Last month while I was watching the ITV miniseries "Downton Abbey" (which is already available to "watch instantly" on NetFlix - unpd. advert.), it occurred to me that while communication methods have changed, or at least multiplied, we're not necessarily any better at tracking information now than we were then.
The first season (or "series," in Brit-speak) of "Downton Abbey" is set in England in 1912-1914, a time when electrical power still seemed strange and not necessarily useful, and the ring of a telephone was considered a hideous racket. Mrs. Patmore, the cook for the aristocratic Crawley family, was probably expected to produce hundreds of different dishes and had to organize her recipes somehow. Perhaps she had a commercial cookbook or two, but more likely she wrote her recipes in notebooks, or on note cards, or just scribbled them on slips of paper that were stored here and there. Surely there were times when she knew that the recipe she needed was somewhere in her collection, but had no idea where...in which notebook, or on which bit of paper, in which drawer? (Not that there weren't highly organized cooks serving in English manor houses in 1912, but I doubt Mrs. Patmore was that sort of cook.)
My company is dealing with the same sort of disorganization, just many times larger and in digital format. I know the developer and I discussed that bug sometime in the last few weeks...or was it a few months ago? Did we talk about it in person, or by phone? In an email? Did one of the techs create a trouble ticket in our CRM app? Did we document it in a Google Wave? Or did we write it up in a shared document, and if so, is that document on the hard drive of my desktop or my laptop, or on a network share, or out in the cloud? If somebody typed it up, I can at least search for it, but if I don't know where to start searching or some specific terms to search for, it's gonna take a while. I don't even remember which client reported the bug.
I probably deal with more bytes of data in an hour than Mrs. Patmore's real-life counterparts did in their whole lives, but some days it seems like that just makes me more efficient at losing stuff.