Saving digital work after death…

Dave Winer is up early here in Paris too and is wondering how to make sure that our work sticks around long after we do.

I’d love for there to be an Amazon S3 or a Microsoft or Google service that we could pay for to keep our stuff around for 100 years. It’d have to be a company like that because not many companies would have a chance to stick around that long.

Actually, thinking of it, a bank or an insurance company would make more sense, especially ones that have stuck around for a few hundred years already.

Our work online is really a digital asset and one that SHOULD be saved for future generations. Even if it’s just our kids who want to troll through it later in life it’d be valuable for that.

88 thoughts on “Saving digital work after death…

  1. A few years back my mum was doing one of her usual “Don (my dad), you need to clear out the garage!” rants. We found an old box of toys from when my brothers and I were kids, my dad insisting that we keep them around so that my kids (when I have them) could play with them.

    I appreciated the sentimentality of that notion, but the reality is that my kids won’t have any interest in the things I played with. I always think of that scene in Back TO The Future 2 in the Cafe 80′s “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy!”

    By the same notion, I struggle to see how people would utilise the web work of today. Not that we should go about what we do feeling futile, at our best we’re helping each other figure this thing out. But it is hard enough for thinking to stay relevant month to month, let along over 100 years.

    Let’s be glad for what we have now, and hope that our children’s grand children have a better world and some photos of great, great grandpa smiling, surrounded by people he loved.

  2. A few years back my mum was doing one of her usual “Don (my dad), you need to clear out the garage!” rants. We found an old box of toys from when my brothers and I were kids, my dad insisting that we keep them around so that my kids (when I have them) could play with them.

    I appreciated the sentimentality of that notion, but the reality is that my kids won’t have any interest in the things I played with. I always think of that scene in Back TO The Future 2 in the Cafe 80′s “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy!”

    By the same notion, I struggle to see how people would utilise the web work of today. Not that we should go about what we do feeling futile, at our best we’re helping each other figure this thing out. But it is hard enough for thinking to stay relevant month to month, let along over 100 years.

    Let’s be glad for what we have now, and hope that our children’s grand children have a better world and some photos of great, great grandpa smiling, surrounded by people he loved.

  3. It seems like gmail will be around a while. What if you emailed gmail ewerytime you posted posted to your blog. Also google could subscribe to your blog if they built in a little reader

  4. It seems like gmail will be around a while. What if you emailed gmail ewerytime you posted posted to your blog. Also google could subscribe to your blog if they built in a little reader

  5. Up until roughly the 18th Century, the King’s clerk’s and the Church monks, were the best historians, in a sense. For example, the history of the Crusades would have been much lighter if not for Roger of Hoveden. In more modern times, the Monarchical state, has been rather archive-democratized by the State Universities.

  6. Up until roughly the 18th Century, the King’s clerk’s and the Church monks, were the best historians, in a sense. For example, the history of the Crusades would have been much lighter if not for Roger of Hoveden. In more modern times, the Monarchical state, has been rather archive-democratized by the State Universities.

  7. As much as I enjoy conversations, such as this one, they are given some weak semblance of immortality, if at all, only by the subsequent conversations they engender or influence. They found Catullus in a wine barrel in the 14th century. His works endured like a seed waiting for ground again. A thousand years of forgetting couldn’t get rid of him. Conversation about technological tools, however, regardless of how interesting they might be in the here and now, are simply not as important. They can’t help people like poetry, or a song, or Tsagaglallal engraved on a rock in the Columbia River. They don’t have that urge to life that a poem does.

  8. As much as I enjoy conversations, such as this one, they are given some weak semblance of immortality, if at all, only by the subsequent conversations they engender or influence. They found Catullus in a wine barrel in the 14th century. His works endured like a seed waiting for ground again. A thousand years of forgetting couldn’t get rid of him. Conversation about technological tools, however, regardless of how interesting they might be in the here and now, are simply not as important. They can’t help people like poetry, or a song, or Tsagaglallal engraved on a rock in the Columbia River. They don’t have that urge to life that a poem does.

  9. Does it mean we can leave a will saying that, all my digital belongs to my xxx….? And they enjoy the revenue generated?

  10. Does it mean we can leave a will saying that, all my digital belongs to my xxx….? And they enjoy the revenue generated?

  11. The thing for me is not so much the notion that my thoughts and work can live on after my death, but that there will be an enduring reflection of who I was at a given point in time – regardless of whether or not I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil.

    I.e. I’m currently 33 years old, but I can go back and see the 32 year-old me (effectively dead and buried) any time simply by browsing my blog archive.

    Kinda adds another dimention to the notion of immortality, IMHO. It’s not just that I can live forever, but all my previous incarnations (as a younger man).

    I need a drink now.
    :-)

  12. The thing for me is not so much the notion that my thoughts and work can live on after my death, but that there will be an enduring reflection of who I was at a given point in time – regardless of whether or not I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil.

    I.e. I’m currently 33 years old, but I can go back and see the 32 year-old me (effectively dead and buried) any time simply by browsing my blog archive.

    Kinda adds another dimention to the notion of immortality, IMHO. It’s not just that I can live forever, but all my previous incarnations (as a younger man).

    I need a drink now.
    :-)

  13. The longest lasting institutions in the world are universities and the churches, not banks or insurance companies.

    In the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, it is the Catholic Church that ends up saving all technological information after a nuclear war and subsequent Luddite, anti-technology uprising by the survivors.

    There’s a doomsday seed bank up in Norway. Maybe instead of preserving blog posts, we should be thinking of a similar repository of knowledge somewhere… not to put a Y2K survivalist bent on things; I just think it would suck if Something Bad Happened and nobody knew how to make antibiotics, or aspirin, or fire, but we did have multiple redundant emergency backup copies of everything that had ever been posted to Scripting News and icanhazcheezeburger.com. First things first, you know.

    From there we should go to works of art. Not just great paintings, but film on decaying celluloid, old recordings, out of print books, the genome sequences of endangered species. I am a huge fan of the band Lush; they broke up only about 10 years ago and it’s already difficult to find some of their recordings, despite them having been made in the digital age.

    Once we have a “Memory Alpha” in place, then let’s look at the blog posts… :)

  14. The longest lasting institutions in the world are universities and the churches, not banks or insurance companies.

    In the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, it is the Catholic Church that ends up saving all technological information after a nuclear war and subsequent Luddite, anti-technology uprising by the survivors.

    There’s a doomsday seed bank up in Norway. Maybe instead of preserving blog posts, we should be thinking of a similar repository of knowledge somewhere… not to put a Y2K survivalist bent on things; I just think it would suck if Something Bad Happened and nobody knew how to make antibiotics, or aspirin, or fire, but we did have multiple redundant emergency backup copies of everything that had ever been posted to Scripting News and icanhazcheezeburger.com. First things first, you know.

    From there we should go to works of art. Not just great paintings, but film on decaying celluloid, old recordings, out of print books, the genome sequences of endangered species. I am a huge fan of the band Lush; they broke up only about 10 years ago and it’s already difficult to find some of their recordings, despite them having been made in the digital age.

    Once we have a “Memory Alpha” in place, then let’s look at the blog posts… :)

  15. I think the driving force of most great art has been the intent to leave something behind. If you create something of enduring value then people who care about art will collect your work and archive it for you.

    If you crank out tedious self-involved commentary then you probably sit on your deathbed and bemoan the fact that your efforts will go unnoticed and un-preserved. “Call for Willy Loman on the courtesy phone.”

    But let’s put all concepts of quality or merit aside: it’s a business opportunity for someone:

    “We Will Save Your Blog for As Long as You Wish”

    If the business is structured well then the blogs will linger for years. You just need to create an account and invest in your future.

    As I write these words, I have a little program running that’s creating a mirror of a famous blogging site. The technology to clone web-sites is fully baked… what’s NOT easy to establish is the trust of enough bloggers to fund the business of managing the “assets”. I use asset in the most liberal sense… if they are funded by the author then they meet the financial criteria of a liability… a committed obligation.

    NOTE: $10,000 at money market rates produces about $300/year. You shouldn’t speculate with a trust asset but use a conservative, insured investment. But what about inflation, increased overhead costs, etc. The contract might be full of fine print to protect the supplier of such a service from future variables.

    If someone does create a foundation to archive with more rigor than “archive.org” then most of us will be frustrated because they will probaly create a committee to decide what’s actual worth saving… and that’s so “old school”: a meritocracy. A final exam that’s graded pass/fail.

    Do good work. Let history protect you… all else is vanity. I’m just sayin’.

  16. I think the driving force of most great art has been the intent to leave something behind. If you create something of enduring value then people who care about art will collect your work and archive it for you.

    If you crank out tedious self-involved commentary then you probably sit on your deathbed and bemoan the fact that your efforts will go unnoticed and un-preserved. “Call for Willy Loman on the courtesy phone.”

    But let’s put all concepts of quality or merit aside: it’s a business opportunity for someone:

    “We Will Save Your Blog for As Long as You Wish”

    If the business is structured well then the blogs will linger for years. You just need to create an account and invest in your future.

    As I write these words, I have a little program running that’s creating a mirror of a famous blogging site. The technology to clone web-sites is fully baked… what’s NOT easy to establish is the trust of enough bloggers to fund the business of managing the “assets”. I use asset in the most liberal sense… if they are funded by the author then they meet the financial criteria of a liability… a committed obligation.

    NOTE: $10,000 at money market rates produces about $300/year. You shouldn’t speculate with a trust asset but use a conservative, insured investment. But what about inflation, increased overhead costs, etc. The contract might be full of fine print to protect the supplier of such a service from future variables.

    If someone does create a foundation to archive with more rigor than “archive.org” then most of us will be frustrated because they will probaly create a committee to decide what’s actual worth saving… and that’s so “old school”: a meritocracy. A final exam that’s graded pass/fail.

    Do good work. Let history protect you… all else is vanity. I’m just sayin’.

  17. Pingback: Geek And Poke
  18. I think the driving force of most great art has been the intent to leave something behind. If you create something of enduring value then people who care about art will collect your work and archive it for you.

    If you crank out tedious self-involved commentary then you probably sit on your deathbed and bemoan the fact that your efforts will go unnoticed.

    But let’s put all concepts of quality or merit aside: it’s a business opportunity for someone: “We Will Save Your Blog for As Long as You Wish”.

    If the business is structured well then the blogs will linger for years. You just need to create an account and invest in your future.

    As I write these words, I have a little program running that’s creating a mirror of a famous blogging site. The technology to clone web-sites is fully baked… what’s NOT easy to establish is the trust of enough bloggers to fund the business of managing the “assets”.

    If someone does create a foundation to archive with more rigor than “archive.org” then most of us will be frustrated because they will probaly create a committee to decide what’s actual worth saving… and that’s so “old school”: a meritocracy. A final exam that’s graded pass/fail.

  19. I think the driving force of most great art has been the intent to leave something behind. If you create something of enduring value then people who care about art will collect your work and archive it for you.

    If you crank out tedious self-involved commentary then you probably sit on your deathbed and bemoan the fact that your efforts will go unnoticed.

    But let’s put all concepts of quality or merit aside: it’s a business opportunity for someone: “We Will Save Your Blog for As Long as You Wish”.

    If the business is structured well then the blogs will linger for years. You just need to create an account and invest in your future.

    As I write these words, I have a little program running that’s creating a mirror of a famous blogging site. The technology to clone web-sites is fully baked… what’s NOT easy to establish is the trust of enough bloggers to fund the business of managing the “assets”.

    If someone does create a foundation to archive with more rigor than “archive.org” then most of us will be frustrated because they will probaly create a committee to decide what’s actual worth saving… and that’s so “old school”: a meritocracy. A final exam that’s graded pass/fail.

  20. Interesting concept. Hmmm. You know…there are cord blood banking companies that save your baby’s cord blood. When you start blogging maybe there is a company that will store your blogging (or all Internet activity) output for a fee in a bank (like you mentioned above). Then there would need to be a way to sift through all the information.

    When would a person’s family need to get access to the info and why? With cord blood the answer is clear. Interesting concept.

  21. Interesting concept. Hmmm. You know…there are cord blood banking companies that save your baby’s cord blood. When you start blogging maybe there is a company that will store your blogging (or all Internet activity) output for a fee in a bank (like you mentioned above). Then there would need to be a way to sift through all the information.

    When would a person’s family need to get access to the info and why? With cord blood the answer is clear. Interesting concept.

  22. NOTHING is forever… even banks and insurance companies go under (e.g. Barings bank or, more recently, Northern Rock). I’d wager the only thing that’s likely to survive 100 years from now is the Department of Defence in one form or another. Now, trusting them with archiving the web? Probably not the best idea.

  23. We’ve been kicking the idea around a bit about the trusting role that banks and credit unions have with their customers/members and ways to leverage that to make the online safe deposit box concept work. Chances are banks and credit unions will be around, in some merged form or another, years from now. Longer than most tech companies, that’s for sure. I think we finally have the problem solved and the more I work it out in my head, the more it makes sense. Most FI’s have trust services, so setting up a trust to execute certain events on your death would be pretty easy, like publishing your blog virtually or in print form, exporting all of your pictures from flikr and storing them somewhere else, etc…

  24. We’ve been kicking the idea around a bit about the trusting role that banks and credit unions have with their customers/members and ways to leverage that to make the online safe deposit box concept work. Chances are banks and credit unions will be around, in some merged form or another, years from now. Longer than most tech companies, that’s for sure. I think we finally have the problem solved and the more I work it out in my head, the more it makes sense. Most FI’s have trust services, so setting up a trust to execute certain events on your death would be pretty easy, like publishing your blog virtually or in print form, exporting all of your pictures from flikr and storing them somewhere else, etc…

  25. NOTHING is forever… even banks and insurance companies go under (e.g. Barings bank or, more recently, Northern Rock). I’d wager the only thing that’s likely to survive 100 years from now is the Department of Defence in one form or another. Now, trusting them with archiving the web? Probably not the best idea.

  26. I’m just peeved that all of my 2002-2003 links to Fishrush are dead and he’s not. No offense… I didn’t mean, well, you know…

  27. I think that the solution involves getting out of the mindset that web logs have to be online. If we can come up with a URL that deals with copies of data, and a way to search for ANY available (signed) copy of a given piece of data, we can go a long way to solving this, and many other problems we find ourselves facing on the net. (Like censorship for example)

  28. I think that the solution involves getting out of the mindset that web logs have to be online. If we can come up with a URL that deals with copies of data, and a way to search for ANY available (signed) copy of a given piece of data, we can go a long way to solving this, and many other problems we find ourselves facing on the net. (Like censorship for example)

  29. I used to be a fan of the idea of a mechanism for saving the best of the web – for making our work accessible after bloggers have died, to be sure the good stuff lived on. A sort of museum might be nice, but that’s not what Dave is talking about. Museums don’t feature me because I say I’m important. There is a process to becoming worth preserving. It’s more than technology and dollars.

    Maybe we SHOULD have to lose one another here.

    Maybe it will keep us human.

    Maybe if we keep one another alive here, we’ll soon be twittering along for a year before we realize someone’s dead.

    Maybe we can get rid of grieving altogether, get back to work, keep posting away, as long as we know that our dead friends’ site has been preserved in plastic, encased in gold. That’d be super!

    Maybe it’s up to the family. Maybe they want to decide I was an asshole they want to rip down my site. Maybe they should have that choice.

    Dave wants to be on vinyl: The best of Dave Winer, collector’s edition, double CD – as if no dave will ever come again. Dave will come again. And again. We are a blip, no matter how many quotes, how many links. There is something honest in others keeping our history.

    Let the business model of dead blogger books write itself–it doesn’t need help from the top.

    Our work belongs to our estates, doesn’t it? Dave wants to plunk down a hundred grand to be sure he’s always here, calling people names, calling for posses. Super. The rest of us — the ones who can’t afford the super deluxe gold coffin edition of blogging — we win the prize: We get to disappear.

    The guy with the most money and best algorithm wins. It has been ever thus. Old boss new boss. And so it goes.

  30. I used to be a fan of the idea of a mechanism for saving the best of the web – for making our work accessible after bloggers have died, to be sure the good stuff lived on. A sort of museum might be nice, but that’s not what Dave is talking about. Museums don’t feature me because I say I’m important. There is a process to becoming worth preserving. It’s more than technology and dollars.

    Maybe we SHOULD have to lose one another here.

    Maybe it will keep us human.

    Maybe if we keep one another alive here, we’ll soon be twittering along for a year before we realize someone’s dead.

    Maybe we can get rid of grieving altogether, get back to work, keep posting away, as long as we know that our dead friends’ site has been preserved in plastic, encased in gold. That’d be super!

    Maybe it’s up to the family. Maybe they want to decide I was an asshole they want to rip down my site. Maybe they should have that choice.

    Dave wants to be on vinyl: The best of Dave Winer, collector’s edition, double CD – as if no dave will ever come again. Dave will come again. And again. We are a blip, no matter how many quotes, how many links. There is something honest in others keeping our history.

    Let the business model of dead blogger books write itself–it doesn’t need help from the top.

    Our work belongs to our estates, doesn’t it? Dave wants to plunk down a hundred grand to be sure he’s always here, calling people names, calling for posses. Super. The rest of us — the ones who can’t afford the super deluxe gold coffin edition of blogging — we win the prize: We get to disappear.

    The guy with the most money and best algorithm wins. It has been ever thus. Old boss new boss. And so it goes.

  31. This is positively ridiculous. You want to pass it along to future generations then save it off and pass it along. I think it’s pretty safe to bet that in 50 years NO ONE will be wondering what Dave Winer had to say about RSS or outlining and no offense Robert I’m sure your hyping of Facebook / web 2.0 this or that will not provide interesting reference in the future. Perhaps for your children and family it will be very interesting but not my children.

  32. This is positively ridiculous. You want to pass it along to future generations then save it off and pass it along. I think it’s pretty safe to bet that in 50 years NO ONE will be wondering what Dave Winer had to say about RSS or outlining and no offense Robert I’m sure your hyping of Facebook / web 2.0 this or that will not provide interesting reference in the future. Perhaps for your children and family it will be very interesting but not my children.

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