Preserving my digital life

Hello again! I’ve been quiet for a long while (4+ years!) but have kept busy. I’m fortunate to have stayed fully employed, especially during the pandemic, and have had lots of time while working from home to realize the challenges I’ve created for myself over so many years of accumulating stuff.

Truth is, I’m drowning in media. I have amassed a large library of music, movies, TV, books, and photos. I also subscribe to most of the music and video streaming services, and pay for storage space from Microsoft, Google and Apple. I ran out of physical space for all of this years ago, and am living an increasingly cluttered life both in real and digital space. At the same time, there is more new content, especially in TV, coming out than I can possibly keep up with. I end up having nearly no time to enjoy any of this media I’ve collected.

Additionally, I’ve spent much of the last 3 years immersed in video streaming technology, prompted by my church (Grace Church Cathedral, Charleston SC) efforts to stream its many services. I am one of a small team of people that make sure that our services get streamed on YouTube, where we’ve got more than 1000 subscribers. I’m finally getting to use real video switching and streaming systems, 45 years after first trying video technologies in high school.

Ever since I worked as a library page in Glen Ridge (my second paid job), I’ve been in love with libraries. I probably should have invested my college years in library science, but always thought I would have a lifelong career in information technology. I see pictures of some people’s personal libraries and am envious. My relatively small home has no real space for this.

I blame my cousin Bill for surfacing my tendencies as a collector when I was perhaps 10, getting me into stamp collecting. It didn’t take much to realize I cherished all forms of published or recorded material as well. Over time, I’ve morphed into what might best be called a hoarder.

I’ve long considered what to do with all of this. The simple answer is just to get rid of most of it. After all, most of the music is online. Many movies and TV shows are available at least partially on-demand. Books are a special challenge, but most of the still-relevant books I have are available in libraries, or through an a la carte system like Kindle Unlimited. Photos – these are almost irreplaceable. The dollar value of what I have accumulated is very low, pennies on the dollar, so it really just comes down to the sentimental value of the content to me. A reasonable portion of the music, particularly choral performances and other niche music (e.g. drum corps, organ) are not available on any streaming system. I particularly resent paying for video services that constantly remove programs, even though paying for these services is the only way to catch new series. To that end, I’ve spent much of my free time converting stuff into digital files, stored on hard drives and cloud services. And, I’ve run into secondary issues, discovering that my drives decay over time, or fail outright with little warning, and that the precious tapes, CDs, DVDs and photos also decay or fail.

I plan to talk about my various efforts to organize and digitize this various content in separate articles. I’ve made forays into photo scanning, converting music into digital files, and recently converting video into digital files. This is creating large storage needs, and leading me to the next challenge – how to safely store this stuff digitally so that it will survive time and peril.