Filing and the paperless office

Posted on May 6, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Filing and the paperless office

Photo Copyright FFI

Photo Copyright FFI

Filing is awfully grown up, isn’t it. Every little document in its own assigned place so that, within a minute or two, you triumphantly retrieve what one was looking for, read it through and then say ‘….I told you so’ (or words to that effect) or, alternatively, stage a strategic withdrawal where you discover memory played a trick.

My own filing system – which has generally worked rather well for many years – has been generally based on X centimetres down and Y centimetres to the left (or right) with some leeway for Leap Years and having moved house a couple of times.

Admittedly, filing has become a bit more complex given the tiger team has been out and about in Kerinci Seblat National Park since May 2000 so that the basic filing model has become more like 1.5m down and 75cm to on the right and I already had to move the executive (where I sit) office into the spare bedroom because the actual office a bit full of things one does not want to throw away. Yet.

But we have moved into the New Age, nowadays I hear that many people store stuff in Clouds (nothing to do with meteorology apparently) or, in our case on CDs or external hard drives and so things had actually been stabilising in terms of space and I even dared hope I might not need to move to a larger house for filing purposes.

And then, last week, buoyed by technology (and a glass or three of optimism) I prepared to start reviewing tiger conservation results in (and around) Kerinci Seblat National Park for a meeting next week with other tiger conservation teams in Sumatra to discuss progress in addressing key issues under the Sumatra Tiger Conservation Strategy and Action Plan.

That was when it was discovered that an External hard drive used to receive the contents of a laptop following an unfortunate incident involving a coffee and an overturned occasional table was and as a back up for other reports was, hmmm, dead. Defunct.

Never mind!! (well the words were, I have to admit, a little more trenchant and Anglo-Saxon) – there are all my back up CDs.

Hmm. It transpires that the same applies. Hundreds – well, actually, thousands – of carefully backed up files from ‘late’ laptops that have met wine glasses, floors, vicious viruses or reformatting (most recently thanks to Mr Microsoft abandoning Windows XP) appear to have entered some kind of cyber history. The files apparently irretrievable.

And so, back to the Stacks and history. About 25 cms down, two piles to the right of where my laptop used to be)…hmm… a folder of patrol reports from 2008…..One pile to right again (but on the floor which is now mainly but not entirely full) and 10cms down, a folder of long lost – sorry – misplaced – topographic maps, some containing unprintable annotations by a former TPCU leader concerning the accuracy of said maps ‘met *****cliffs’, ‘more cliffs’ and then in capital letters ‘TEMBAKKKKKKK TEBING LAGI….translating as SHOOT HIM! MORE CLIFFS’ . Manual typewriter notes on a human-tiger conflict recorded in 2002…and an early briefing for the national park showing how the basic design of the tiger team and its main priorities have changed little since ..gosh.. 2001.

Fascinating original investigation reports, most hand written by the TPCU investigator.  One of these (from 2007) has now been put on the 2015 Action table (in the sitting room) as it seems to relate to an investigation now active. Electricity bills from 2002, telephone bills from 2006 and invoices showing how much a hotel room cost in Padang in 2001, a rice supper in Jakarta in 2003 and more.

And photographs. Camera trapping pictures from the late 90s, photographs of forests adjoining the national park that are now memories only due to the advent of palm oil or coffee, a photograph of a mysterious owl – is it Stresman’s scops last recorded in the early 1900s? A melanistic Golden cat, the first such image ever made in Sumatra and a fuzzy non-feline butt disappearing into the distance which is still the only photograph of a Sumatran rhino in Kerinc Seblat and Sumatran tigers from our camera trapping days in the mid-late 1990s when five or six camera traps was Huge and the science that now underpins tiger monitoring and density inventories using camera trapping had not yet been developed….

But as to what I was looking for, I fear it is lost forever and so, from central Sumatra a word of caution to you all in the hot heartlands of technology. It appears that there might be some disadvantages to the paperless office and so, for me, I am watching my neighbour’s large duck whose wings quills have, I cannot help but think, have the makings of a rather good pen….then, of course, have only to look for ink. Octopus? Hmmm


Debbie Martyr is Fauna and Flora International Programme Manager working with the Kerinci Seblat National Park Authority.

Read about the project which has been supported by 21st Century Tiger since 2000.