Archiva Digitalis LLC

Tuesday 6 April was my one-year anniversary of working at a very large company. To celebrate I incorporated a side project: Archiva Digitalis LLC 1.

I spend a lot of time organizing my photos. I want them to live forever. I worry about them. I see two problems — two sides of the same coin. On one side, I have a box of physical photos. It is a limited number of photos, but they are just sitting in a pile in a box. On the other side, I have an enormous amount of digital photos, also in a pile in a box (my hard drive).

I consider this the same coin because, in either case, these photos mean absolutely nothing to anyone else but me, therefore they could easily be destroyed due to irrelevance and neglect. The physical photos will die from abuse or will be thrown away by someone who doesn’t understand them. The digital photos will die because there are just too many — who will take the hours to cull the good from the bad when it takes only seconds to dump them all? — or because they are not stored properly.

Also, who are the people in the photos? What are the events? Where were they taken? What is the significance? All of those things exist in my brain only. Yet I see them as representing a piece, even if it is a small one, of our culture. It is a snapshot of how things were where I was when I was there. How do you pass that significance to other people? How do you keep that significance alive for generations you won’t be alive to explain it to?

Archiva Digitalis was a project in the back of my mind to take care of this problem.

Archiva Digitalis is a service for duplicating, preserving, and archiving photos. You could probably do some of that at Walmart, but I’m thinking of this as a high end service. I want to talk to people and institutions with legacies to preserve. I want to talk to clients who are as serious as me about making their images — and their associated context — last forever.

Part of the problem is physical. Part is digital. I think the digital part is harder because the life of these digital images is uncertain. How do you keep them ahead of the wave of obsolescence? How do you ensure that the context of the image isn’t lost?

My first client was the Sharmas. It was a trade: I got to practice and improve my techniques and processes, they got their photos duplicated and preserved. Win-win.

I was in no hurry when I started, though. Then I read “Everyone’s model of work is a job” by Seth Godin. In it he links to an essay he wrote for Change This called “Brainwashed: Seven Ways to Reinvent Yourself.” The key point I took from that was his emphasis on shipping, i.e. stop being afraid and start getting the product out the door.

If you can get something out the door while your competitors cringe in fear, you win. If you’re the team member that makes things happen, you become indispensable. If you and your organization are the ones (the only ones) that can get things done, close the sale, ship the product and make a difference, you’re the linchpins–the ones we can’t live without.

Shipping is difficult because of the lizard brain. The resistance doesn’t want you to ship, because if you ship, you might fail. If you ship, we might laugh at you. If you ship, you may be held accountable for the decisions you made.

Then I went to the “Starting an LLC” Workshop on 30 March at Babson College. The key point I took from that was that the only thing that matters is doing. You must get out and work on the product, find customers, sell sell sell, etc. You can’t do anything by thinking about doing it — you have to do it.

So, when the archival materials I ordered came in last Friday, I tossed all of my plans for the weekend and finished archiving and preserving the Sharmas’ photos. And I shipped them on Monday. It felt good.

Then I incorporated on Tuesday. I had been delaying this for months knowing that once I got started, I wouldn’t know where I would go from there or where I would stop. Now I welcome that uncertainty.

Shipping the Sharma family photos

That leads me to: what’s next? The next step is: find the next customer. How? I don’t know yet. I live, literally, in a museum, so I’m going to go knock on their door.

Tangentially, this morning I read the following in an interview of Arthur van Hoff in Founders at Work:

Over the years, I’ve learned that the first idea you have is irrelevant. It’s just a catalyst for you to get started. Then you figure out what’s wrong with it and you go through phases of denial, panic, regret. And then you finally have a better idea and the second idea is always the important one.

I welcome that. I have no clue where this leads. It’s just a beginning, but now it’s business. Bring on the evolution of ideas.


1 That’s Dog Latin for “digital archive.”

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