A Long-term Personal Digital Archive Strategy

Recently I read with horror as Ben Brown posted on Twitter about a burglary in March 2014 - gigabytes of personal photographs were stolen with a computer hard drive from his home:

As I felt terrible for Ben, I realized I was in a similar boat. All my personal digital memories are in my home. I have too many gigabytes to store in the cloud. Working with video, I now have many terabytes of storage here for my memories. Someone who broke into my house would sell my hard drives for spare parts and the contents would be lost to me.

So, spurred on by Ben's sad story, I began asking around for people's backup strategies. During a visit to the Internet Archive, just before I interviewed Richard Stallman, I complained to John Gilmore than I had too much data to backup in the cloud. Gilmore suggested I get a harddrive, fill it up and mail it to my parents.

Howard RheingoldTwas a brilliant low-tech suggestion: I bought a big hard drive, copied all my personal digital assets on to it and shipped it to Chicago - about a five hour plane flight away. If the entire United States is rapidly overtaken by a government of totalitarian infophobes seizing our bits at taserpoint, I'll be hosed. But if there's a California earthquake, fire or burglary and I survived without my immediate computers, I'll at least have copies of my photograph of Howard Rheingold in his citrus fruits shirt.

For about two years I've been slowly emptying a storage space I had in San Francisco: scanning old personal video tapes, papers, photos, DVDs, EZ Drive disks and hard drives. You can see some of the results in my "Justin Hall appearing elsewhere" YouTube feed. I realized that old data is fragile and very small relative to today's data. It's only getting more expensive to rescue old files from old drives. And I don't have a job. And I'm making a documentary about my life, which is sorta what I've been doing for 20+ years anyhow. So now is a good time to preserve my datas.

After a brief bit of research, I purchased the "WD My Book 4 TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive with Backup" for $160 from Amazon, and saved the box it came in to remail it.

Spring 2014, I spent a few weeks consolidating my photos, videos, school papers, personal scanned documents, email backups, web site backups, old laptop dumps, archives from my company GameLayers - whatever I could get my hands on, to copy onto the drive. Then I shipped it yesterday! In a few months, I'll buy a second drive, fill that up, and swap it with the first drive each time I travel to Chicago.

Now there's a copy of all my personal data on a hard drive labelled "continuance" that should soon be collecting dust far away; thusly I spent many hours and $160 + $19 shipping for peace of mind.

I still need to figure out what I expect anyone to do with my data when I die; I can pretend I have some measure of preference and control over that while I'm alive.

Just In Berlin

I had a free plane ticket to Europe and some free time; I decided to visit Berlin Germany for my first time. I was attracted to Berlin because of all the creative folks I know moving or visiting there. When I arrived I was stunned at how hard the tragic history of the place affected me.

Here's a short video about the trip:

YouTube: Just In Berlin

Featuring interviews with Doris Steinbichler, Gabriel Shalom, João Paglione and Felix Petersen. Plus footage from a performance by Urnamo Ali at Savvy Contemporary and time well spent at Holzmarkt 25.

I attended Sunday services at Berliner Dom which features English translations. I was rejected from the infamous dance club Berghain, and spent much time at the Topography of Terror and German Historical Museum.

Huge thanks to João Paglione and Der Magnetmann for hosting me! I met João years ago through Flickr where I enjoyed his lively cheerful presence. We established communications and Berlin was the first time we met. I was grateful they could put me up.

Behind the Scenes

I filmed all of this with my mobile phone (iPhone 5s) and a cheap lavalier microphone. I used an inexpensive mobile phone tripod to film myself talking out in front of the Topography of Terror museum; that was an intense half an hour - riffing on horror and humanity and my travels as people wandered around nearby.

I used Motion to make a "lower thirds" title template that I could edit-once and change across all the text in the video. For the background, I used cobblestones I filmed abroad, slowed down and color-tweaked.

I finally learned how to reattach clips elsewhere in the timeline of Final Cut Pro X - command+option click where you want it; so easy I never knew.

Plus I learned how to export frames as images from FCPx, thanks to Larry Jordan.

My Video Publishing Future

So my skills are improving, I've got more polish at my reach plus an evolved sense of how to capture useful source material. In the last eleven months I've learned about green screens, color correcting, audio balancing, lower thirds, motion graphics, sourcing content from the web, the importance of soundtracks, uploading and sharing video in 2014. It's a lot to learn! It's been fun to motivate and publish myself in regular videos.

Your sponsorship on Patreon is fantastic - I'm grateful to the people there who support my videos, and the money is motivating. Having patrons makes me want to make sure I produce something worthy of your dollars, so that has me combing over one video to polish it, and not cranking 'em out the way I did late last year.

Sometimes I debate publishing less-polished videos more often - informal riffing, maybe like I used to do when I filled web pages with free verse poems each night. For now I'm enjoying the craft of prioritizing a single story for a spell.

I aspired to one video per week; I'm now averaging more like 2 per month. May 2014 I will probably only publish this video, Just In Berlin!

In the next few months, I'll be returning to the 20 Links project - making a short film about my time on the web. I look forward to more video sharing with you here! Just maybe not as often as I have been producing. Based on how much time I spend making a 6 minute video I like, polishing up a 20-40 minute video could take a good while.

Jake Lodwick: Weirdo CEO

It's been almost three weeks since my last video; the divorce project really took it out of me. I got a bad cold. Then a pipe burst and I learned a little plumbing.

All the while I was working on footage I shot: an interview with Jake Lodwick from 27 February 2014. Jake is an engineer and entrepreneur. He developed the video sharing web site Vimeo. Vimeo was sold for millions of dollars and Jake was soon fired. He admits he was then adrift, at a time when his personal oversharing on the web became more challenging as well.

Now Jake has started Elepath, a software studio. I was curious to hear what he had learned, and how he's adapted his personality for the task of building a company.

YouTube: Jake Lodwick: Weirdo CEO

Jake was one of the first people to encourage me to do interviews and videos on the web when I started talking about it last year. He offered himself to be the first guest on The Justin Hall Show and I'm glad to have finally gotten him in my folding chair.

This video has 39 images and moving pictures I found freely-shared on the web. What a miracle - a cultural commons. I thank many of the usual suspects in the credits; I'd also like to give a special thanks to Zabou for permission to use her Surveillance illustration about 10 minutes and 8 seconds in.

Sharing my Divorce - video

I have shared a number of intense things on my web site over the years, but I haven't told the story of my divorce. I thought I would only get married once! And then I would do whatever it took to make it work.

Well (spoiler alert), that didn't work out. Upon reflection, I think running GameLayers was a big strain on our partnership. I had to learn to let go.

So this week, for The Justin Hall Show, I made a video to share the story of my 2010 divorce:

on YouTube: Sharing My Divorce

Each of my "Justin Hall Show" videos is an experiment; here I wanted to challenge myself to discuss a topic I find challenging and upsetting. After I edited out my long plaintive stares at the camera, I decided I didn't feel my customary impulse to insert illustrations or music. So, it's a 14.5 minute long, somewhat stark simple video of a sad story. And what I learned! And that I survived! So it's not all sad.

Hopefully this video might help someone going through a challenging end to their union. As I was preparing to post this video, I learned that a college classmate of mine Esther Parker was killed by her husband, reportedly because she requested a divorce. It felt like a gut punch to read that news - I was reeling, feeling disoriented and unsure of what I was doing amidst that senseless violence and horrific tragedy. My girlfriend Ilyse pointed out that posting a video that supports people accepting divorce and moving on could be a positive political act - we need to learn to be in partnership, and we need to learn to let go humanely. And hopefully we can evolve to be more supportive of each other as we wrestle with the friction between our ideals and other people.

Provocative People Making Games - #GDC2014

Earlier this month I found some provocative people making games at the Game Developers Conference, and at a free unconference called Lost Levels nearby. Please enjoy this latest episode of the Justin Hall Show:


Provocative People Making Games - from the Game Developers Conference and Lost Levels March 2014

I interviewed four folks here: Anna Anthropy, Paolo Pedercini, Auriea Harvey and Mahdi Bahrami.

Each of them makes personally-motivated games. I was sorry I didn't ask Anna Anthropy about her games work; I focused on her books here instead. She is a bold example of individuals telling their story through games. I chose web pages, now I'm using film. It's exciting to see that games can be a personal storytelling medium as well! Anna recommended that folks eager to experiment with making personal games experiment with Twine.

Behind the Scenes

It was fun thinking of a quick jingle and filming that. A human voice! That's about what my show is about: "For provocative stuff that I think you should know, check out the Justin Hall Show" - hah. "Branding" :-)

I continue to bask in the happy learning glow from Larry Jordan, Color Correcting in FCPX using Scopes summed up in this article: Color Correction: Make People Look Normal by Larry Jordan. Turns out all humans are the same on the inside! Red blood under gray skin! I learned this for Richard Stallman and it's made my footage look better to my eye.

Like the Richard Stallman video, these interviews were shot with an iPhone. But I didn't do such a good job focusing on people's faces. More to learn! At least the sound came out decent.

For this video I made my first sort of lower-third, to stand behind the titles making them easier to read. I chose a standard font throughout to be like consistent and stuff.

This video was fun to make - I pushed myself for a March 31 publishing date, 10 days after the end of GDC 2014. I had a much longer cut that I showed to some friends, and ended up cutting some fun bits at the end. Maybe I can do some side footage releases to support this video. But I have piles of other films to make in the meantime!

recording lively performances of talented provocateurs

The Game Developers Conference "GDC" drew playful sorts and digital game makers together in San Francisco last week. I attended and participated in a "Game Developers Rant" panel - some coverage of that event here: 'Nobody wants your cock,' and other highlights from the Rant Apocalypse.

I proposed a new hashtag to organize freely accessible game data, source code and business results: #OGDY, that stands for "open game data yes" and it's pronounced "Oh Goody" :-) I put together a short video about #OGDY, and launched that along with a few starting pieces of data for #OGDY on Twitter.

I recorded some of my #OGDY rant at the GDC; I hope to share video of it online. I memorized an outline for under 5 minutes. I enjoyed the practice and being able to speak without notes felt connective with the audience. Though upon reflection I suspect I might have come across as rather intense. Suitable for a rant panel perhaps!

Lost Levels

Frank Lantz also spoke and suggested that "if you're sitting in a beige room watching PowerPoint, you're doing it wrong" so I headed outside to Yerba Buena Gardens where there was a free unconference called Lost Levels happening. Essentially anyone could pitch in with a game talk, and there were musicians, writers, designers and gamers lounging around the grass listening.

There I caught up with several creative game makers for iPhone camera interviews. I was excited to film Auriea Harvey but I didn't remember to tap on her face to focus. In the next few days I was able to record her and her partner at Tale of Tales Michaël Samyn around the GDC but I didn't do a good job of focusing in those shots either. A forehead slapping moment. And especially bizarre since their award-winning game Luxuria Superbia is about expressly touching screens!

I also interviewed Paolo Pedercini of Molleindustria who makes video game media interventions. And I spoke with Anna Anthropy about personal game making and expanding game community.

Besides this I had an experience with the Oculous Rift VR device, and some even more bizarre contraptions for human diversion and enlightenment.

All this! All this is being edited into a video! It's an ambitious video, with a greater-than-ever number of voices and clips. I will not likely be posting this video "this week" which means I'm on track to publish 3, not 4, official videos in March on Patreon - a crowdfunding platform I'm using to get serious about regular storytelling.

After a month on Patreon, I have 35 patrons and each video I publish officially now nets me over $100. I'm honored, and incentivized to keep up a steady flow of videos. Please consider supporting me on Patreon if you haven't already; I think we're having a good time making the future together.

So I'm not publishing so many videos in March 2014, except I actually published three videos last week! Richard Stallman, #OGDY, and Ric Chivo:

During the Lost Levels event, I saw Ric Chivo coming from a mile away, due to the size of his prodigious reputation as a straight-talking game developer with advice to share. I got a front row seat, recorded his talk with my phone, edited and posted it live on YouTube within an hour:

Citizen Journalism! Amazing reporting power we have with our mobile devices now. That video, "10 Responsibilities of a Game Developer" talk by Ric Chivo at Lost Levels / GDC2014 has had over 2600 views in a week - among the very best performing videos I've yet published. And it has no green screen, no mention of "The Justin Hall Show" or beginner effects shenanigans. It's just a lively performance by a talented provocateur. I aim to be!