On walkabout in life and technology

On Digital Hoarding

Melinda Beck writing in the WSJ in Drowning in Email, Photos, Files? Hoarding Goes Digital presents a fact-less and ridiculous claim that we are doing something wrong by storing all the emails and files that we do. In the article, she equates the rest of us, people and companies alike, with those crazy nutters who fill their houses with junk.

My take: We, especially businesses, need to keep all old emails under law in case of subpoena, just like individuals need to store tax records. We need all our old work files as they are referenced in later works. We need our music and photo files because we no longer have their physical equivalents (or have to buy them again and again in case of media). In short, we’re not hoarding, we’re filing, scrapbooking and holding on to our possessions that are no longer physical.

But let me respond to the article.

"But it's more insidious because no one else is going to insist that you get help."

She quotes Kit Andersen, whomever that is, saying we need help because keeping our digital files is insidious. What? How? Why? Um, she does not say, nor does Kit.

Nobody knows how many Americans have digital-hoarding issues ...

In which case, the whole premise of the article is rubbish.

... the explosion of information and the abundance of cheap storage have made it all too tempting for some people to amass emails, text messages, Word documents, Web pages, digital photos, computer games, music files, movies, home videos and entire TV seasons than they can ever use or keep track of.

She postulates that we never need to look at our old photos, we never have to find old emails, we no longer need our home videos. Really, Melinda, did you burn all your physical photos, melt all your CD’s at home because you were hoarding? I don’t think so.

The problem isn't that it slows down your computer—it slows down your brain

She blames David Nowell, another stranger, for this quote, postulating that having more data on hard disks makes your computer slower. Rubbish, whether you have 500 or 5 million files on a hard drive, the hard drive access files at the same speed, your computer runs at the same speed. More files does not a slow computer make.

There isn't a set number of emails in an inbox or photos saved that defines a hoarder.

And again she disses the premise of her article.

Accumulating crosses the line into hoarding, experts say, when it is disorganized and dysfunctional and gets in the way of other relationships and responsibilities.

Ok, she gives up on making up names here. So, folks, you’re all dysfunctional because you have lots of emails. Surely having lots of emails implies you have functional relationships with people?

Hoarding is officially considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but some hoarders also suffer from attention-deficit-hyperactive disorder.

Oh, let’s give this bull some scientific style names and then make it sound like you have more than one disease. I must be unique, I have lots of files and still have the attention to write this post.

Indeed, all that saving and storing can backfire and create more anxiety if it's impossible to find.

Ooh, a third medical condition, search anxiety.

Digital disorganization can also create strife between co-workers or family members who share equipment, storage space or files.

I assume you fight with your spouse over the backup hard drive all the time.

And there is a growing trend toward keeping digital material in the cloud rather than on a hard drive.

Oh, so the premise does not apply if the files are in the cloud.

Programs like Dropbox let users store anything in virtual storage lockers that can be accessed from almost any Internet-connected device with a user name and password.

And this is a bad thing how?

I give up!.