Last week's USA Weekend magazine ran an interview entitled Computer Counselor featuring Kelly Chessen. She's a psychologist now working as a "data crisis counselor" at DriveSavers in Novato, California.
Kelly used to work at a suicide prevention hotline ... and maybe she still does. An article posted on the DriveSavers site describes her job as
comforting poor souls whose computers have been melted in fires, dropped into rivers, run over by cars and in one case, shot. "Sometimes people will threaten to throw their computers out the window," says Kelly. "Hard drive failure happens every day, but it doesn't happen to everybody every day," she continues.
While DriveSavers can do a lot with severely damaged drives (visit their Museum of Disk-asters) and Kelly exudes confidence that most such disasters can be fixed, she states the success rate as 90%. For the other 10%, the implied advice might be longer term counseling.
The lesson for knowledge management professionals all starry-eyed about technology "solutions" for storing and retrieving important information comes in Kelly's Final Answer:
Q: Where do you keep important data?
A: My trusty yellow pad of paper. I hear horror stories all day. Do I want to lose all of my financial information? No!
As I've urged in prior posts (here and there), if you're considering a move to a "paperless office" you first ought to read The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper (MIT Press 2002). There you'll learn at least a half dozen reasons why yellow pads and other forms of paper outperform computers and other digital media for some information storage, retrieval, and manipulation tasks. The authors studied a diverse set of knowledge workers in a wide range of settings. One or more should trigger ideas helpful in your own situation.
If you haven't read it, don't argue with me (or Kelly). Keep your yellow pads handy. And seek help from a qualified professional.