You may not have heard of Dr. James Hiram Bedford. He was a psychology professor at the University of California who died in 1967. What makes Dr. Bedford remarkable is the fact that he was the first person ever to be cryopreserved after his death. Apparently, Bedford’s body was frozen soon after his death of natural causes, and remains in that state as of today, more than 50 years later. No one knows exactly how many people have undergone this slightly bizarre procedure, but the Cryonics Institute reports 174 “patients” as of March 2019 (as well as 168 pets!).
Bedford may have been the first to be cryonically preserved, but you couldn’t say that he is the most famous. That honor, I’m sure, goes to Major League Baseball player and Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams. In his will, Williams stated that he wished to be cremated and have his remains scattered in the Florida Keys, which doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the rest of eternity. However his son John-Henry (whose own body has subsequently been cryopreserved) had other ideas, and had his father’s body preserved. When other members of the family contested his actions in court, John-Henry produced a “family pact” scribbled on the back of a napkin and signed by his father, and the case was dropped.
The purpose of cryopreserving humans is, of course, in the hope and expectation that one day, it will become possible to revive these people and bring them back to life. Whatever your view of the ethics of this process, I suppose you have to admire the optimism of the people who put themselves forward for the post-mortem treatment.
Cryopreservation, of course, is not necessarily just for the recently deceased. Any self respecting sci-fi fan will be familiar with the concept of cryosleep: it’s the technology that allows the crew of the Nostromo to make the long journey between Earth and Thedus, or the Discovery to make it to Jupiter and back.
Cryosleep, of course, is a bit trickier than cryopreservation, because you have to actually keep the person alive, in some sort of suspended animation. But although it hasn’t actually been invented yet, that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t working on it. How else are we going to colonize Mars?
So what does any of that have to do with your Notes and Domino applications? I’ve written before about the idea that technology platforms are often chosen, and even replaced, based on fashion rather than technical merit. Whenever an application or database technology is switched out, it brings up the issue of what you do with the data.
Let’s say you’re moving from a Notes-based CRM system to some off the shelf system, say Salesforce. In an ideal world, you’d be able to export all your Notes data straight out to Salesforce, and maintain perfect data integrity. The data structures would all map perfectly from one system to another. Date formats, currencies, file attachments, rich text… everything would be perfectly represented in the new system.
What usually ends up happening is that a core subset of the data from the old system is downloaded into some intermediate format, CSV files typically, and then uploaded into the new system. There follows a number of weeks of frantic, mostly manual activity, correcting things that are wrong and retyping or copying and pasting things that are missing. At some point you reach a usable subset of data in the new system, while the old system is archived in a read-only format that allows it to be searched and displayed by end users.
This latter part of the process, archiving the data in a format that is directly usable by end users, is what Teamstudio Export does. It creates a stand-alone HTML site that includes all the views in the source database. The views can be sorted and searched, and the data in each document can be opened up and read in a user-friendly format, including rich text and file attachments. And the whole thing is represented in static files; not even a web server is needed. So you can keep a version of your databases in a format that can be read and searched by users, with no ongoing costs, no database server, no application server, no web server needed.
But there’s more. The other thing that Export does is to create a complete archive of the entire database, including the database design, in XML format. Everything you need to recreate the Notes database is in the XML archive, so you could, in theory, extract all of the data into any format. In fact, we use the XML archive to generate the HTML representation.
And so the XML archive that Export produces is a bit like cryosleeping your Notes databases. You can store them in a state of suspended animation, for decades if necessary, in a form that can be reconstituted into pretty much any database system that exists in the future, even one that doesn’t exist yet.
You may not be planning to cryopreserve your own body after your death, and you’re probably not planning a trip to Mars any time soon. But you may well be planning to replace your IBM Notes and Domino databases with some other system. In which case you should certainly consider cryopreserving your data so that it can be searched, sorted and potentially revived into any other database system in the future. To learn more about Teamstudio Export, click below.