as i’ve moved my computing life from a style based around one computer to one driven by online services, i’ve been moving from my own homebrew solutions to reliance on “opa” — other people’s apps. there are several clear advantages:

  • sites with a narrow specialty make material more discoverable, and thereby more useful to someone trying to find it. people find my photos through the google (why such interest in druid hill park? and fleas?), but are even more likely to come to flickr or picassa looking for images. a link tagged on contributes to a global pool of information on a given topic.
  • i get the advantage of code from real programmers instead of my own stumbling efforts.
  • i don’t have to maintain anything.
  • popular services attract many people with many ideas and needs, leading to features i wouldn’t have thought of or would never have gotten around to implementing. (geotagging photos on flickr, for example.)
  • it’s far more satisfying to complain about someone else when something breaks.

it hasn’t even meant giving up control. services that want to be used have to allow exportation of data to standard formats, making it easy to switch from one service to another if needed, or to go back to your own creation. i could pretty quickly write a script to make my own links page from my rss backup or generate my own photo gallery from the backup of my flickr photos and their metadata. it’s easy to go back if 1999 ever calls you.

my goal has been to find services which can be automatically backed up by a cron job on my always-on computer (the account at my hosting company). as a result, when i make a spreadsheet on google docs or post a photo to flickr, i know it will soon make its way into ~/backups/ and my own backup system for my files. (do i have to link here again?)

i’ve made a list of tasks, services i use for them, and backup methods for those services. some are personal tasks (tracking todo items), and some are methods of sharing information (videos on youtube). privacy controls allow many to be used for both (a calendar which reminds you of your dentist appointment and helps arrange a meeting with other people). it’s a rather exhaustive list, but i’d welcome your suggestions of other services you use or any answers you have to the questions in the comments.

task service backup method comments
address book management ?

(not: plaxo, google contacts)

? i can’t understand why no one has filled this obvious need. it seems like a natural: make a site where i can record all my contact information (address, phone numbers, etc.) and the same information for people i know. as other people join the site, they can request to connect to me, and i decide how much information to share with them. as i update my phone number, they get a note that it’s been changed in their address books. run it on open standards so it can interoperate with similar sites. let it connect to my email service for “insert joe’s email address in cc:” and to my documents service for “insert joe’s mailing address in this letter”. let me export my address book to various formats and print a copy.

plaxo had the right idea, then developed it halfway and made something that doesn’t seem useful in any real way. i don’t know why google still hasn’t done something with their anemic contacts system. why has no one made a reasonable online address book? or is one hiding somewhere?  

articles wordpress? mysqldump? (i’ve never used wordpress.) see notes below.  
audio cataloging mp3tunes? what else? ? mp3tunes is a pretty good idea and a surprisingly good implementation, offering support for mp3, ogg, flac, etc., tools for organizing files by albums, a good browser-based player, and methods for downloading various slices of your collection, syncing them to a digital audio player, etc. if it had anyone but michael robertson behind it, i might be seriously interested. also, its syncing program is gui-only and can’t be run from cron.

i’d love to have something like this which lets me organize my collection online, especially if i could share selected files with the world (ones for which i own the copyright). does anyone know of any similar offerings?  

book cataloging librarything a www::mechanize script to grab /export-csv a handy way to keep a list of books i want to read.  
bookmarking delicious wget download of  
document editing google docs the google docs download python script painful after vi or emacs, but great for sharing documents, both for viewing and collaboration in editing.  
email gmail offlineimap i would prefer one-way syncing, and was using isync (mbsync), but have found that offlineimap runs anywhere, with less fuss. ((btw, a handy tip: i found offlineimap’s two-way syncing helpful in an unexpected way. i have a corporate email address with a certain company and am supposed to read email sent there. unfortunately, they won’t just forward email to my real address because the competition might steal our tps cover sheet design or something. i can’t have gmail fetch it because they only allow imap access, not pop3.

i was having getmail fetch and forward mail to my real address, but found another solution in the fact that offlineimap can not only sync an imap account to a local maildir collection, but can also sync two imap accounts to each other. i have the webmail system at the company file everything into a folder named (just as an example) “forcesourge” and have offlineimap sync it with a “forcesourge” label in gmail. this works great because of the way gmail treats labels as imap folders. any new mail at the company is mirrored in my “forcesourge” label collection in gmail, and when i delete a message or remove the label from it there, the message is deleted on the company’s server. a cron job keeps it all together, and i don’t have to bother with checking another mail account.))  

financial accounting mint download through browser (non-automated) i just download my transactions file each month after balancing my accounts.  
goal tracking 43things n/a don’t feel the need for a backup of this.  
graphing data google chart api? n/a  
photo ar
flickr offlickr offlickr does a thorough job of grabbing metadata, from comments and dates to sets and collections.  
scheduling google calendar wget downloads of the .ics files for each of my calendars.  
score archiving mutopia? a recursive fetch of everything with my name? it could be convenient to let the good folks at mutopia keep my scores up-to-date with the latest lilypond versions. it could take care off all but the few not worth adding to such a noble project.  
todo management toodledo wget download of my rss file  
video storage youtube ? youtube’s a good place for sharing video for quick viewing, but is it a place for storing high-quality video? i assume they throw the original files away once they’ve converted them to .flv. does anyone have a recommendation of a place for storing full-sized videos while sharing small flash versions?  

i hope there’s something useful in there.

i want to ask one last bit of advice, concerning my personal website. aside from offering bits of news about what’s happening with me to far-away friends, it’s been a place to stick things i want to keep which may be useful to other people (musical scores, hatt-baby videos, etc.). it’s the public side of my home directory. with the moves described above, a lot of this is no longer necessary. i don’t need photos here and on flickr. i don’t need scores here and on mutopia.

when i strip away everything that can be as well or better-hosted elsewhere, all that’s left are articles like this one, so i’m thinking of turning into a hub for my material spread around the web, leaving just the articles here. i’m thinking of wordpress for this. yes? pros/cons? alternatives?

i’d like to start using something new right away and gradually migrate my old material. how would you do this? my first thought is to make a cms-run so the links to continue to work, adding 301 redirects as i move things off, and finally resetting dns to point to the new site when finished. any better ideas?

thanks for reading! i hope you found something useful in this and are putting the ever-expanding world of online services to much better use than i am.

3 thoughts on “grandfathering data

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