Data Storage and Backup Sucks

Five Dimensional Glass

Hopefully this will be a thing?

I hate dealing with the headache of file storage and backup. Every year brings me more terabytes of data to store and back up, with video and audio being the main disk space hogs.

Digital storage seems transient and fragile. I’m constantly nervous that a hard drive will fail or that a BD-R won’t read. Of course I back up in redundancy (most of the time), but that doesn’t do much to relieve my stress about data loss.

The cloud seems like a great option, but the amount of data I have to store makes it too expensive to put online. Not to mention the time it takes to upload all that stuff.

Realistically, will I ever need to pull up any of this stuff again? For 99.9% — probably not. But it’s irresponsible for me to get rid of files, especially when they have to do with client work and my business. And as soon hit the delete button for something, the phone will ring, and I’ll need what I just destroyed. That’s my life.

Productivity and the Eisenhower Matrix

I’m working through some course materials and this week was introduced to the Eisenhower Matrix (or Box). It’s a productivity tool in which you split a page into four quadrants. Column 1 is labeled “urgent,” column 2 is “not urgent,” row 1 is “important,” and row 2 is “not important.”

The idea is to categorize/prioritize everything you do (or want/need to do) for each day in one of these boxes. As much as possible, you want to stay focused on the activities in the “urgent–important” box. They’re obviously the tasks you should attack first and spend the most time on. How to be More Productive and Eliminate Time Wasting Activities by Using the “Eisenhower Box”

Lots of free, printable PDFs of this exist out there. Being a graphic designer, I’m not happy with any of them and will only settle for something I approve of. And I’m sharing it with the world. Simple and clean, with a small line for the date and an area for any additional notes or doodling you’d like to add.

PDF (55KB)


I chuckled when I saw “flock-sourcing” listed as one of the “Jargon Watch” terms in David Schwen’s recent column in Wired (Feb. 2016).

Here we go, I thought. More senseless hipster lingo that puts some clever spin on already worn out slang. The definition given sounded even more ridiculous:

outsourcing medical diagnosis to pigeons. If trained to interpret microscope images or mammograms, groups of pigeons can spot signs of breast cancer as accurately as pathologists. Flocks would initially be enlisted to test new medical imaging software.

This had to be satire. Schwen was obviously taking a jab at crowdsourcing by introducing a herd-mentality angle or something like that. I wasn’t quite sure—a lot of this kind of clever high-tech geek humor goes right over my head. Not because I don’t have the capacity to understand it, but because apathy usually urges me to move on to what’s next after a few seconds.

But this was a serious column, and couldn’t be satire—all the other jargon terms in the article made sense and seemed legit.

Time to Google

There’s really not that much variety when you Google “flocksourcing.” Pigeons were only mentioned once toward the bottom of the results page, but I didn’t even get that far initially. I was drawn in by a different use of the term that dominated the top search results: a “guided crowdsourcing” campaign dealing with bus routes in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The campaign began in 2012 and a Kickstarter was successfully funded shortly thereafter.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

I didn’t even know which country Dhaka was in, let alone that it’s a capital city. Looking at the pictures of Dhaka gridlock only found in nightmares, along with the background information on the Kickstarter page, it’s no wonder that something innovative needed to be done to bring some kind of sense to the mess that’s called bus transportation.

Dhaka Gridlock

Wikipedia told me that Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely-populated countries, and Dkaha alone is home to 18 million. With car ownership at 1%, publicly- and privately-owned busses are in high demand, and the system is perplexing at best. I won’t try to rehash the details outlined on their Kickstarter page—I strongly recommend you read it.

The project defines and pioneers flocksourcing in this regard: “Flocks + Mobiles = Flocksourcing, a new technique for rapid generation of urban data.” A “flock” of volunteers with mobile phones are braving the Dhaka bus system to collect data about the routes and times and whatnot, and talk with the patrons. The information is then analyzed and used to (hopefully) improve the bus experience.

I’m fascinated by this, and learned a lot not only about the mysterious “flocksourcing” term, but also about Dhaka and its societal and cultural issues.


Further down page one of the Google results I found an article and Youtube video about pigeons who are somehow trained to analyze medical images and spot cancerous tissue with something like an 85% success rate. They’ve playfully dubbed this “flocksourcing.”

It means that they gathered information from an actual flock of birds. They trained four pigeons to look at x-rays and peck at colors, and the results were collected and carefully scrutinized. They’re smart little birds, so I’m told.

Not quite smart enough to diagnose cancer at this point. But smart enough to help researchers develop and improve medical imaging technology, which is good enough for me.


Both versions of “flocksourcing” taught me a lot, but I’m much more interested in what’s happening to bring order to a seemingly hopeless mess in Dhaka. It’s an ongoing project, now in its fourth or fifth year. It’s understandable, given the maddening complexity of the bus situation they’re tackling.

Of course they’re both playing off the current crowdsourcing craze. Thanks to Wired for this small tidbit that made me that much more aware.


Erie from the Bicentennial Tower

This afternoon I went to the top of the Bicentennial Tower and shot a handful of photos. I hope you enjoy.

New Cameras and Lenses

Panasonic GH3

Last year I replaced both of my Panasonic GH1’s with wonderful GH3’s. A tremendous upgrade! My video productions have never looked better.

For 2014, I’ve decided to blow the entire year’s worth of the money I’ve budgeted for equipment in one mighty swoop: 2 new GH3’s (for a total of 4), and two new versatile lenses.