Showing 5 notes tagged #data.

Just published a privacy policy. The styles don’t really support multi-level headings right now, that will have to come later.

It’s probably overkill to have such a long privacy policy for a personal website, but it felt like a useful exercise. I like the fact that an essential part of GDPR is that these policies have to be readable and easy to understand. That makes them both a policy and an educational opportunity. A lot of people don’t really know why they need to be careful with their data or how to do that and honestly, that’s fair enough. Data privacy has been under-appreciated for a long time. If we talk about it enough though, and be patient with one another, that can improve.

There are downsides to the GDPR hullabaloo though… so many people are applying quick, artificial fixes. Pop-ups, spammy-looking emails saying “please re-register!” that themselves feel like spam… It all feels a little web 1.0 at the moment. There’s a real fine line between being considerate and useful vs being shouty and in the way of day-to-day life on the web. There’s no quick fix really, it takes time and care to look long and hard at this stuff.

On applying the three Rs to digital stuff

Reduce, reuse, recycle ♻️ Can this apply to digital material? What would that mean or look like?

When I say “digital material” I don’t mean visual waste like excessive banner ads and endless newsletter popups, but actual bytes of data. Is there an alternative to emptying the trash and/or permanent storage? Device storage – the management of it, its functionality – is effectively invisible until you have a sudden problem with it. The dreaded “low disk space” warning.

This feels somewhat analogous to our IRL trash problem, but an obvious difference is that emptying IRL trash ≠ emptying digital trash. When you empty the trash at home, it becomes someone else’s problem. When you empty your digital trash, it disappears (mostly). Also, it’s worth acknowledging: right now our physical trash problem > our digital trash problem.

If we focus on the digital side of things for the moment though, the biggest issue is that people don’t empty their trash. It’s a lot easier to dump a bunch of old files on to a hard drive and call it a day than to actually go through and get rid of unnecessary stuff. This is hoarding.

Consider this condensed intro to the compulsive hoarding entry on Wikipedia as of today:

Compulsive hoarding […] is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that […] cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarding behavior has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members. […] Compulsive hoarders may be aware of their irrational behavior, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items.

I would guess that most of us (without a doubt including myself) are digital hoarders. For me, at least, it’s driven by mild fear, a “but I might need that” mentality. It’s the same reason I frequently leave multiple browser windows with multiple tabs open. So many major services – Gmail, iCloud, AWS, Dropbox – are built to encourage this behaviour. Some services even actively discourage deletion, or make it impossible. I’m looking at you, Facebook.

But stuff, both physical and digital, has to be cared for. I pay more and more for services that store my data, I worry about hard drives failing, I get secondhand anxiety when I borrow a loved-one’s phone for a moment and notice that they have 160,000+ unread emails. On top of this, the amount of electrical energy used for data storage is significant and is only expected to increase.

So if you apply the three Rs to our digital lives, “Reduce” is still right up there on the priority list. “Reuse” and “recycle” are a little harder to port over… Perhaps we could say that by contributing to open source technology and data, you are reusing and recycling digital material. I need to do more of this.

And to think, I haven’t even touched on the importance of recycling electronic devices! A separate note, maybe.

We’re working on a new site for SB-PH at the moment, and we’re using Airtable to get our project documentation together. It’s also a good opportunity to test the platform a little (+ I’m a fan of tables). To grab tidy JSON for use with data-friendly design software like Sketch, we’re using the Airtable API with cURL and ./jq.

Simple example that dumps table records in to a JSON file for use with the the Sketch Data Populator plugin:

$ curl https://api.airtable.com/v0/YOUR_BASE_KEY/YOUR_TABLE_NAME -H "Authorization: Bearer YOUR_API_KEY" | jq '.records' > records.json