When I worked at Ameritech, I was the e-mail gatekeeper. Up until my job was invented, anyone could send e-mail to anyone else. And the problem was that everyone was sending e-mail to everyone else. We had something like 10,000 people working in maybe a hundred offices across five states. Someone in – say, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, would decide to e-mail out to “ALL” about a lost cat in the parking lot. Our CEO would e-mail everyone once a week about the state of the company and there would always be some suck-up who would “REPLY ALL” and tell everyone how much he valued the CEO’s take on… whatever.
Out in the field, the SME’s (Subject Matter Experts; working at Ameritech was probably a lot like NASA, acronyms everywhere) – didn’t have a lot of time to wade through e-mail. Unfortunately, lost cats and yes men got the same priority as messages that really had to go out to the field like “Don’t sell this product” or “We don’t accept this form of payment anymore”; things like that.
If you wanted to send an e-mail out to the field, you had to submit it to me – in writing. I had to forward it along to someone in some department somewhere. If it was approved, I typed it up in an e-mail and sent it out to the field.
I replaced a woman who had basically burned out. Doing everything on paper for the first few weeks, I could understand why. So, I sat down and wrote one of my first spreadsheets. When the spreadsheet got too big, I took some classes and wrote my first databases to manage the flow of the forms. My workload dropped dramatically and e-mails could now be turned around in 24 hours rather than 2 weeks. I even entered the PIA (Project Initiative Action, another acronym) request form on the mainframe. People would type their e-mails into the form and – once it was approved – all I had to do is cut and paste.
Now, the problem was that my job which used to take 40 – 50 hours a week to manage was taking me something like 20 minutes a day. Not good. I was busy paying off my college loans and saving up for my first new car. I learned a very valuable lesson when dealing with large corporations: if you aren’t busy, you need to appear busy.
So, I spent a respectable fraction of my day typing in my old stories and poems from high school. I entered all of my journal entries into Microsoft Word. I managed to pretty much enter all of my written words into the computer before Ameritech caught up with me and I was downsized. After that, I pretty much became a convert to word processing. I can type faster than I can write and it’s a whole lot more legible.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside to digital entry. There’s no physical backup.
That came to mind a couple of weeks ago when my “file server” computer at home lost its primary hard drive. While I don’t think I lost anything; right now, I can’t access a lot of my pictures, music and writing. So, I decided to set up a wiki site and post as much of my writing as I could lay my hands on. At first I thought I would post it on my blog here, but – frankly – I don’t think it would be a good fit. Still, if you are interested in seeing some of my fiction, poetry, even some newspaper articles, check out The Collected Works of Bob. I’ll add to it as I find more stuff. So far I’ve gone through my recent DVD backups and some of my CD’s going back to around 2000. Before that, I used ZIP disks and floppies. It’s debatable whether it would be easier to hook up a floppy or locate my ZIP drive or just run out and buy a new hard drive and reinstall Windows. Either way, the wiki site will probably grow by leaps and bounds over the next month or so. Stay tuned!