eBay: cloud storage for physical objects

Paul Raven @ 13-05-2011

From the Alt Text comedy column at Wired:

Most of my old games are now eBay-bound — eBound, if you will — as are most of my old books. I don’t think of it as getting rid of them. I still have them, right on my phone.

And if I want them in physical form? Well, I’ve stopped thinking of eBay as an auction site. Now I think of it more as cloud storage for things with measurable volume. I’m putting my possessions into the cloud, and if I want them again I can retrieve them from the cloud for a small fee.

Sure, they won’t be the exact original items I once owned, but that doesn’t bother me any more than it bothers me that the 1s and 0s I retrieve from Evernote aren’t the same electrons I originally stored.

Compare and contrast with the last Viridian Note from Bruce Sterling a few years back:

You will need to divide your current possessions into four major categories.

  1. Beautiful things.
  2. Emotionally important things.
  3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
  4. Everything else.

“Everything else” will be by far the largest category. Anything you have not touched, or seen, or thought about in a year – this very likely belongs in “everything else.”

You should document these things. Take their pictures, their identifying makers’ marks, barcodes, whatever, so that you can get them off eBay or Amazon if, for some weird reason, you ever need them again. Store those digital pictures somewhere safe – along with all your other increasingly valuable, life-central digital data. Back them up both onsite and offsite.

Then remove them from your time and space. “Everything else” should not be in your immediate environment, sucking up your energy and reducing your opportunities. It should become a fond memory, or become reduced to data.

Of course, even as a short-to-medium-term storage medium, eBay is horribly clunky and expensive to use (not to mention lossy as all hell), but it’ll have to do until fabbing technology and truly ubiquitous digital media archiving catches up. The worrying thought is what we – as a culture, rather than as individuals – might lose in the period between now and then…

… but given that my ridiculous and ever-growing library of dead tree books contributed hugely to making my recent house move a waking nightmare, I’m starting to wonder whether I care as much as I think I do. Or rather, more than I should.


Dead[media/drops]

Paul Raven @ 01-11-2010

Today I’m mostly decompressing after meeting a major deadline over the weekend (which may be of interest to readers and collectors of high quality limited edition genre fiction books, which I presume includes a few of you), and as such I’m struggling to do The Clever*.

So to tide you over until NEW FICTION later in the day (oh yes!), here’s a couple of items from my newsfeeds that chimed together:

At least a couple of story ideas and talking points in the collision of those two chunks of news, wouldn’t you say? So just for a change, I’ll shut the hell up and you lot can think out loud in the comments. Go on – it’s Monday, after all, and even your boss is probably slacking with a Halloween hangover…

[ * No change there, then. ]


Remembering Mac Tonnies

Paul Raven @ 22-03-2010

Almost exactly five months ago, I had to pass on the news that writer, UFOlogist and former Futurismic columnist Mac Tonnies had been found dead in his apartment of natural causes. While we weren’t astonishingly close, I always enjoyed Mac’s outlook on the universe he found himself inhabiting, and I miss our communications, brief as they often were. [image borrowed from UFOMystic]

For such a reclusive and quiet-seeming guy, Mac had a lot of friends on the internet – y’know, real friends, the type that really care about you beyond your next blog post – and I’m pleased to see that some of them are running a tribute site for material relating to Mac and his work, and archiving and collecting his internet outpourings.

Regardless of what you may think of his theories (and believe me, I thought some of them were nothing short of bat-shit weird), Mac Tonnies was one of the good guys, and the world is a poorer place without him.


Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Popular Science archive available online

Paul Raven @ 05-03-2010

Retro covers from Popular Science MagazineHere’s a heads-up for anyone of a geeky bent – Wired reports that Popular Science has scanned nearly 140 years of its archived back issues and put them up for viewing on the intertubes, complete with all images and the original period advertising material. For free.

You can’t go directly to an issue to browse, but once you have arrived somewhere by search, there are no restrictions on scrolling around. You’ll also find a properly hyperlinked table of contents in each magazine. The early years are a little dry: I browsed an issue from 1902, and it made the average math textbook look like a Dan Brown novel (only better paced), so I’d recommend starting in the optimistic, tech-loving 1950s.

Of peripheral interest is the fact that PopSci has done this in partnership with Google Books…


Drowning in data

Paul Raven @ 01-03-2010

Maybe we’ll have flooded our culture-lungs with angry YouTube comments and pharmaceutical spamblogs before the rising sea-levels get a chance to touch our toes… [via MetaFilter]

According to one estimate, mankind created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005. This year, it will create 1,200 exabytes. Merely keeping up with this flood, and storing the bits that might be useful, is difficult enough. Analysing it, to spot patterns and extract useful information, is harder still.

Actually, I don’t see this deluge of data as a bad thing, but I’m very interested in how we’re going to store, manage and curate it.


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