December 24, 2013

To Archive Or Not

Farhad Manjoo had a good piece in the Wall Street Journal on the Forever Internet vs. the Erasable Internet.

The question he raises is whether items on the Internet should be archived indefinitely or whether we should be able to delete postings. 

Manjoo uses the example of Snapshot where messages and photos disappear a few seconds after the recipient opens them--a self-destruct feature.

It reminded me of Mission Impossible, where each episode started with the tape recording of the next mission's instructions that would then self-destruct in five seconds...whoosh, gone. 

I remember seeing a demo years ago of an enterprise product that did this for email messages--where you could lock down or limit the capability to print, share, screenshot, or otherwise retain messages that you sent to others. 

It seemed like a pretty cool feature in that you could communicate what you really thought about something--instead of an antiseptic version--without being in constant fear that it would be used against you by some unknown individual at some future date. 

I thought, wow, if we had this in our organizations, perhaps we could get more honest ideas, discussion, vetting, and better decision making if we just let people genuinely speak their minds. 

Isn't that what the First Amendment is really all about--"speaking truth to power"(of course, with appropriate limits--you can't just provoke violence, incite illegal actions, damage or defame others, etc.)?

Perhaps, not everything we say or do needs to be kept for eternity--even though both public and private sector organizations benefit from using these for "big data" analytics for everything from marketing to national security. 

Like Manjoo points out, when we keep each and every utterance, photo, video, and audio, you create a situation where you have to "constantly police yourself, to create a single, stultifying profile that restricts spontaneous self-expression."

While one one hand, it is good to think twice before you speak or post--so that you act with decency and civility--on the other hand, it is also good to be free to be yourself and not a virtual fake online and in the office. 

Some things are worth keeping--official records of people, places, things, and events--especially those of operational, legal or historical significance and even those of sentimental value--and these should be archived and preserved in a time appropriate way so that we can reference, study, and learn from them for their useful lives. 

But not everything is records-worthy, and we should be able to decide--within common sense guidelines for records management, privacy, and security--what we save and what we keep online and off. 

Some people are hoarders and others are neat freaks, but the point is that we have a choice--we have freedom to decide whether to put that old pair of sneakers in a cardboard box in the garage, trash it, or donate it. 

Overall, I would summarize using the photo in this post of the vault boxes, there is no need to store your umbrella there--it isn't raining indoors. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Spinster Cardigan)

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