Adam O'Grady

2021 ICT Goals

A new year lies ahead in all it’s glory, and I want to spend at least some of this year being more aware of how I approach information, communication, and technology. While ICT is often seen as a staid descriptor, I think it perfectly encapsulates the areas that I want to be more conscious about.

It helps to define what I mean by “more conscious about” in this context. I decided to reduce my focus to the following pillars:

  • Ownership
  • Organisation

Ownership

I’ll start with the more complex/involved of the two pillars. Put simply:

I want to own my data where I can, and be aware of where I share it when I can’t.

Music, Movies, Books, Etc

I have Spotify, Netflix, Stan, Steam. All great and wonderful services, but all limited in the sense that I don’t own any media on there - I license it from them for the period of my enjoyment and they have the ability to take it away from me at any point. Even Steam, which lets me play games long since pulled from it’s store, only allows me to play those games when I’m logged in to the installed client. If the service were ever to shut down I’d be shit out of luck with my gaming library.

I do enjoy these platforms, they’re convenient and they introduce me to new media. But I want to dedicate some funds and time to purchasing media outside of this closed ecosystems. Using services like Bandcamp, GOG, Humble Bundle, Itch.io and others to purchase media that I can own for good, in open formats and lacking DRM that would otherwise lock me out. I’ve had some excellent successes with these platforms in the past so let’s look to them and emerging services in the future.

Social Media

I use social media. A lot. And I’m starting to feel like my use of it has become too habitual, too much like a vice. I feel it has had a deleterious effect on my ability to concentrate and enjoy the world outside it. I’m not condemning social media - it’s saved my life, found me work, connected me with amazing people. But it can also be a pretty toxic cesspit without regular feed maintenance, and it can be an easy distraction from other tasks; even stuff I’d usually enjoy (like reading).

So maybe what’s required is to develop a more intentional approach to how I use social media. Work on ways to stop it from being the first thing I open when my mind begins to wander, stop myself from spending hours refreshing and hoping for new hot takes and bad L’s. I might work on some of the following methods to reduce my usage:

  • Limit logged-in locations - Limit social media to one or two devices, log out of it on home and work computers so that it’s less easy to just open a new tab and be distracted.
  • Review my following count - Unfollow a lot of accounts on Twitter, and silence a lot of the groups on Facebook. I can make lists on Twitter for news and other topics if I want, and I can always visit the groups of cute cats and liminal spaces if I desire adorableness or aesthetic.
  • Consider alternate forms of social media - I’ve been tempted to try Mastodon again, either finding a nice instance to join or setting up my own. I’m also interested in “tilde spaces”, small social servers based around old school access to a single Unix-based machine.

Communications

At the moment my primary forms of communication are probably Twitter, Snapchat, Messenger, and Facebook. I think as 2021 rolls through I want to start shifting what mediums I contact people on, how I keep in touch with friends.

I already have and use Signal, but I think I want to use that more for short-form messaging over mobile devices. More of my friends are moving to it, this could be an excellent way to keep in contact and organise catch ups.

Telegram doesn’t have the same security posture, but as it’s also available for computer operating systems (rather than just mobile) I’d be tempted to use it as a client for generally chatting with friends.

Data

Large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter love to take as much of your data as they can, and are happy to delete your access to it at a moments notice. This behaviour is replicated in other providers like Google (GMail, Drive, Photos) and Apple (iCloud). At a whim you could potentially lose access to your entire history of photos, emails, videos, documents if you rely on their cloud services.

What’s the best solution? Obviously maintaining a local copy of data is important, but if something happens to that copy (fire/theft) you’ve also lost everything which is not optimal. I think I want to work on setting up systems of backups so that I can maintain a local copy at home on my NAS, but it’ll automatically archive and upload backups to two separate cloud storage providers so that in an event of an emergency or even a double emergency I can recover my data again.

This will be a long term project and a future post; in developing a good backup strategy, implementing it, and then testing those backups to make sure they work.

Organisation

After all that, this pillar feels more light-hearted, more fun.

I want to have a more effective system for cataloguing my information and media for ease of access, review, and enjoyment.

Media

I’ve been thinking about this for years, and more recently started to build something that could potentially assist here. It’s a lofty goal though, to be able to catalogue and access my music, ebooks, pictures, movies, comics, and RPGs all under one platform. It’s a goal that also dropped by the wayside once I had full-time employment again working as a programmer again. I find it difficult to spend all day slinging code in a 9-5 and then go home and continue doing the same for my own projects. It’s not that I don’t love my job (it’s rad!), it’s just I need a way to break up my professional and personal lives and hobbies.

Perhaps a task for the early part of the year will be to analyse what open source, self-hosted options for organising each type of media are available and maybe even trial them. If it’s not terrible running a few small platforms that each fill a large niche well, than maybe it isn’t worth building my own mammoth service, or maybe it’s possible to scale back the nature of it.

I want to be able to easily find and enjoy albums of good memories, photos of specific friends, contact information for people I know, look up quotes in books, find other things by particular artists, and much more.

Physical Records

I think having some physical records could be good too. It’d be nice to have or two small physical photo albums with photos of loved ones, it’d probably be neat to have a physical record of some of my contacts so I can rebuild from scratch if I ever need to. Also keeping track of my growing pile of medical notes, invoices, tax documents, etc and reviewing them seems like a good idea.