The Asynchronous Sync and Digital Photos

I’ve noticed that a lot of sync services work beautifully in one direction to save or backup. When deleting something, however, the services are largely asynchronous, meaning objects and services aren’t synced for deletion.  Let’s look at a few examples of what I call the asynchronous sync.

I use an Android smartphone and my photos are stored in a Gallery.  Presently my Gallery uploads automatically to my Dropbox. This is how it works:

Photos taken with smartphone are saved in phone Gallery and automatically backed up to Dropbox.  Gallery = Dropbox = Sync

Photos taken with smartphone are saved in phone Gallery and automatically backed up to Dropbox. Gallery = Dropbox = Sync

It’s important to understand how the sync works to use it effectively. In this instance, Dropbox is designated as my photo backup so it makes sense to save everything synchronously, but not delete it the same way.  If I was able to delete synchronously, meaning if I delete a photo in the Gallery it will automatically delete in Dropbox, it would defeat the purpose of having a backup.  I just need to remember that when I want to delete something, I have to do it in two places to maintain the sync: the Gallery and Dropbox.

Photos now exist in two separate instances: Gallery and Dropbox. Each one must be deleted separately.

Photos now exist in two separate instances: Gallery and Dropbox. Each one must be deleted separately.

My habit is to go through my photos before backing them up.  It gives me an opportunity to delete anything I don’t want and organize the rest into albums.  For the sync to work effectively for me, I must change my setting to backup manually.  This means that after organizing my photos, I will manually select them to upload to Dropbox.  This will save me the headache of having to delete unwanted photos in two places.  Additionally, I can safely delete photos from my Gallery to save space on my phone and know that the ones I want to keep are backed up.

The pre-backup organization also comes with a few synching rules to understand depending on which device and operating system is being used.  My Android smartphone offers options to Move or Copy photos.  Move means photos only live in the album in the Gallery. Copy means the photos live in the Gallery and in the album so they remain accessible in two places.  Similar to backing up in a Dropbox, this means copied photos also have to be deleted in two places: the album and the Gallery. Add in a third place to delete if everything was backed up automatically to Dropbox.

Each choice offers different options for managing photos.

Each choice offers different options for managing photos.

On my iPad, however, organizing photos from the Camera Roll (Apple name for a Gallery) into albums works a bit differently.  Once placed in albums, photos can only be deleted from the Camera Roll.  “Deleting” a photo from an album removes it from the album, but still keeps it in the Camera Roll.  This distinction is clearer now with the new operating system.

Deleting from Camera Roll  = Delete.  Deleting from Album = removal from Album.

Deleting from Camera Roll = Delete. Deleting from Album = removal from Album.

It might seem obvious but I knew somebody once who spent hours organizing her Camera Roll into albums on her iPhone.  Then she deleted the Camera Roll thinking that everything was in her albums and accidentally deleted everything.  Oops.

Having a backup is a great idea, but it’s important to understand how the services work and how to make it work for you. It’s also important to know what data is residing in which place.

Do you backup your photos before or after organizing them?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

The Human Touch: Forgive and Forget

We forget where we put things, people’s names or what we ate for breakfast this morning.  Now we forget, in addition to the aforementioned things:

  • documents we created
  • what’s on our hard drives
  • important email conversations
  • the thousands of images & video still waiting to be organized…

yet once we rediscover these things, a memory appears, or a sudden rush of emotion. Perhaps it is for these moments that we like to hoard our possessions, especially in digital formats.

Forgetting, however, is part of being human.  As a result of this human characteristic, we have always devised ways to capture important information in some sort of external “memory.” Until a couple decades ago, we would carefully select which things were worth remembering outside of our brains.  Formats varied and included things like cassette tapes, film reels, paper, slides, photographs, floppy discs, CDs.  Before that things like stone tablets and scrolls would have been used to record society’s most important memories. Prior to cheap, abundant digital storage, saving everything was impossible because of three key factors:

  • cost
  • time
  • space

Now we take it for granted that we can save everything digitally like emails, documents, photos, video, music, etc. Is this a benefit?  Do we need to remember everything?  Are we able to keep track of what’s been saved?

Cluttered bedroom.  How do you know what you have?

Cluttered bedroom. How do you know what you have?

I’ve experienced plenty of things I would actually like to forget.  I’m relieved no digital reminders exist for some of my most embarrassing, humiliating or painful experiences.  Another benefit to not having painful experiences captured in an external memory is the freedom my brain has to recreate and evolve the memories into something that works better for me.  It’s part of being human that goes along with the forgetting.  I’ve learned you can’t change what happened, but you can change how you interpret a memory over time, or just forget about it completely.  Forgive and forget, right?

Human Brain - best computer ever.

Human Brain – best computer ever.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t use available resources for an external memory.  But I feel like we save things too quickly without any regard to what we’re saving or why.  While it can be fun to uncover long, lost treasures when cleaning up clutter, it makes me wonder: if we don’t remember we have it in the first place, is it such a big deal if we don’t have it at all?

Do you save more because of available digital storage?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

Fragmented Discourse

Thinking back to how plans were made before cell phones (the regular “dumb” kind), I’m often surprised that today’s technology actually makes the process feel more cumbersome and drawn out.  Plans used to be simple:

  1. Make plan.
  2. Call friend(s) and invite. (Remember the phone tree?)
  3. Discuss and confirm details over phone.
  4. Show up when you’re supposed to.  

One continuous stream of communication from phone to person.  No other options existed.  Occasionally email might have been used to make plans, but most likely things happened over the phone.  And more often than not, people kept plans because there was no way to reach your friend to cancel last minute.

Now it seems that making plans with people often requires multiple:

  • interactions &
  • modes of communication

Here’s one of the processes I go through to make plans:

  1. Make plan.
  2. Text or email friend(s) and invite.
  3. Wait for responses (response time varies from instant to a few days).
  4. Respond via text or email or calling.
  5. Repeat previous two steps a few times.
  6. Confirm via text or email or calling – at this point the mode might change, if it hasn’t already. Sometimes if the friend I’m texting doesn’t have a smartphone, then details may need to be emailed.  
  7. Show up when you’re supposed to.
  8. Wait for texts, emails, tweets or other form of communication from friend about how late s/he is going to be.

The chain of communication from initiation to delivery feels fragmented because it’s happened over a span of time and through multiple modes of communication.  It might seem like my issue is with step 8, but in actuality my complaints are with steps 1-6.  It’s almost like there are too many options available to communicate and that’s what ends up making things complicated.

What’s your preferred mode of communication when making plans with friends?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

Deleting Accounts

I have too many accounts.  I feel like every time I’m on my laptop or a mobile device, I’m constantly having to login to something.  Or reset a password.  I find it hard to remember:

  • all logins/passwords
  • the existence of the account, especially those infrequently accessed
  • where I’m leaving behind bits of information about myself

It seems pretty common to create an account for just about everything on the internet, mostly so that user habits can be monitored, tracked and analyzed.  Or so that a history of activities is recorded and made available at a future time.  Many of these accounts I create for a one-time use and then forget about them.

I decided I wanted to have more control over my accounts and to eliminate as many of them as possible.  The first step was listing all the accounts I could remember.  To date I have compiled a list of 50 accounts, which seems to keep growing.  And this doesn’t include all the one-off accounts that I’ve created and promptly forgotten about.  Accounts are for things like:

  • Financial services (banking, savings)
  • Buying/selling things (Craigslist, Amazon, iTunes)
  • Collecting points (airlines)
  • Email (gmail)
  • Social Media and networking (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook)
  • Administrative purposes (backend of this blog)

Phase II of my Account Cleanup Project will require me to identify what the accounts are for and assess whether I actually need them or not.  If they are not needed I want to delete them.  This coincides nicely with the release of a new website called lists popular sites and ranks how difficult it is for a user to delete an account, keeping in mind the difference between an account deactivation and a deletion.  justdelete.meeven has a chrome plugin that will rate a site with a colored dot that signifies how easy or difficult it is to delete an account.

Rating system used with Chrome to determine how easy it is to delete an account.

Rating system used with Chrome to determine how easy it is to delete an account.

Naturally I love anything that has to do with deleting stuff.  I appreciate what is trying to accomplish, but I’m curious about how deletions are handled from the service providers end.  Is it just the account connection that’s being deleted or does all my information go along with it?

How many accounts do you have?  How do you remember logins/passwords?  Will you be trying to delete any of your accounts?



Facebook Friends: A True Story

Some of you may recall from an earlier post, Facebook Friends, that I keep my friend count under 50. Recently, I ran into a former FB friend who didn’t make the cut and had been deleted months ago.  We exchanged pleasantries and then he said something like, “I’ll be sure to send you out a notice for my next show on FB. We’re friends, right?”

um…er…an uncomfortable pause followed while my brain worked feverishly to find a tactful way to explain my “under-50 rule” without sounding like a nut.  When deleting phone or email contacts it’s easy to explain that your new phone didn’t transfer everything properly. Or your email got hacked and it affected the contacts list.  FB is synchronous, meaning if you friend somebody they friend you back automatically, so lost devices or hacking don’t really work as explanations.

Considering my options, I went with partial honesty.  I explained that if I don’t hear from somebody in a year I remove him/her as a friend.  He didn’t appear to take it personally and honestly I don’t see why he would care.  The only communication we ever had on FB was the initial friend request.  What kind of a “friend” is that?

I know that some of my readers are squeamish about deleting FB “friends” because they’re afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.  Consequently, many of them don’t enjoy using FB, or they’ve stopped using it, because they’re not connecting with quality people.  Someone told me that he accepted his boss’s friend request and then didn’t enjoy using FB because he felt uncomfortable. What’s the point of that?

Your FB account is for you and you should cultivate FB friends the same way as in-person friends: if they don’t bring you value, get rid of them.  Unfriending is easy, way easier than in real life.  I find most “unfriended” people either don’t notice, or don’t care, because there probably wasn’t much of a connection to begin with, unless they have the Unfriend Finder.  Admittedly, the run-in was a tad awkward, but we got over it and had a pleasant conversation which was more contact than we ever had during our year of FB “friendship”.

Today’s challenge: Unfriend one FB “friend” that prevents you from enjoying your account.


The Fault in Default

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the word default comes from de, meaning “of” or “from”, and the French verb faillir meaning “to fail”. The top definitions for default, as both a noun and a verb, all have to do with failing to do something.  The other definition refers to a selection made automatically, often in reference to a computer program.

I suppose that default settings are supposed to make life easier by assuming what the majority will prefer.  For example, Google recently released a new version of Gmail that automatically separates your email into 5 categories: Primary, Social (meaning notifications from social media sites), Promotions, Updates, and Forums.

New default categories from Google to presort your email.

New default categories from Google to presort your email.

I’m not sure if this is useful to people or not, but the point is Google gave it to me assuming that was what I wanted.  Now I have to make an effort to turn the feature off.  While I may end up liking the new system, I would have preferred to turn it on myself, or define my own categories for presorting my inbox.

I’ve noticed that a lot of devices, social media accounts, applications, etc. all start with a few basic defaults:

  1. Save everything
  2. Start with the lowest security/privacy settings – because sharing EVERYTHING is what connecting (and mining data) is about
  3. Stay logged in at ALL TIMES

This is not to say that there is no validity to the defaults, just that they’re not the ones that I prefer.  I’ve often noticed that Facebook updates often require me to adjust the privacy and security settings to ensure that I still have some!

As I log into my various accounts (social media, email, financial, etc.) throughout the day, options to:

  • remain logged in; and
  • save the password

are almost always selected automatically.  This means I need to make an additional keystroke to deselect the option.  Why can’t the option be offered without being automatically selected?  I’m certainly capable of deciding these two options for myself.

Some defaults can be changed through system settings, but others appear each time I login, regardless of settings.  I’m not qualifying default settings, I just don’t want the ones compromising my privacy and security preselected.

How do you feel about default settings?  Do you like to stay logged in and have your browser remember passwords?

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