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There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary hack

This morning’s Memex 1.1, John Naughton’s Substack newsletter, including this quote by Dave Winer: “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary hack.” and it feels like a great theme for my day today, which I am spending sorting through my own temporary hacks from the past 15 years.

It’s my day to clean out my archive of files and emails at ALT, the last steps in a long handover process. Documents I filed away in 2017 to be reviewed later are stacked alongside old references I have written for former employees and pictures from past keynotes.

Most of this stuff can just be deleted all together, but I am mindful that some things are important for the organisation’s history and legal records, GDPR permitting.

What I am pondering if how many times I didn’t circle back to things I implemented as a temporary hack, and hence today’s quote really chimed with me. Here are some examples of what I’ve come across:

  • My CMALT portfolio that I published in a Google folder (an organisation-hosted Google folder, for which, I just discovered, you can’t transfer ownership outside of your organisation’s domain);
  • An email filter I set up in 2015 when I first joint a very busy Jiscmail list, and which has quietly filled up a folder with tens of thousands of emails since… EEEEK;
  • A shortcut to a file to a shortcut to a file to a shortcut to a file….;
  • Lists of things I want to do, and a lot fewer lists of things I did! Fortunately I discovered a file with old appraisals going back to 2008, so hopefully somewhere in there are records of what I accomplished in more detail than the lists I sporadically kept.

Even Gmails hefty power is taking time to delete all the emails, one year at a time. It feels extremely satisfying however, and is also necessary, as my new free-lance role within the organisation is limited to a specific project and I want to ensure that I have a clean footprint on which to work.

As I delete things, I also need to bring some order to my own domain, and again the newsletter provided some inspiration in the form is this XKCD comic about university websites:

University Website (XKCD, 773)

It’s easy to fall into the same traps for one’s own website as organisational ones.

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