Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If your house were on fire what would you grab first?

It has often amazed me how magazines and Sunday papers ask this question of celebrities. Partly because those kind of people are likely to have an entourage who would swoop in and save all for them and partly because of the answers they give. Not a passport or birth certificate or family heirloom among them. You would hope that their answers are tongue-in-cheek or an attempt to be interesting, but their responses are often bizarre. As the lady behind the counter at my local dairy told me this week when we were both looking at the latest reported doings of Brangelina on the cover of a magazine, "Rich people just don't act like normal people. It's like they are from another planet".

A quick search of online forums uncovers the kinds of answers to that question my dairy lady would relate to. 'Normal' people write that they would save things like photos, scrapbooks, a child's special toy and, increasingly, 'my laptop'.

What started me thinking about this was having the hard drive on my MacBook die a week ago. I am not going into the long story of why my recent backup is gone as well, but suffice it to say that I have to go back to May of this year to recover my work data and June of 2007 for personal data, including photos. There have been enough people telling me wisely in the last few days that Time Machine is brilliant to make me keep a sharp object handy for the next person who says it - it doesn't really help right now. I think everyone who has witnessed my misery has dashed off and ensured that they have backed up AND that the back up is stored securely.

I have had two friends who have had their laptops stolen recently. Hopefully insurance gives them a nice new shiny laptop out of it but for them there is no point looking back- in one case everything is gone, and in the other back ups will resurrect most of the data.

I have been fortunate to have my hard drive replaced very quickly under the Apple warranty and have taken the dead hard drive in to a data recovery place. The good news from them is that if I am prepared to pay a large sum they are confident that at least some of the data can be recovered. The bad news to me is that they have asked me to prioritise the order in which they search for my data. Apparently they may only get one window of time to dig around inside so they want to target the files that are most important to me first.

This data recovery option posed quite a dilemna. First is the data important enough to spend serious money on? Then if it is, personal or work related data first? And then which files? I was holding the phone racking my brains about what was most precious to me or most necessary, and I had to give the answer on the spot. What would you choose?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is Google really responsible for our Stupidity?

"Is Google Making Us Stupid" was doing the rounds on the internet during July when it caught my eye and although I scanned the original article online I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. It wasn't until I was browsing the magazine rack at San Antonio airport waiting for my flight to Ohio that I took another look. The cover of the magazine shouted (in Google colours) at me in an American accent "Is Google Making us Stoopid?" and it took on a whole new meaning. When I had read the internet version, which Atlantic magazine's online version has spelled correctly BTW, in my Brit-derived Kiwi accent it didn't have quite the same impact as it did standing in Texas surrounded by the drawl, and emphasised by the print magazine's spelling. So I bought it to read on the plane.
The previous week I had spent a fantastic day at the Googleplex, surrounded by talented, and no doubt brainy, young people who seemed know just what they were doing and where they were taking the world, so it was difficut to conceptualise how these people could be responsible for making us 'stoopid'. In my experience we are quick to blame all manner of things for our stoopidity, with pregnancy and breastfeeding being favourites of mine. And I notice recently that some folk are quick to quip 'senior moment' anytime they are caught being stoopid - an insult to my lucid grandparents and probably yours. But I failed to make the connection with Google. What on earth have they done to us?
Fortunately the flight was long enough for me to read the magazine and no internet was available to distract me so I gave the article a thorough perusing. Apparently "the more (we) use the Web, the more (we) have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing". Are we really such shallow creatures? Or are we just increasingly busy? I know that last year when I had 12 months released from school as an eFellow to conduct a research project it took a while to really focus on some of the materials I chose for my lit review. But was that the fault of Google, the authors of the documents or just my own fault for not making a priority of reading serious non-fiction in recent years? This is beginning to resemble the food industry with fast-food chains being blamed for our weight problems and lack of fitness.
And what is wrong with being stoopid anyway? One of the wonderful things about working with young children is the way they all know they are so clever. I love seeing the kids in the 5 and 6 year old classes reach around and pat themselves on the back and say 'Clever me' when they have done something they think is good. What a shame that people or life change these kids from knowing they are clever to a time when they feel stupid and even worse have to blame someone else for it because they know they weren't stupid when they were young. I do hope it is not school that makes us stoopid!
I am sure I am not the first to answer Atlantic magazine and the author Nicholas Carr's question, "Is Google making us stoopid?" with "No stupider than we already were".