A piece on NPR reminded me to post about something that I have thought about more than a few time. The piece is called "After Death, Protecting Your 'Digital Afterlife'"
Chances are good that you have hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails stored on remote servers or in your computer. You might have a Facebook page, or a Tumblr or Twitter account. And you might have countless photos in a Flickr album. All that information amounts to a digital profile of sorts, which raises an interesting question: What happens to that online material when we die?
I have a half dozen websites and as many blogs, plus digital droppings on Facebook, Twitter, photos on Flickr and other sites, way too many emails on about a dozen accounts and lots of things that I have forgotten.
In a way, I kind of feel some comfort that I'm leaving something behind.
But the radio story talks with John Romano and Evan Carroll, who edit The Digital Beyond, a website that helps users plan what happens to their online content after their death.
They point to a blogger, Leslie Harpold, who left behind a robust online presence after her death in 2006. When her family decided that her blogs should be permanently removed from the Internet, her readers and fellow bloggers wanted her work to remain archived online.
In their new book, Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy?, Romano and Carroll outline ways to protect your online legacy - including naming a digital executor to handle all of your digital belongings with access to passwords and usernames.
I was thinking more about the creative side of stuff left behind, but I guess I need to give the other accounts some thought too.
That depends on how you prepare beforehand, says John Romano. Romano and a colleague, Evan Carroll, edit The Digital Beyond, a website that helps users plan what happens to their online content after their death. Romano and Carroll both join Dave Davies for a discussion about online digital legacies.
Romano and Carroll point to blogger Leslie Harpold, who died in 2006, memorably leaving behind a robust online presence. After her death, Harpold's family decided that her blogs should be permanently removed from the Internet. But Harpold had built up a large community of readers and fellow bloggers online, many of whom wanted her work to remain online.
Brian Brushwood started a side project called Afterlyfe.me that even he can't decide if it's "funny, morbid, thought-provoking or just plain weird."
I'm currently in the process of giving the website all of my credentials and passwords for my social media websites (currently twitter and facebook, though we'll see what new startups make the cut in the future). And starting on my upcoming birthday (January 17th), we're going to activate a dead-man's switch on the site.
From that point on, every birthday for the rest of my life, I'll need to check in to let Afterlyfe know that I'm still alive and kicking (if I'm smart, I'll also make sure the site hits me up with email reminders every year as well). Once I stop checking in, Afterlyfe will assume I've kicked the bucket, and go into action, taking control of my facebook and twitter pages.
From that point on, Afterlyfe will use all my previous tweets and facebook updates to recreate a digital simulacrum of my life. The goal is to make me the world's first virtual ghost.