Chillin’ with CHI Attendees

April 10, 2009
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I didn’t get to actually attend CHI this year, but I was fortunate to be able to hang out with attendees during the receptions on Wednesday evening. There was a respectable HCIR representation there, plus I was able to meet folks with whom I’d only corresponded on Twitter. In fact, I was even introduced as “that Noisy Channel guy”. I blog, therefore I am.

I also had a fun dinner conversation that I’ll relate here. None of my fellow diners signed a blogging release form, but the topic is fair game, and I’ll try to reconstruct the thread.

Our starting point was a professor who was relocating and debating whether to keep his papers or throw them. One person–we’ll call him the preservationist–argued in favor of keeping the papers. I–whom we can call the freeloader–advocated throwing the papers, on the grounds that they’d all be available online, and thus easily replaced on demand.

The question arose of what would happen if there weren’t enough preservationists ensuring that freeloaders could depend on the availability of replacement copies. I argued that my position reflected rational self-interest–but

I didn’t get to actually attend CHI this year, but I was fortunate to be able to hang out with attendees during the receptions on Wednesday evening. There was a respectable HCIR representation there, plus I was able to meet folks with whom I’d only corresponded on Twitter. In fact, I was even introduced as “that Noisy Channel guy”. I blog, therefore I am.

I also had a fun dinner conversation that I’ll relate here. None of my fellow diners signed a blogging release form, but the topic is fair game, and I’ll try to reconstruct the thread.

Our starting point was a professor who was relocating and debating whether to keep his papers or throw them. One person–we’ll call him the preservationist–argued in favor of keeping the papers. I–whom we can call the freeloader–advocated throwing the papers, on the grounds that they’d all be available online, and thus easily replaced on demand.

The question arose of what would happen if there weren’t enough preservationists ensuring that freeloaders could depend on the availability of replacement copies. I argued that my position reflected rational self-interest–but that suggests that the need to preserve knowledge can become a tragedy of the commons.

I’m an extreme freeloader, in the sense that I prefer to not keep any copies–analog or digital–of information I know I can obtain for free or at a minimal price. Are people like me setting us up for another cataclysmic event like the  destruction of the Library of Alexandria? I think that the burden of preservation should be resolved by some kind of distributed peer-to-peer storage, but I concede the practical challenges are non-trivial.

In any cae, I enjoyed good food and drink, great company, and entertaining conversation. As always, I entrust its preservation to the cloud.

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