The Personal Pain of Data Loss

We digital archivists warn about the risk of losing data with the assumption that the threat of loss is enough to stir people to action. But while most everyone has their own experience with data loss, people have a way of tucking past pain away rather than remaining hyper-vigilant about something similar happening again. Or maybe we console ourselves with the thought that was we might lose isn’t really all that important.

Periodically, it’s worth devoting full awareness to how much our digital files actually do mean to us. I trolled through Flickr to find some poignant expressions of people desperately seeking lost data.

It happens every year, by quin.anya, on Flickr

It happens every year, by quin.anya, on Flickr

There but for the grace..., by pcorreia, on Flickr

There but for the grace…, by pcorreia, on Flickr

Lost Laptop computer, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

Lost Laptop computer, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

reward for OQO, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

reward for OQO, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

Day 10: Lost, by RemixDave, on Flickr

Day 10: Lost, by RemixDave, on Flickr

Laptop stolen, by Bahi P, on Flickr

Laptop stolen, by Bahi P, on Flickr

Lost iPhone, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

Lost iPhone, by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

6 Comments

  1. Sharad Shah
    March 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for posting. This reminds me to
    A) Update when I get home
    B) Get a larger passport

  2. L Sapienza
    March 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Review your backup procedures carefully. Best to double backup in two different places.

  3. Nick Krabbenhoeft
    March 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    If only there was a place for institutions to post signs like these. It would be anonymous so we don’t know who it affected, but stark enough to remind us to double check our practices.

    “Leaky pipe fried server. Lost data from 100k digitization project.”
    “Server admin quit. Lost access to institutional repository. Big reward if you can help us.”
    “Portable hard drive lost. Contains latest batch of scans. Please return so we don’t have to redo the work.”

  4. Bill LeFurgy
    March 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Nick: Yes! Would make for some compelling educational material, for sure.

  5. Cathy Marshall
    March 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    These pleas can be so moving!

    I cruise craigslist’s lost and found in San Francisco daily (looking for my lost torbi cat). Every day, I find new “lost” posts, looking for missing laptops, cell phones, iPods, cameras, and external hard drives. Today, for example, I saw 6 such posts, all impassioned, and all stressing the value of the content instead of the lost technology. Here’s an example:

    “The ipod is worthless for anyone else(battery lasts only about 5 minutes if not plugged in), and both items are really only of value to ME because of the data/music on them which I can’t replace.”

    It’s a dizzying number of examples. Laptops left on buses. iPods stolen from cars’ passenger seats. Phones left in bars.

    It seems best to think of digital storage as being just as able to walk off as a little varicolored cat!

  6. Bill LeFurgy
    March 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Cathy: First off, sorry about your cat–I hope for a happy reunion soon. You’re right about the distinction between the content and the device. It’s the former that people really miss the most. I just wish more people would keep extra copies!

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