Chusid Associates De-Filed

When, recently, our storage room was defiled by water from a ruptured pipe, I decided it was time to de-file Chusid Associates of as many paper-based documents as I could. This process has helped me measure how far and fast our industry has come in the shift to digital media.  Here are some of my observations:

With each passing year, our hardcopy project files have gotten slimmer. Most of the communications and notes for recent projects are online, without a tangible paper trail.

Just four years ago, we conducted a major investigation that produced two file cabinet drawers full of correspondence. The project manager had built an impeccable written record of every phone call, every transmittal, and every document revision, all neatly organized and cross referenced. I have retained the final reports, but recycled the rest of the files. It occurs to me that I may never see such a large, paper-based project again.

I recycled almost all paper-based product literature, technical documents, industry standards, and other material. It is just easier to get the material online now, and I assume that paper-based documents more than a few years old are out of date in our rapidly moving industry. This is quite a change from the training I got as a specifier. Before fax and overnight delivery, specifiers needed a well stocked library at their fingertips. I used to spend countless hours as office librarian keeping our precious technical resources organized and accessible.

There are concerns about de-filing. I was able to find, read, and understand 30-year old memos that were still in my file cabinets.  But I can not find many digital assets from just a few years ago, and no longer have the programs necessary to open and read them.  Heck - I don't even have a computer that with a floppy disk drive anymore, so the box of old project records I have in that format is useless (even if they haven't been demagnetized).

Some things are worth saving. While Sweet's catalogs are about to become an extinct species, I still keep several old sets in my office that go back three decades. They remain valuable resources to help understand the evolution of product technologies and markets. (I was even able to help a client win a patent infringement case. The old catalogs proved the patent claims were not enforceable as the product had been in use prior to the patent's filing.)  In the future, where will we be able to find information about how they "used to build back in 2010?"

There are other things I haven't thrown away either. For example, I have kept a file drawer of articles that I have been accumulating since college -- full of clippings that remind me of who I am, and who I want to be. Articles or reports that have inspired me, or made me rethink assumptions. Items like this, I want to be able to take out from time to time, fold back the yellowing paper, and read again. Some make me remember. Some make me think. Each time I read them, I learn more from them. The papers have become my friends.