Due Diligence for Writers

by kholinar

A Mixture of Fear and Respect

You’re a Tumblr writer. You’ve got your reasons.

I moved over to Tumblr in May. I had experimented with it in the past, shifting between blogging platforms on my self-hosted site, but nothing else seemed to bring the sort of engagement that I appreciated on Tumblr. The followed and following relationships developed quickly and I came to greatly respect many individuals in the community.

With this growing bliss came a tinge of nervousness. I support computer users every day. I know the statistics. I know that most of you don’t backup on a regular basis.1 Sure, it’s up there on the servers, but exporting from Tumblr (despite some great efforts in the community) is hard. This is the stuff of nightmares.

Failures in the Backup Mantra

You’ll hear a lot about backup procedures from tech and productivity corners of the internet. There’s some great advice out there2, such as the 3-2-1 backup system:

  1. copies of any file (this includes the files on your computer)
  2. forms of media (cd-rom, flash drives, hard drives, remote servers)
  3. copy offsite (this could be remote servers or a drive you take to a friend/family member

The problem with so much that you hear is that it involves active participation by the user. I’d add another rule to this system.

  • at least part of the method should require no interaction or thought by the user after it’s been setup

If you have to remind yourself to backup, at some point you’ll forget.

Automatic, Baby

There are many services that provide just this sort of “set it and forget it” backup solution. I’m simply going to talk about Dropbox, because it’s what I’ve used on a regular basis. It does its job and then gets out of the way. In fact, there are people in my office who have been using Dropbox for several years without knowing it.

Getting Dropbox is as simple as going to dropbox.com and downloading the program. Once you’ve downloaded it and installed it, you can tell it to sync any folder that’s on your hard drive. Free accounts have a two gigabyte limit, but two gigs of text files is a paradise of space.

From then on you simply save in that folder and forget it.

You’re probably wondering if there are other reasons why I suggest dropbox. There are. Dropbox has an API that is extremely flexible. The result of this, for those of us who don’t care about APIs, is that it’s supported by all sorts of programs in the mobile space. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Android device, there are tons of programs out there that support Dropbox. As a result, you’ll be able to access your writing from anywhere with these devices.

So, with one simple install you’ve fulfilled at least three of the four backup criteria. If you backup to cd or flash drive on a semi-regular basic you’d fulfill them all.

Do it. You don’t want to lose it. We don’t want you to lose it. Whether you follow my advice or go in a completely different direction, show your writing that you love it. Care for it and protect it.

An Appendix on Control/Command-S

If you’re on the Mac and not on Lion, think about using an editor that saves every couple of keystrokes like Notational Velocity, NVAlt, Byword or many others. Backup doesn’t do much if you have to manually save every five minutes or use a slow auto-save parameter. Poetry people, you don’t want to lose even a single line. If you’re on Lion, think about using them anyway. Most of us don’t need to Swiss Army Knife to cut our steak. Just write.

Windows people, sorry, I have no solution for you.

  1. Some of you probably even use the tumblr web client as your writing environment. You mad, mad people. 

  2. Nothing that I’m writing is an original thought, it’s just a condensed statement of things I’ve learned from others over the years.