On being ... a digital hoarder

By Ingrid Sapona 

The never-ending rain this past week was the perfect opportunity for indoor activities so I turned my attention to tidying my office. My tech guru (Dee) recently made some changes to my computer system to free up space on the hard drive and to ensure all my files are routinely backed up. Before the changes, my backing up was a bit of a patchwork affair. 

The changes Dee made involved uploading and downloading files to the cloud. (Because my computer is central to my livelihood, for years I’ve paid for cloud storage.) The syncing process took nearly a week! Dee had shown me how to monitor the progress and how to pause the syncing if I needed to, as it really slowed the computer down. In my periodic check of the syncing progress, two things jumped out at me: 1) there were way more photos and videos than I realized, and 2) videos take a LONG time to sync. 

With the syncing finished, I decided to have a look at the photos and videos to get a handle on them. I knew I was never that diligent about organizing them or naming them in a specific way. One reason has to do with the sheer number of them. Back when you bought rolls of film – and you paid to have pictures developed – you were way more careful about taking just one photo of something. With digital photos, it’s not unusual to snap three, four, or more of the same thing. So, on a week-long trip you come back with hundreds of photos, rather than a couple rolls of 36. (And on trips with friends or family, I’ve ended up with two or three-times as many because they’ve emailed me all their photos.) 

I knew that virtually all the videos are related to my winery blog and website. But, I really didn’t realize how many winery-related images and videos I’ve made over the past dozen years. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, depending on what I was using the photo or video for, sometimes I needed to convert them into different digital formats. (For example, videos can be formatted in: “.MP4”, “.mov”, “.wlmp”; photos can be in “.JPG” or “.GIF”.) As a result, I have copies of some photos and almost all the videos in more than one format. 

Adding to the confusion is the fact that when I move photos from my camera to the computer, the computer saves them where it thinks appropriate. So, for example, the computer might automatically assign them to a file called Photos, or Pictures, or Video. Makes sense, you say. Well, maybe, but when I upload them, I create a file and name it based on the subject matter, so that I can find them later. The end result of the process seems to be that I ended up with photos and videos of the same thing in two different places on my computer. And, as it happens, at some point the photo app that I used (Picassa) stopped being supported, so I had some photos in the “Picassa photos” file, some in a file called Pictures, and some in a file called Google Photos. Can you say nightmare? 

Then, remember I mentioned my backing up was a patchwork affair before? What that meant was that periodically (at least once a year) I copied all the contents of the hard drive onto an external drive, just in case something happened to my hard drive. This system was fine for work-related stuff because I’ve always organized work files by year. But the photo/video files were labelled (loosely) by subject matter, so there was no easy way of figuring which photos/videos on the computer were added since the last backup. 

If all this sounds confusing it’s because it is. Indeed, I arrived at this attempt of a description of what happened in part to understand how I made such a mess of things. I needed to try to understand how I ended up with four different “Google Photo” files with some of the same photos in each of those files, but also had a number of photos unique to each Google Photo file. I spent hours comparing photos, deleting doubles (triples, and more) and doing my best to reorganize them. 

What I realized as I worked through this is that I had become a digital hoarder. I’d never pay to have a storage unit for my physical stuff but thanks to relatively inexpensive cloud backing up services, I’m not as virtuous in my digital life. I’m not proud of it, but I’m determined to change my ways and my recent clean up was the first step. Next up I plan on reviewing all the photos with a view toward deleting the multiple successive shots of the same thing. Wish me luck… 

And on that score, if you have a good way of organizing your digital photos, do tell – I’m open to suggestions! 

© 2024 Ingrid Sapona


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