Lips Tricks: The Cloud is great and all, but not for archiving your best memories

Archiving gets a bad rep. Archives are stuffy and take up too much space.

The Cloud makes uploads a lot easier and more convenient. You take hundreds of gigabites of photos on your phone, you’ve created a new document for everything since 2000 — it’s already available to you instantly from any device. So why begin the inundated process of properly archiving your digital valuables when you can find them at any time anywhere? Public libraries and archives seem intimidating, you don’t like the personality of the gatekeeper who’s a tad socially awkward (this is my self-deprecating humor here), and besides there is always Google for finding any other kind of information.

Until you can’t find what you want. You want what you can’t have. You lose everything from an electronic device’s eventual implosion. Even a piece of paper can catch fire or get water damage. Nothing tangible is intangible.

This zine library no longer exists. Think about that.

I’ve seen it happen many times over. Archiving takes time, so why bother?Companies let their corporate documents pile up for years because no one can be bothered to file it properly a few minutes every day or then invest in the next new buzzword (content we need content!) industry term that they have no money for archiving their history. Nonprofits lose fundraising data and internal communications documents and correspondences from high staff turnovers. Individuals accidentally damage their electronic devices and lose everything — wedding selfies, baby photos, and pictures of art shows you’re never going to see again.

Uh haha ok so you probably WON’T MIND at least if you lose your favorite mirror portrait selfie.

As a teen in the mid 2000s, I was a big time MySpace user. All of my earliest creative writing pieces, shared photos with high school friends, and various correspondences were stored on the MySpace server. I’m guessing if you were a user of the platform, you also had a lot of data at stake. While you can certainly still retrieve your old MySpace account to see what’s on there or delete it, you won’t find much left. None of your blogs or bulletins will be there. None of the comments or messages that you exchanged with your friends will be there either. There might be a few photos, but certainly not all of them that you had originally uploaded.

(Considering my parents don’t have the Gateway desktop computer that I was using and my own digital camera broke a long time ago, all of my friendship photos from high school are gone forever. The last hope of retrieval was MySpace womp. Which is why in college I started getting back into printing photos but that’s for another Lips Tricks).

Similar issues are happening with Google’s free cloud services now. All of my old photos from 2011–2014 were uploaded from an android phone to G Plus, which is now in Google Drive. You will find “Google Folders” underneath “My Drive” on the main toolbar. (It took me a while to find the new place of the photos within the entire Google cloud, which is another problem with overreliance on the cloud: lack of control). I fear the day that Google will start deleting photos from the bottom — as they are doing with my emails. All photos going back to 2011 (that I didn’t take the time to manually export to my hard drive) when I first got a smartphone already take forever to view in a webpage. To be honest, I won’t blame Google if they delete before I archive them. It is my responsibility to collect and store my best personal memories in a safe digital space or hard drive.

At least I still have proof of witnessing Banksy’s monthlong NYC residency in Oct. 2014.

To save a Google Photo before it’s too late, go to the folder in the drive, select a photo, right click, select “download,” and it will compress a copy directly to your Downloads photo on your computer.

Similarly, if you use any other cloud service — such as Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive, or Amazon Cloud — remember that these platforms serve a purpose to access your data from any device and share more easily. That doesn’t mean they’re archived. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access that one photo of you and your future maid of honor at Rockaway Taco ten years from now to add to a wedding slideshow — unless you took the necessary procedures to save it yourself (or hell, even print it). Facebook also may not be trusted. Will Facebook still look the way that it does ten or even five years from now? Will you still be able to retrieve your family reunion photos posted to Facebook long after you traded in the iPhone that you took it on?

Have I motivated you to start archiving yet? This is what you go to do: select the most important photos that you still want to see 10 or 20 or 50 years from now on whatever cloud or social media service, download or export to jpg file format on a computer, and back that up again to your final hard drive. So then it is safe. You will need to take additional measures like developing your own filing system (see below) to make sure you can easily retrieve it. I am sure you have family members who keep photo albums that have lasted decades — and hey you can still do that!

Gateway Arch has been exported to the future!

After exporting, you gotta catalog, catalog, catalog!

My personal content management system is the filing system that came with my computer, as overseen by my cat, Grace.

Do no more than 5–10 minutes of this a day and you will see results when you feel the need to pull a now archived memory. On a hard drive or solid state drive. With a backup hard drive. And backup printed copies. Collated into a new zine.

Like anyone who works in technology or library science, always have a backup of your backup.

It was so much easier back then.

Tell me in the comments how do you archive your personal memories?