Accidentally Deleting Everything

The first time I experienced someone accidentally wiped out a full set of data was on an IBM PC with a Tallgrass  Hard Drive and Tape Backup. I was at PetCom Systems, my first real job. It was a Friday evening and I was the only person around. The phone rang and I answered it, “PetCom Systems, how can I help you?” It was a user from somewhere who was trying to back up for the weekend and didn’t know what to do next. I asked her what she had done. She walked me through what was on her screen, which basically said “Are you sure you want to delete all the files on your disk.” She had already pressed Enter in a panic, it had finished whatever it was trying to do, and her PetCom software (and nothing else) worked anymore. She had somehow, from within Tallgrass, wiped out all the files (except for DOS) on her drive when she was trying to make a backup.

I told her what I thought had happened. I was 17. She cried. She told me her boss was going to fire her when he found out. She cried some more. I tried to say something soothing but I didn’t really know what to say. She eventually stopped crying, told me thanks for trying to help (I think she knew I was 17) and we said goodbye.

I went into the bathroom and threw up.

Since that time, I’ve typed some version of del *.* and answered Y more times than I’d like to think. I became good friends with Norton Unerase. After deleting the wrong directory a few times in the mid 1980s, I started always typing the full path name when I wanted to delete a directory. After doing this wrong a few more times and having MS-DOS eat files I wanted, I started making a backup before I deleted a directory. At some point I became pretty paranoid about backups.

And then I got casual again. About five years ago I decided I didn’t really care about any of the data that I had and if it all went away, I’d be fine with that. Fortunately, I’m not responsible for any data at work so I can’t really do any harm there. The only data that really matters to Amy are her photos so I’m extra careful with them (and have plenty of backups).

As I started down the Great Photo Organization of 2016, I made a backup. Yay. As I fell in love with Mylio, I gave myself the illusion that it was backing things up correctly because of its “Protection” approach.

Early yesterday morning, I set up Mylio on Amy’s computer, feeling ready to get her rolling with it now that I had organized 22k+ photos and was very happy with them. I installed Mylio, set it up, pointed it at the photo directory, and hit Enter. It did something different than I thought it would (and that it had done when I added on my second computer – or at least I think it was different.)

I then tried to set it up correctly again, the way I wanted. It created a second photos folder in Amy’s instance of Mylio and started adding all the photos to the library again, doubling the photo count. I highlighted the first folder in Mylio that I had set up and hit delete. I told it to only delete from this local computer. However, I’d pointed it at the Dropbox file share of our photos.

Two minutes later as one folder was counting up and the other was counting down, I realized I’d fucked myself. My heart rate and blood pressure went up and a giant “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” emerged from my lips.

It took me about ten minutes figure out what state things were really in and how bad it was. I knew I had a backup pre-organizing folders, so my worst case was that I lost four hours of moving files around from folder to folder. Mylio grinded away for about 30 minutes synchronizing all machines to the same state, which was one where there were no photos anywhere.

Amy said soothing words to me during this stretch of time. She had only asked me 351 times the previous few days if all her photos would be ok, so I put her behavior in the heroic category. Heroic calmness. “I feel bad for Brad” was soothing said by her, instead of “You fucking asshole – you deleted all our photos!” which would have been appropriate for her to say.

After everything settled down, I went into Dropbox, clicked on Deleted Files, and clicked on Restore next to the folder that said “Photos.” Dropbox is happily doing its thing, giving me back the four hours I might have lost.

Dropbox wins today. You get huge karma points for saving my bacon without me really deserving it. Thank you.

Mylio – you need to clean up a little of the UX around Dropbox.

Brad, ok, you’ve blown it once – be more careful now.