June 24, 2007

A correction about digmypics

Loyal readers, I need to make a correction. I got this email last week:

Hi Sally,

I found your blog. It’s great, but it makes a comment that my company sends our customer’s photos overseas. While its true that some companies do that, we aren’t one of them. We do all of the work right here in mesa, AZ. Would you mind making the correction?

Scott Crossen

I said I would be happy to print a correction, and asked Scott my Big Question: How do you keep prices under 50 cents per scan?

Here is Scott's reply: We've invented and developed a lot of software processes to maximize our productivity on things like CD burning and tracking and managing orders but the fact remains we do a lot of work for the 30 to 50 cents we collect on each image. We don't believe that asking a customer to allow us to send their photos overseas is an option and our customers agree with us on that. The risk just doesn't justify any reward. I understand that having a service scan all of your photos can get pricey, but having them sent to China or India? It might make good business sense but lacks good common sense. If you like, you can put a link to our video that shows the process and a link to our home page.

Done and done, Scott.

The video took a really long time to download, but I waited it out because I'm not going to publish a link to something I haven't watched. YouTube would have been much less annoying.

Update: Scott provided me with a link to the streaming version of the video. That way, you don't have to download the whole thing to your computer. Watch the streaming version here.

I was impressed by their system for preventing photo orders from getting swapped accidentally, but not as impressed as I was by the white gloves. Yay! I also vowed to get myself a lab coat if I ever make my own videos.
Personally, I'm too squeamish to send original items through the mail -- even if it's only going as far as Arizona. If you're cool with it (and most people are, including my own dad) then digmypics seems like a fine choice.

Have you hired someone to scan your photographs? Would you recommend them to a friend? Leave a comment and share your experiences, good or bad.

June 18, 2007

What to keep? What to toss?

There's an interesting article in the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel called: "What to Keep, What to Throw Away? Think Carefully About What’s Really Important Before You Make a Decision."

Read it soon while it's still free:

Here's an excerpt from author Cindy Larson:

Like many other baby boomers, I suspect, my house is overflowing with boxes of papers, photos and mementos from my parents, who are both deceased. Add to that the stuff I’ve saved from my own marriage and children, and the result is an unorganized mess of boxes in our spare room.

I didn’t have a clue as to what to keep and what to pitch. What was truly a memento, and what was just clutter? What would be valuable or meaningful to my children and possibly, some day, their children?

Here are my comments on the article...

Purging. There is no magic formula for deciding what to keep. At least not one that works for everyone. You have to make some hard decisions, it's true. But making no decisions at all and keeping everything instead is just delaying the problem. Please don't leave the mess for your kids. The bigger the mess, the more tempted future generations will be to just toss it all.

The News-Sentinel article described an interesting sorting system just for sentimental items. Harriet Schechter advises clients to create 4 piles: Happy/Sad/Good/Bad. Seems like it could be super helpful. If you've used this method, please let me know by leaving a comment. Good or bad, I wanna hear it.

Preservation. As for the archival advice, it's not too bad. The article emphasizes the importance of stable temperature and humidity for long term survival of paper memorabilia. That's dead accurate. It also says that paper storage containers are better than plastic, which doesn't "breathe." I agree with that advice. Plus you have no idea how safe that plastic is, unless it's passed the Photographic Activity Test or PAT. But...

Boxes. I would add that the type of box you choose is important. Don't forget the sniff test -- if it stinks, don't put anything valuable in it. Unfortunately, that rules out most of the pretty looking shoebox-style boxes. Between the paper and the glue used to adhere it, you're looking at some awfully scary chemicals. Your best bet is to stick with an archival supplier like Metal Edge or Gaylord or Light Impressions. Thos metal edges are not just for strength -- they also make it possible to construct the box without using any adhesives.

Email. The article claims that letters are slowly being replaced by e-mail, and you should "consider saving at least some of your newsier e-mails." I would argue that this shift occurred years ago. And let's not forget that digital is more permanent than a sand painting, but not much else. The easiest solution is to just print out your most important correspondence. Not everything, of course. Then you end up with the same problem of too much paper.

Best advice in the article. I'm all for purging, but remember that there might be someone in your family who wants what you're about to toss. The older the stuff, the more important this becomes. Family historians are often the family archivist as well, so why not call up the genealogists in your family?

Related posts from The Practical Archivist:

[Double tip of the hat to Randy at GeneaMusings and Meagan at RootsTV]

June 09, 2007

Flash drives are NOT for long term storage

A while back, I took a first stab at answering a reader's question about flash drives. He wanted to know if they were safe for long term storage. Here's what I said (cue time machine music):


I got an email from a new subscriber to my newsletter. He was asking me to update my free-with-subscription bonus e-book about how to safely scan family photos. He wanted me to include the option of storing digital photographs on USB flash drives.

Will I make that change? That depends on the answer to some important questions:

  • How long can we expect USB-powered flash drives to last?
  • How soon will they become obsolete?
  • How do these numbers compare to CDs? To hard drives?
Do I have an answer?

Nope. Not yet.


By way of answer, below is an unedited post from 24/7 Family History Circle, a wonderful Web 2.0 resource from Ancestry.com.

Flash Drive Caveat

I’m an IT director. When we hand out flash drives (which we hand out like candy), we have a little “talk” that goes with them. It goes like this:

“Flash drives are very handy for carrying files from place to place and computer to computer. However, they are relatively volatile storage, so you should never consider them a primary backup for your files. They fail much, much, much more quickly than CDs or hard drives.”

Back up your files on CDs or hard drives. Check them after you back up to make sure the backup works. Check them once in a while to make sure they are still working. Every few years, transfer them to a new CD or hard drive. How many years depends on the conditions in which they are stored. If you have air conditioning, low humidity, and clean air, they will probably last longer than they will in a more humid or dusty environment.

Rae Williams

Wise words from the field. Flash drives are a convenient way to carry files around with you, but they are not for long term storage. Thanks, Rae!

Source: 24/7 Family History Circle