The Cloud’s My-Mom-Cleaned-My-Room Problem

Alexis Madrigal uses an astute metaphor for the problems with our computing lives moving towards the cloud:

When your mom cleans your room, it’s a mixed bag.The clothes are in the drawers and the papers are straight, but you can’t find anything and there is the distinct possibility that she found out whatever illegal (or at least immoral) material you had stashed away under the mattress.

This is not a short reflection on my childhood (neither of my parents was the room-cleaning type) but a metaphor for the set of web services we call the cloud. We all know the feeling of logging into Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Netflix/Pandora/Gmail and realizing that the interface has changed. Maybe the company’s internal testing says the new interface is better organized, but dang — we’d gotten used to the last one and we liked it. “New Twitter? But I liked Old Twitter!” we cry.

We’ve always been dependent on software providers to create the digital spaces we inhabit, but when your email and documents and music are in the cloud, you’re giving up the lock on the door and allowing changes to be made on the schedule of the parent. He or she may clean up or buy you a new desk. He or she may take away the car or decide you can’t do something you think you should be able to.

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