rainy days that mostly never came.

I find it interesting that his approach is to review it all.  It definitely has had merit.  He finds random points of interest and it creates conversation topics for us.  It used to be something he could show his friends at the coffee shop, back when coffee shops were places where you could sit with friends.  But there is so much, and so much he finds is of no value to him.  I am pretty sure this year he will give up in the face of the sheer volume of information he has collected in the past several decades and just say good bye to it all.  It was never that useful anyway.

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