Most people who know me even remotely well will tell you I am a bit of a worrywart. Some people may even call it paranoid. Of course, I just call it “practical” or “safe.” For example, I am overly cautious about things like leaving my suitcase with someone else at an airport. I like people who leave my house late at night to text me when they get home. And every time I am writing a paper that is more than a few pages long, I not only click the little save icon several times an hour, but I periodically email the paper to myself.
Most of the time I know I’m a little bit crazy. But a couple of weekends ago, on my way to the PAXEast Videgogame convention, I witnessed one of my worst fears: some girl had just missed her train. And, somehow, all of her stuff was already on it when it left without her.
And of course, finding articles like this one in The Chronicle just make me feel even more validated in what is probably just another element of my personal insanity. The article talks specifically about the terror of losing academic work. Of course, when it’s something like a dissertation or a huge research project with one-of-a-kind data, the terror of loss is probably at its peak. As the article explains, losing that is essentially like losing a child. You’ve invested years of time and energy into this thing, this being that has essentially taken on a life of its own, and then, all of a sudden, it’s taken from you. Either by a cruel human or a machine malfunction. And, usually, there is no hope of recovering it. It’s probably an academic’s (student or otherwise) worst nightmare.
And, of course, as usual, there are pros and cons to having newer technologies when writing things like our theses or dissertations or research projects. For example, I can’t imagine writing a whole paper (even if it’s only 10 or so pages) on a typewriter where you can’t hit “backspace” when you make a typo. Or only having one copy of your paper unless you go to a Xerox machine. Or being unable to just email in a paper to your professor if you’re sick at home and can’t come to campus. Then again, typewriters don’t usually “crash” and leave you without a bunch of work you thought you had done, and not being able to email in a paper or post it on Blackboard would also mean things like having response papers due in class and not up to three days before.
With a computer, unlike with a typewriter, you don’t just have one copy of your paper. You can print as many copies as you need, and you can back-up on external hard drives, USB drives/thumb drives, or even by emailing things to yourself. But, besides email, all of those technological items are prime targets for thieves. And while a robber would probably be completely uninterested in taking that one copy of your dissertation sitting next to a typewriter, they may inadvertently take that prized possession if it’s on that MacBook Pro, thumb drive, and/or external hard drive.
So, as the spring semester slowly creeps to a close, let us all remember this entry. The moral of the story is: back it up in as many ways as possible, guys. Physically and in “the cloud.” For once, follow this insane girl’s lead. Be a little paranoid, and avoid the trauma that the people in that Chronicle article suffered.