This morning I lost an electronic folder of data. That data took about a day's worth to collect, fighting all the while against hardware problems. This was followed by almost a day of fighting software glitches to analyze the data. There was a lot of moving around of files during the process of de-bugging those glitches, and somewhere along the way the entire file got moved or deleted.
I panicked a little. But, being the paranoid sort, I had a couple of temporary backups on other computers that I had not yet deleted. Whew! I restored a copy of the original files back where they belonged, with only a half hour of time lost.
Then around noon today I read on CNN how another technician had made a similar screw-up – and lost nine month's worth of data from about 800,000 files for the State of Alaska Department of Revenue:
Yes, this technician, who remains unnamed, was doing some routine reformatting of government hard drives last July. Unfortunately, this person erased all the information on the drive that determined oil revenue money going to all Alaskans, one of
Now, I would love to get a peek into this technician's brain at that point, just for the sake of morbid curiosity, as they stood there wide-eyed and mouth open staring down at the corrupted hard drive and the two erased hard drives which HAD contained data for $38 BILLION worth of revenue allotments. Yes, BILLION with a capital B! Can we say, "Oh, f*ck!" Somehow I don't think they were thinking about the next episode of "Lost!". More likely they were wondering if they would be allowed enough time to grab their office plants before they were escorted out of the building.
What followed was about four months of manic data-re-entry from the original paperwork, stored in 300 cardboard boxes. Half a dozen seasonal workers were re-hired for the purpose, and 70 employees worked weekends and overtime, at a cost of $220,000. Much to their credit, nearly all refunds went out on time. Interestingly, no one was fired over the incident, and there apparently hasn't been any public finger-pointing, but I doubt one particular technician will be getting their bonus this year.
This brings me to a somewhat related topic. Isn't it interesting that, for sheer reliability, you just can't replace paper with electronic files? I mean, in two thousand years, when the next "Dead Sea Scrolls" are pulled out of some office filing cabinet, do you think they'll be on a computer disk, or on reams of paper? I'd put my vote on paper. Hell, I can't read the disks I saved 10 years ago with my Mac Classic, and the fools up in
Well, back to analyzing my data. Hmm. Now where did I save my restored copy, again?….