Let's start with a confession; I use a paper diary. In fact I am one of the few I know who still use a Filofax.
Recently I got embroiled in a conversation with a colleague who eschews anything paper and has made his entire life electronic. His notes, diary and reminders are all electronic. His shopping lists, holiday plans and finances are all completed online and stored in the cloud. Just getting this person to use a sticky note on his desk is something of a challenge; they prefer a clear desk and a clean working environment.
The simple truth is that although I work in a Digital Agency I still love paper.
We tried a simple experiment to try and see whether there was any logic in me continuing to use my diary or if I should move to a fully integrated and synched electronic diary. We both tried to make an appointment for a week on Thursday. It took me around two seconds to get my diary out, open the correct page and be ready with my pencil to write in the details. Thirty seconds later we were still waiting for his phone to get to the right date. In fact in all the years I've been doing this same experiment no one has been able to make an appointment quicker with an electronic device.
Now having said that I totally accept the argument that the phone can be with you in places a Filofax can't, and that it will remind you before the meeting that you are due in a certain place at a certain time and that it can be shared with a group of colleagues in a way that a paper diary cannot. But here's a question; can your phone tell you what you were doing on October 3rd 2002? Somehow I doubt it. My old diaries can.
And here's the rub; in moving into an electronic environment what legacy are we leaving for future generations?
Today we are able to pick up letters sent from soldiers in the Boer War and with some careful research reveal the issues of the times and the hopes, fears and dreams of the people involved. People collect old letters; they collect stamps, manuscripts and historic papers. Some of the most valuable items in the British Museum are written or printed on paper.
Where I struggle is seeing anyone in the future researching our current digital age. We leave no trace of our movements, have no diaries and despite the phenomenal amount of data available online there is no guarantee that it will remain there for all time. In fact websites I remember from the late 1990's have disappeared leaving no trace at all. Most of our mail no longer has stamps on it and much of it is uncancelled so we have no ideas when it was posted. Future historians will have a devil of a job trying to sort through this raw data.
So whilst I continue to maintain my diary is 'retro' and my colleague thinks I'm a Luddite, I'm secure in the knowledge that in the future people will be able to make that judgment for themselves about my life, but there won't be the faintest trace of his movements.