It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

Outsourced hoarding

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.

Archived Comments

  • 20 years ago, we thought it was cool to collect different color tape rings...the little plastic rings in computer tape reels that prevented erasure and overwriting existing data. Yellow was most common, white, black, and red a little less common. Blue and other colors were most rare, at least in our little tape library.

  • Hmm. Well, until 3D printers are in better shape, I don't think color tape ring collections will appear on BitTorrent.

  • I've had the opposite experience Back in the 80s and early 90s I collected Grateful Dead live recordings - at that time, on cassette tapes. I had what I thought was a decent collection - a dozen shows ranging from poor to OK quality.

    Fast forward to Fall 2006. When I found the Internet Live Music Archive I was like a kid in a candy store. 2000+ Dead recordings, many high quality soundboards, all with detailed reviews. And seemingly infinite bandwidth available for downloads. I downloaded all I could, but not enough...

    In November 2006 the Dead decided that this was too much of a good thing and opposite pulled the plug.on soundboard downloads.

    Most of the shows are still available via BitTorrent (legal) but it's a hassle to find and download the right show. Slower, too. Also, periodically the Dead ask that certain soundboards be taken out of circulation, usually because they are planning a commercial release of same. So I'm finding and hoarding more shows before the Powers That Be take them out of circulation.

    They'll always be available on the Darknet, but why take the chance... better to get a legal copy while I still can.

  • Hi, Les.

    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.

    First of all, everything you're mentioning in terms of hoarding are commercial properties, either active or lapsed. Movies, albums, television shows. These are a specific type of data, one where the "hard work" has been done, that of composing a media work, and then presenting it to future audiences as a self-contained item. You get your hands on the two hour presentation of "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble" and you've got probably 99% of what the creators intended the audience to have for their money, and maybe 96% if the product ever came "with" anything, like a unique insert or a particularly nice DVD case (the Super Deluxe Edition of Catholic High School Girls in Trouble).

    That sort of data collection is very specific; it is spread to a large amount of people, who really "get it" as to what it is and why they'd want it. Perhaps you might find something exotic attached to it (the .AVI of the director directing the vital "salad oil sequence" of the movie) but generally people just have to have the movie and you're done.

    Less easy to keep track of are non-commercial properties, for example a recording of a specific performance by an obscure band that didn't last very long. Unless the band themselves recorded it, there might not be many recordings of who the opening act was at the local club on May 10th. And if there is, it might not be very good, having been recorded towards the back of the club, etc. Or let's go even beyond that... what about something like the program from all the plays put on by your high school during your time there? Even though hundreds of them were probably put out by every production held during your four years, it's unlikely you can find them online, scanned at all properly, or listed properly. In all likelihood, that information is gone.

    Now, contrast that with Console Game ROMs, which are now to the point of being nearly 100% complete and accounted for for every major console produced in the last 30 years. This is because so many hundreds of thousands of people WANT the things that they'll gladly work together to assemble them.

    On digitize.textfiles.com, you'll see I'm trying to scan in stuff that nobody likely wants, but all of which dates to the 1980s computer industry period. That stuff might or might not have relevance to you or me right now, but over time, I've been surprised when stuff has jumped into being wanted, like the Coleco Catalog which got some attention a while back.

    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.

    Also, your use of "seeding a share" belies one of the big issues: Torrents are not long-term providers of information. Go ahead and use mininova (I won't tell) and do searching on things you care about. You'll often see that any 3+ month old torrents are simply nowhere to be found, totally dead, unless it's a REAL blockbuster on the level of a major software or movie property.

    I hoard, constantly, which I know you know. But I know better than to sit around scanning in Nintendo Game Manuals or collecting TV shows by anything less a unit than the Season, since that'd just be redundant, wasted time.

    It keeps things interesting.

  • @Jason: Way to rain on my breathlessness there, man. Here I was all looking forward to all those AT&T commercials coming true! You're definitely right though - there's a blind spot in my enthusiasm, and it's that I'm mostly thinking of commercial things with relatively broad appeal (even the nerdy skewed things).

    On the other hand, I'm hoping that things like indy podcasts and such get some archival and outsourced hoard love - though admittedly you are the only active hoarding entity I can think of with respect to podcasts. (Still doing that, by the way?)

  • I am hoarding the podcasts a ton less than I used to. Mostly, I've gotten a good collection, but it's outstripped even my abilities. I'm happy to have the swath I do have, well over a terabyte and a half of podcasts. In doing this, I also developed some kick-ass archiving tools I'm using for other stuff.

    Again, I'm not THAT worried about indy podcasts. I'm worried about stuff that might never ever see digital form, or which nobody really cares about right now but will want to see down the line. But that's always the problem, isn't it?

    By the way, I too remember going through record store after record store trying to find every single obscure recording, remix album, and so on for the Art of Noise. I have some crazy stuff indeed, much of it not really something that translates well to digitial, like unusually-cut albums and transparent records. How much time I wasted doing that...