Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

watch overshare: the story contact me

May 2014 Archives

A Long-term Personal Digital Archive Strategy

Recently I read with horror as Ben Brown posted on Twitter about a burglary in March 2014 - gigabytes of personal photographs were stolen with a computer hard drive from his home:

As I felt terrible for Ben, I realized I was in a similar boat. All my personal digital memories are in my home. I have too many gigabytes to store in the cloud. Working with video, I now have many terabytes of storage here for my memories. Someone who broke into my house would sell my hard drives for spare parts and the contents would be lost to me.

So, spurred on by Ben's sad story, I began asking around for people's backup strategies. During a visit to the Internet Archive, just before I interviewed Richard Stallman, I complained to John Gilmore than I had too much data to backup in the cloud. Gilmore suggested I get a harddrive, fill it up and mail it to my parents.

Howard RheingoldTwas a brilliant low-tech suggestion: I bought a big hard drive, copied all my personal digital assets on to it and shipped it to Chicago - about a five hour plane flight away. If the entire United States is rapidly overtaken by a government of totalitarian infophobes seizing our bits at taserpoint, I'll be hosed. But if there's a California earthquake, fire or burglary and I survived without my immediate computers, I'll at least have copies of my photograph of Howard Rheingold in his citrus fruits shirt.

For about two years I've been slowly emptying a storage space I had in San Francisco: scanning old personal video tapes, papers, photos, DVDs, EZ Drive disks and hard drives. You can see some of the results in my "Justin Hall appearing elsewhere" YouTube feed. I realized that old data is fragile and very small relative to today's data. It's only getting more expensive to rescue old files from old drives. And I don't have a job. And I'm making a documentary about my life, which is sorta what I've been doing for 20+ years anyhow. So now is a good time to preserve my datas.

After a brief bit of research, I purchased the "WD My Book 4 TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive with Backup" for $160 from Amazon, and saved the box it came in to remail it.

Spring 2014, I spent a few weeks consolidating my photos, videos, school papers, personal scanned documents, email backups, web site backups, old laptop dumps, archives from my company GameLayers - whatever I could get my hands on, to copy onto the drive. Then I shipped it yesterday! In a few months, I'll buy a second drive, fill that up, and swap it with the first drive each time I travel to Chicago.

Now there's a copy of all my personal data on a hard drive labelled "continuance" that should soon be collecting dust far away; thusly I spent many hours and $160 + $19 shipping for peace of mind.

I still need to figure out what I expect anyone to do with my data when I die; I can pretend I have some measure of preference and control over that while I'm alive.

Just In Berlin

I had a free plane ticket to Europe and some free time; I decided to visit Berlin Germany for my first time. I was attracted to Berlin because of all the creative folks I know moving or visiting there. When I arrived I was stunned at how hard the tragic history of the place affected me.

Here's a short video about the trip:

YouTube: Just In Berlin

Featuring interviews with Doris Steinbichler, Gabriel Shalom, João Paglione and Felix Petersen. Plus footage from a performance by Urnamo Ali at Savvy Contemporary and time well spent at Holzmarkt 25.

I attended Sunday services at Berliner Dom which features English translations. I was rejected from the infamous dance club Berghain, and spent much time at the Topography of Terror and German Historical Museum.

Huge thanks to João Paglione and Der Magnetmann for hosting me! I met João years ago through Flickr where I enjoyed his lively cheerful presence. We established communications and Berlin was the first time we met. I was grateful they could put me up.

Behind the Scenes

I filmed all of this with my mobile phone (iPhone 5s) and a cheap lavalier microphone. I used an inexpensive mobile phone tripod to film myself talking out in front of the Topography of Terror museum; that was an intense half an hour - riffing on horror and humanity and my travels as people wandered around nearby.

I used Motion to make a "lower thirds" title template that I could edit-once and change across all the text in the video. For the background, I used cobblestones I filmed abroad, slowed down and color-tweaked.

I finally learned how to reattach clips elsewhere in the timeline of Final Cut Pro X - command+option click where you want it; so easy I never knew.

Plus I learned how to export frames as images from FCPx, thanks to Larry Jordan.

My Video Publishing Future

So my skills are improving, I've got more polish at my reach plus an evolved sense of how to capture useful source material. In the last eleven months I've learned about green screens, color correcting, audio balancing, lower thirds, motion graphics, sourcing content from the web, the importance of soundtracks, uploading and sharing video in 2014. It's a lot to learn! It's been fun to motivate and publish myself in regular videos.

Your sponsorship on Patreon is fantastic - I'm grateful to the people there who support my videos, and the money is motivating. Having patrons makes me want to make sure I produce something worthy of your dollars, so that has me combing over one video to polish it, and not cranking 'em out the way I did late last year.

Sometimes I debate publishing less-polished videos more often - informal riffing, maybe like I used to do when I filled web pages with free verse poems each night. For now I'm enjoying the craft of prioritizing a single story for a spell.

I aspired to one video per week; I'm now averaging more like 2 per month. May 2014 I will probably only publish this video, Just In Berlin!

In the next few months, I'll be returning to the 20 Links project - making a short film about my time on the web. I look forward to more video sharing with you here! Just maybe not as often as I have been producing. Based on how much time I spend making a 6 minute video I like, polishing up a 20-40 minute video could take a good while.


Thanks Steve Rhodes - from @tigerbeat on Instagram
June 2012 dancing in the streets of San Francisco with Ilyse Magy, photo thanks Steve Rhodes on instagram!

Hi, I'm Justin Hall and this here is a personal web site I've used to chronicle my time on earth since 1994. The content on the front page is relatively recent; if you search through the archives, you'll find old pieces of Justin. Some folks have indexed my doings on Wikipedia.

Twitter: jah
Facebook: Justinreach

eBooks by Justin Hall

I've published books for sale, somewhere else online! Behold:

Now available for the Kindle: A Story of GameLayers. My experience being CEO of a tech company, 2007-2009:

"A tell-all story of a startup from the very beginning, with lots of info about real-world fundraising. A more intimate look than you'll find in other business reads." says Irene Polnyi in a 5-star review on

A Story of GameLayers, for the Amazon Kindle.