Let’s arbitrarily define an “active file” as one that’s been accessed by a human for a need. If we set the criteria for the last two weeks, easily 99% of my personal files (not including OS) are “inactive”.
But here’s the thing, I don’t think the needle moves much if we change the criteria…
I take photos and write stuff, I download music and videos. I probably download more off the web than most, as I read a lot of PDFs (once!) and have to empty my downloads to make room.
And yet my personal active files are not many.
This is why it is difficult for me to think about backups without considering searchable databases of metadata. I don’t need a file for years until I need it immediately. That currently means I carry around a lot of dead weight in the form of full drives of inactive files.
I feel like doing a definitive “spring cleaning” on the lappy, putting files into their places once and for all. For me that means publishing. Put photos online, put writing online. Save those in the web strata and friendships, and empty my drives…
Since setting up the chat server where the default is to autoprune the messages on a schedule, a few of us have discussed how liberating it feels to not carry around an essentially useless chat log that can only serve as a burden; we don’t want it to be made public, but we don’t want to use it, either. A similar sentiment is expressed by kensanata in the mastodon-backup README:
But why? I might want to keep a copy of my toots, but I don’t think they have much value going back months and years. I never read through years of tweeting history! This only benefits your enemies, never your friends. So I want to expire my toots. We can always write a blog post about the good stuff. You can read more about this on my blog.
“Enemies” is a strong word, but that is the fear, is it not? Some enemy will compromise our long term storage to exploit our data against us… somehow.
I think about this a lot because of my job, but as a personal computer user, I don’t want to inherit the dangers of carrying valuable data. I want things to find a place to live that is useful to the target audience.