Tales of Digital Paranoia from the NaNoWriMo Forums
Posted by Doug on November 23, 2009
As I rapidly approached (and passed) the fifty thousand word mark for my National Novel Writing Month project, I started spending a little more time on the NaNoWriMo forums, and I’ve noticed that there is a widespread, obsessive paranoia about backing up your writing that borders, in my opinion, on the insane.
I’m a belt-and-suspenders guy; Hitagi, the computer I built, now has three hard drives which facilitate a nice, reassuring level of redundancy. My novel is saved on one hard drive, and every week or so I back up everything on that hard drive to one of the others (the third HD only has the operating system on it). So it’s not like I’m advocating only having one copy. Having a more-or-less up-to-date backup copy of anything important is a good idea. But I can’t just get into the paranoid mindset that seems commonplace among the NaNoWriMo community.
This forum sticky provides a good example of what I’m talking about: everyone (except me!) seems to think that it’s not enough just to make a backup. You need dozens of backups. Save your novel document in as many different places as you can, to other people’s computers, to external hard drives, to flash drives, to online storage, and e-mail a copy of your novel to yourself. Daily is recommended by all; some say hourly. Some go even farther, recommending printing out your novel as you go, because a computer crash won’t hurt a stack of paper. Some say make copies of your novel in a simple text format, because that is a lot less likely to be corrupted than the fancy styled format your word processor defaults to.
By and large, computers are seen as magical devices that should only be treated with caution and distrust. But I just can’t think that way. I know that it’s possible any number of problems could spring up. Case in point: I had a power outage last week, and I was fortunate that I had my computer on a battery backup, which allowed me more than enough time to save everything. Had I not had the battery backup, I would have lost at least a thousand words of text.
Maybe that’s the difference between me and the apparent consensus of the NaNoWriMo forums: I built Hitagi to be reliable from the get-go and taught myself to use the programs I would be relying upon well ahead of time, and I haven’t worried about it much since, whereas they seem to have not considered the inherent stability of their computer or the ins and outs of their software (or in some cases considered how computers work in the first place), and now are scrambling to protect their investments of time from random events they have not bothered to try and control.
Maybe I’m the person with the wrong outlook here, but if so, that’s okay with me. I don’t think it’s healthy to go through life being paranoid, so I’m not going to.