Miranda awoke to the latest hit from Beijing Princess at maximum volume. The aging speakers attached to her brother’s old Zune Plus did little for the music. Accepting the inevitable, Miranda pointed her iPhone at the Zune. The girl band died, only to be replaced by the audio track from Doom 5.0. Lost in the sound of a Martian apocalypse, Miranda reflected on the disadvantages of a terabyte of storage. It didn’t pay to shuffle: you never knew what you might find…
This quote is from the opening of a paper by Barnes and Tynan looking at the implications of new technologies in education and by a strange twist of reality mirroring fiction, John Naughton posted a while ago about the fact that its now possible to get terabyte hard drives! [As an aside I sympathise with the fictional Miranda, when a level six audio clip from my Spanish playlist pops up whist the iPOD is on shuffle it totally freaks me out and simultaneously makes me feel quilty about not spending enough time on my Spanish “homework”!]
So why is one of the most frequent emails I get the one from my friendly ‘System Administrator’ with a big red exclamation mark ‘Your mailbox is over its size limit’. Here is one of these emails lovingly captured for prosperity.
Now ok you can get all superior on me and tell me to smarten my act and organise my emails. You can tell me it doesn’t take that long to transfer my emails to nicely categorised folders on my hard disc. You can tell me that if I was an efficient worker I would prioritise what I do and dedicate specific times in the day to dealing with my email, rather than ‘wasting my time twittering and blogging’ BUT why should I?? With storage now cheap as chips – where is the justification for setting ridiculous low limits on institutional email inboxes – particularly when email is the official communication route for the institutions? Plus actually I do organise my folders but transferring things across takes time, thinking about where to put messages, or deciding whether to deal with them now or later. How many of us have spent whole days just fielding emails? And increasingly I am finding that I am relying more and more on the mac’s spotlight searching facility…
[As another aside this reminds me of a keynote I heard Eric Duval http://ariadne.cs.kuleuven.be/ give a few years back I think at Edmedia where he was saying that hierarchical files structures and folders are pointless in the longer term as information increases and that metadata and good searching mechanisms is the way forward. And of course he is right but at the time his keynote made me mildly panic as I tried to imagine my laptop and email simply composed of a floating chaos of files and emails!!]
So why the limit? Where’s the justification? Isn’t this a case of the tail wagging the dog??
OK rant over… ;-)
Barnes, C. and Tynan, B. (2007), The adventures of Miranda in the brave new world: learning in a Web 2.0 millennium, AL-J 15(3).