Ian Singleton

Dunbar's Number

Posted in Uncategorized by iansingleton on February 6, 2010

is a theory by Robin Dunbar, about the number of friends you have in a social network. Any more than about 150 and it becomes unmanageable. More about that here. Although there is an interesting counter-argument here.

What about the number of backups you’re supposed to have?

Years ago, I had a graphics guy working at my house while I was in an office preparing a tender document. From the minute he called me about an hour after I left him to it, I knew that there was trouble.

He explained that as he’d stood up to leave the room, his chair had pulled the lead of a hard disc drive, which in turn had pulled the disc drive onto the floor. The drive was now making a strange noise and wouldn’t read. Was there anything on the drive, he asked, that was important?

My life, I answered.

Which was also backed up onto a different drive.

If the photo of my son going into the playhouse when he was four is priceless, what value do I put on the digital copy of the same photo which resides on a different drive? If there are five copies, is each of them worth a fifth of the original?

And how many copies am I supposed to make? What happens if the original and the backup are both destroyed. How many versions do I need to keep in the cloud so I can access them without recourse to the physical drives?

All of this material would fit onto any one of the SEVEN portable disc drives that I have. But at the moment, since all of these drives are sitting on my kitchen table, this isn’t a backup policy. It’ a burglary waiting to happen.

I can’t find a reasoned policy for how to distribute this information – I should give a number of these drives to friends and ask them to look after them for me.

There’s already a version of the compressed scans sitting on Zumodrive. And my end game for this material is for it all to be accessible from anywhere. Which raises a series of questions about passwords and access rights.

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