Ed brought his hobby project to our weekly lunch last Tuesday. He brought out a small Arduino based package with some extra sensors and some parts spit out of a 3D printer. He hooked it up to a terminal program on his Android phone with a USB cable. He then pulled out an ancient computer paper tape of what could've been the first program Ed had ever written a "few" years ago. He pulled the tape through his homebuilt paper tape reader and out popped the listing on his phone. Commercially viable, no. But it made my day and made me rethink a topic that I've had on my list ... Digital Decay.
You know what I'm talking about. Those really old photos stored away in those random shoeboxes will still be there for your kids to deal with. But what about all of the priceless files you have on your digital devices? Home movies, audio CDs, the last 20 years of digital photos, WordPerfect files, VisiCalc business models, Christmas letters, family audiotapes, ... the list goes on and on.
In today's world, what about all of your data stored on your behalf by cloud services. This LinkedIn post, Vanguard account, Kindle book highlights and notes, podcasts, Slack channel content, video recordings from your VC provider, company account information for Office365 or gmail, source code in cloud repositories, your twitter account history, phone backups, your brain in Evernote. The list goes on and on. What is the path forward if your purchased books don't show up on Amazon or Vanguard says you no longer own any assets. Uh oh.
I'm far more concerned with the permanence of cloud data than I am with personal files regardless of how old they are. For example, we are probably pretty safe with file formats like .jpg, .pdf, m4v, .xls, .doc, but what about that Clarisworks document I last touched 15 years ago. No migration path has been provided for many, many years. Enter LibreOffice and problem solved. Thank you!! What about that first 8 track tape I bought when I was 14? I guess I can throw that away now since I just listened to Bad Company on Apple Music (remastered in 2015). There are still all of the micro cassettes of my Dad and the videos of my son that I need to get off DVC tape. I've still got the micro cassette player, but not sure if I have DVC camera anymore or a computer that can ingest it easily. Need to move this up the list ... ASAP.
What about your cloud data? Do you have a migration plan for both your professional and personal data? Most vendors provide some sort of migration, but have you ever tried it?
Or maybe it's OK to let it all just decay away. Except for the Vanguard account.