Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Info Glut

I’ve been cleaning out the house slowly. Sort of like an extended Spring Cleaning. And as part of this chore I’ve decided to clean up my office and my computers as well.

I’ve been storing all kinds of shit thinking it might one day be useful, that I may make some sort of artwork from it, or otherwise have deluded myself into keeping all sorts of useless things:

  • old motherboards
  • old memory (1 meg simms, etc.)
  • newspaper clippings that I at one time found interesting
  • old Dilbert comics snipped from the paper
  • old CDs for software that is ancient and probably wouldn’t run
  • all kinds of dead old mice, keyboards, …

But no more!

I mean, really. I can’t find useful things in my house anymore. I find stuff and wonder why I kept it. I’ve lost — well, I think I’ve lost — pictures from my past. But I can still find the motherboard from my first Pentium. Why? Out it goes into the recycle bins. Enough already.

Similarly on my computer. Junk everywhere. I seem to be a packrat where ever I go. So I’ve started to clean up my computers. Gigs gave already been toasted from my systems, more will go soon enough. I have so much stuff that I have the same stuff multiple times! I’ve found one directory of old software from university replicated multiple times and not just in one area, but all over the place. I must have 20 copies of it on disk! Argh.

That brings me to mail. What a complete mess. Email systems like Outlook,, etc. simply don’t help you sort stuff, it just allows you to keep it semi-cluttered.  Sure, you can search through it, but you have to have an idea of what you’re looking for. Well, I’ve been trying to wade through a few years of sent emails to see if anything in there is useful. Know what? Haven’t the time. But I did discover something quite interesting — and a bit scary: I’ve written a lot of email since 1999. How many? Thirty thousand. That’s 3,000 a year. Fifteen a day! And that’s just my home machine. Think about that! And each is anywhere from one to hundreds of lines long. I calculated the average at around 15 lines of text. That works out to be 450,000 lines of email! Or, to put it into parlance writers use, that’s approximately 3,000,000 words written on God knows how many topics.

Remember, that doesn’t include designs, code, published papers, whitepapers, proposals, studies, contracts, or anything attached to said emails. Just the text in the emails themselves!  If I add all those in I shudder to think how much I’ve written.

And we’re only talking a decade here. I’ve been using email and writing stuff for nearly thirty years! Hundreds of designs, architectures, programs, papers, business plans, proposals, RFPs, offer letters, rants and raves, performance reviews, books, manuals, and on and on it goes. Millions upon millions of words and I’m not even a professional author. And now we have blogs, and I’m writing more stuff — though I’m not all together sure for whom. And I damn well know I’m not alone in this boat. So many of us are in this boat together. Wondering where all of our time has gone. Well, just my emails have taken more than 800 hours of typing emails — and I type fast. Add in all the rest, plus the other 20 years of my career, and I’m probably looking at having done nothing but type for months on end. When I coded, my best year (1985) I wrote and debugged 250,000 lines of code. That’s about 1,000 lines of code per day. It’s just downright scary.

And then there’s all the reading we do. I read all kinds of stuff. I read the news, journals, magazines, stuff for pleasure, books of all kinds, technical stuff, blogs, the Web, work stuff, email, …. And in the end that time, too, is gone. I know I’m not alone, so no wonder so many people wonder where their time has gone.  And remember, my estimate of 800 hours of typing is based on my typing speed of 60 – 100 wpm. For someone slower, that time goes up accordingly.

Anyway, enough of this. Back to cleaning I go. Maybe it’s time to restructure more than just the visible aspects of my office but the way I interact with the world. Perhaps there’s a product in there that can help sort this mess I call a desktop? Wouldn’t that be sweet, having a piece of software that will sort my email in a logical fashion. Why hasn’t anyone thought of doing that before? Maybe they have and I just don’t know about it. Or maybe it’s just too difficult a problem — I look at what Google provides and it’s pathetic. Even so, in order to figure out what’s out there would require more reading. And for that I need time. Damn glut!

Now, if I can only find those old photos. Alas, I doubt I will. However, a good friend of mine has offered to let me scan them into my computer. That’s awful nice, I just hope I can find the time to do that and I hope that the pictures I’m missing are the ones he has. We’ll have to wait and see on that one. And as of today, he hasn’t found them, either. Sigh.

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November 2010
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