2020-05-26

[Technology] Data Debt: part 2

As just noted, my father managed to accumulate quite a bit of information in physical form that he now spends time sorting through and discarding what has no value after all, which is most of it.

I think about that in relation to the data I keep, mostly digital.  Files upon files upon files.  Photos upon photos.  A vain effort to preserve every text message and e-mail forever.  A vain war against data loss, against entropy, against chaos.  Vain, my vanity.

I am not a fan of the paradigm of search first.  I love being able to meaningfully search my information.  I do not believe, at present, or perhaps ever, that search will be capable of being able to completely and comprehensively report back to me the information I seek.  I can only search for what I know exists.  Artificial intelligence has made search much more useful than ever before; e.g. I can search for "cake" in Google Photos and I get hundreds of photos, mostly actually of cake!  But I also know many more photos that I have taken of cake are missing, and there are photos not of cake present.  Precision, accuracy and recall are not at 100%, yet, and given the indefinite nature of some definitions, can they ever be.

Organize.  A dead motto.  Another vanity project.  Just as I do not expect search to be able to accurately identify all of the most relevant results for me, I do not believe that I can adequately and exhaustively categorize all of my information in a complete way.

But between the two, I still prefer organizing over searching.  I still prefer a reasonable hierarchy of folders and some futile "tags".  It scales a bit better.  Perhaps I cannot granularly categorize every record I have, but I can at least definitely categorize them into broad groups that I can add specificity to as needed.

What is the major obstacle that I have?  Volume of information.  I collect too much information.  And I am generally unwilling to let any detail go.  Storage is cheap.  I have a 1TB SSD that I purchased for 80CAD, and it stores tens of thousands of photos and millions of lines of text from the past decade, in a small block that can fit into the palm of my hand.

And my flexible approach to organizing it all works fine... if I can keep up.  But my data debt grows faster than I can spend my daily available time to manage it.

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