Stop the ecosystem, I want to get off

Ecosystems are starting to bug me.

I’m losing track of which of my stuff is where. Remember when apps were apps, and not cogs in some greater ecosystem? When all your data could be in one place? It was nice, wasn’t it? I miss that.

Today, my digital stuff is scattered all over the place. I have some movies and TV in Amazon’s cloud, and others in Apple’s. I have music collections with Apple, Google, Amazon, Rdio and Spotify, and have long lost track of what playlist I created where. I have all my ebooks and audiobooks on Amazon, except for the handful I have with Apple and the now woefully out of date un-DRMed backup in Calibre on Dropbox (or did I move that to Google Drive?). 

Speaking of which, my actual documents are an even bigger mess. I have blizzards of similar but slightly different collections in Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and Evernote. When I actually need something, I have no idea where to look. Or if the version I find is current.

And it’s not like I can just pick one and stick with it. Thanks to the miracle of cloud storage, everyone wants to silo my data, segregating it where they can control it. My artwork lives in Adobe’s Creative Cloud (unless I didn’t create it in Photoshop). My Word documents have to be on OneDrive, or I can’t edit them on my iPad or my Chromebook (neither the web nor iOS Office apps support keeping your files in Dropbox).

This makes the file format confusion of two decades ago look quaint by comparison. At least .doc files and .jpg files could live in the same folder if they were related to the same project. Now not only are things tied to the app that created them, but they’re physically segregated to the apps, or ecosystems, that own them. Because under this model, you the user damn sure don’t own them. 

Don’t get me wrong. I get a lot more done now with my iPhone than I did 20 years ago with a DayTimer. But I miss knowing where my data was.