On Wednesday I made a huge mistake.

I set up a Gmail filter to send certain spam emails directly to the trash, but in the “Sender” field mistakenly entered in my own email. After selecting “Apply to all matching conversations” and emptying the trash, that, as they say, was that. 17,000 of my Gmail emails were deleted forever.

Every email conversation I’ve had for the past 10 years is gone (what’s left are incoming mails to which I never responded.)

For 48 hours I’ve begged Google to restore them from their backups, but my pleas have been met with silence. So I’m jumping straight from denial to acceptance.

It’s not quite as devastating as it could be, because in the past year or two I established some work habits that mitigated the problem:

  • Work logs. When I wanted to check when I last upgraded a hard drive, I found myself endlessly searching for email receipts from MacMall. So I started a work diary: Touch any piece of gear in the studio, and it gets logged in a Google Doc. I do the same for home / life stuff as well – fixing a ceiling fan, getting new tires, etc.
  • Contact Management. I use Insightly to track projects and opportunities. You can forward key project-related emails  to an Insightly email address, and they go into your database and automatically link to your contacts and projects. That’s handy when a co-producer you only met once 2 years ago gets in touch.
  • Document Storage. Any important attachment I download to on my local drive, which is backed up to Time Machine and then off-site on Amazon Glacier. In each of my project folders, right alongside “Audio Files”, “Mixes”, and “Orchestration” will be folders like “Legal” and “Expenses”.

What I didn’t do, and should have, was use Apple Mail to download a copy of all my email to my local machine. Even 10 years of email only uses around 5GB. The reason I didn’t? Apple Mail was slow and had a tendency to autolaunch and take over the machine.

This mini-fiasco also revealed that I, like most people, tend to normalize risk. I’d gone 10 years without ever losing an email, so why put up with Apple Mail to back it up? As it turns out, when you lose data in The Cloud, it’s just as lost as work on your local drive.

I’ll try to treat the loss as a good thing, like the artist Michael Landy who destroyed all his possessions at his art gallery exhibition Break Down. A fresh start!

UPDATE: It appears the Gmail restore process is automated, and the system was waiting for me to change my password. *Whew* I’ll set up Apple Mail as a backup for when this happens again in 2025.

Arrested Development – “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake”

“Break Down” by Michael Landry

Posted 3 years ago by John Piscitello

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