Update (5/18): I am, of course, only an amateur hoarder. Be sure to check out this comment from professional-grade hoarder Jason Scott (in brief): "I agree with you in a tangential way. Outsourcing hoarding is a good idea, but you have to stay on top of the pros and cons of it, just like real outsourcing. ... In other words, the risk you take with outsourcing is having your “value metric” not match any other active hoarding entities. The less exotic your tastes, the less of a problem this is. My tastes are exotic; I suspect yours are too."
Trying out the OPML Editor again, pasting in an entry composed over at my OPML blog.
Copyright and DRM and litigation aside, it's recently occurred to me as inevitable that digitized media and cultural artifacts will become increasingly more available and easier to obtain. That in itself is not my big realization. My realization is that I'm starting to feel less and less of a compulsion to hoard and collect things.
For example: I used to carefully stick comic books in mylar bags with backing boards - not for resale value, but because I wanted them in good shape to read again years from now. But nowadays, though I still pay for and buy comics, I see that complete archives of things like The Amazing Spider-Man are available as multi-gigabyte torrents. Someday, you won't be able to buy Spider-Man anymore - but I bet that torrent will still be out there in some form or another.
Another example: In high school, some friends and I semi-obsessively searched for and collected Nine Inch Nails albums and CD singles that fell into a numbered "Halo" sequence. Never mind that this is probably what Trent Reznor was talking about when he recently wrote "Nothing but a consumer rip-off that I've been talked into my whole career."
Living in a small town with crap for record stores, the Halos seemed so rare at the time, and having gaps in the numbered set was frustrating. And imagine when we discovered that there was a "Halo 00"! Of course, now you can find a complete archive of all the Halos in one big torrent - meticulously labeled, bestowed with cover art, and with lots of seeders.
And that's barely scraping the surface. You can find almost any music, any obscure old scifi TV show - anything that's got at least one person interested in scanning / converting / compressing the material and seeding a share. And as long as there remains at least one person interested, the material continues on into the future.
Now, mind you, this is all academic - I'm not encouraging you to seek out and download this stuff, and I'm not saying that I've downloaded this stuff. That sort of thing could get you into trouble.
Of course, someday, it might not get you into trouble. And, in fact, someday all this might have become accepted tradition - an inherent human right even! Right now, it's the norm for quite a number of people. What makes it amazing and inevitable to me is that the trend seems to be toward more and more of this, not less. And eventually, even the self-selecting nerd filters will fall away, everyone will play, and the content will stop skewing toward the techies.
Someone, somewhere, with some old recording or tome or whatever will get ambitious enough some weekend to digitize the thing and share it - and 10 years later, it'll still be floating around because throughout that time at least one person at any given time felt it was important enough to keep going. Really, all it takes is one person - and odds are, there'll always be at least one person interested who has the skill and inclination to relay into the future.
And, really, all of this is just yet another corollary of Mark Pilgrim's "the only long-term effect of copy protection is to ensure that those who defeat it are immortalized."
So, yeah, I'm starting to feel optimistic enough to think maybe I don't need to hoard and collect the things that I feel are definitive of me. That maybe it's okay to expect, down the road, to be able to search for and find that stuff again with ease and lighten up my own personal clutter. Not quite there yet, and I don't trust it enough to shred my comics and CDs, but I think a turning point has passed.