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. I’d much rather trust a bank than google/ms any day.

    Course in order to make it cost-effective all the info wouldn’t be available online… While storage is cheap, storing 1TB+ of data for a user is going to be damned expensive for 100yrs.

    Putting it on disk/tape, however, could probably be done for 1-2k – even by a startup…

  2. I’d much rather trust a bank than google/ms any day.

    Course in order to make it cost-effective all the info wouldn’t be available online… While storage is cheap, storing 1TB+ of data for a user is going to be damned expensive for 100yrs.

    Putting it on disk/tape, however, could probably be done for 1-2k – even by a startup…

  3. The only reason I can see to save some of these writings is for when we need a good laugh. Like back in 97 when Dave told the Financial Times that Apple would never hit another home run in the industry. Priceless stuff.

  4. The only reason I can see to save some of these writings is for when we need a good laugh. Like back in 97 when Dave told the Financial Times that Apple would never hit another home run in the industry. Priceless stuff.

  5. Jesus said that on Judgement Day, we’ll have to account for every useless word we’ve ever spoken (Matthew 12:36), so I figure archiving all our stuff could be a duplication of effort. ;)

    It is a really fascinating idea though, and after a glass or two of Claret might lead to some Very Deep Thoughts Indeed.

    Dave Winer can easily be kept around even after he’s dead.

    Ah, the “eternal recurrence” idea that Pynchon played with in Against The Day? In Hollywood, don’t they say “we need a George Clooney type” when George Clooney isn’t available? Perhaps in the future we will need a Dave Winer type. Perhaps we have always needed a Dave Winer type, and always will…

    I was going to mention Stephen Leacock as someone whose writings are, if not lost to history, then certainly not as popular as they should be. But reading a bit about him on Wikipedia, he begins to sound a bit like P.J. O’Rourke. Perhaps P.J. O’Rourke is our instantiation of the Stephen Leacock object class…

    As an aside, if you ever need a good laugh, I highly recommend Leacock’s Nonsense Novels. Perhaps lost to history, but saved up on Project Gutenberg.

    Want to ensure immortality? Do something with more long term benefit to humanity.

    Interesting, but I think that’s possibly backwards: it’s the people who were trying to benefit humanity who, as a side effect, became immortal.

    Consider that what we have now is a gift, to be enjoyed and partaken of now–knowing that, someday, it will be gone. Appreciate the now, rather than fret over the future.

    If I can channel FSJ for a moment: I honor the place where your Zen attitude and my bottle of Claret become one. Namaste. *hic*

  6. Jesus said that on Judgement Day, we’ll have to account for every useless word we’ve ever spoken (Matthew 12:36), so I figure archiving all our stuff could be a duplication of effort. ;)

    It is a really fascinating idea though, and after a glass or two of Claret might lead to some Very Deep Thoughts Indeed.

    Dave Winer can easily be kept around even after he’s dead.

    Ah, the “eternal recurrence” idea that Pynchon played with in Against The Day? In Hollywood, don’t they say “we need a George Clooney type” when George Clooney isn’t available? Perhaps in the future we will need a Dave Winer type. Perhaps we have always needed a Dave Winer type, and always will…

    I was going to mention Stephen Leacock as someone whose writings are, if not lost to history, then certainly not as popular as they should be. But reading a bit about him on Wikipedia, he begins to sound a bit like P.J. O’Rourke. Perhaps P.J. O’Rourke is our instantiation of the Stephen Leacock object class…

    As an aside, if you ever need a good laugh, I highly recommend Leacock’s Nonsense Novels. Perhaps lost to history, but saved up on Project Gutenberg.

    Want to ensure immortality? Do something with more long term benefit to humanity.

    Interesting, but I think that’s possibly backwards: it’s the people who were trying to benefit humanity who, as a side effect, became immortal.

    Consider that what we have now is a gift, to be enjoyed and partaken of now–knowing that, someday, it will be gone. Appreciate the now, rather than fret over the future.

    If I can channel FSJ for a moment: I honor the place where your Zen attitude and my bottle of Claret become one. Namaste. *hic*

  7. I think Robert raises an excellent point. Long-term availability of “work”/”content” published on the web is a huge, unresolved issue. This problem of lost information occurs not only when people die, but other times too. For example, if the company that was hosting your content goes bust; or your stuff gets deleted for other reasons.

    I don’t think there are any “one size fits all” answers. However, I think that Robert’s idea of paying a fee to have information made available on-line for a long period of time, say 100 years, is a good one.

    There are technical problems with this though; and it’s pretty difficult to beat words and images printed on paper as a long-term archival approach. Printed paper is probably the most well-proven long-term archival technology around. I certainly wouldn’t trust tape, or DVD, or a hard drive attached to Windows or Linux or Solaris box, to be readable in 100 years.

  8. I think Robert raises an excellent point. Long-term availability of “work”/”content” published on the web is a huge, unresolved issue. This problem of lost information occurs not only when people die, but other times too. For example, if the company that was hosting your content goes bust; or your stuff gets deleted for other reasons.

    I don’t think there are any “one size fits all” answers. However, I think that Robert’s idea of paying a fee to have information made available on-line for a long period of time, say 100 years, is a good one.

    There are technical problems with this though; and it’s pretty difficult to beat words and images printed on paper as a long-term archival approach. Printed paper is probably the most well-proven long-term archival technology around. I certainly wouldn’t trust tape, or DVD, or a hard drive attached to Windows or Linux or Solaris box, to be readable in 100 years.

  9. GoDaddy did something this for a customer once. She asked how much it would cost to get a permanent account on GoDaddy. Bob ended up giving it to her. But this is a one-off situation and not the norm. He either blogged about it or it was on his podcast.

  10. GoDaddy did something this for a customer once. She asked how much it would cost to get a permanent account on GoDaddy. Bob ended up giving it to her. But this is a one-off situation and not the norm. He either blogged about it or it was on his podcast.

  11. You all don’t read people’s past work now, and few people comment or link to existing work, other than a few big names…

    Why, then, this discussion on what you all want to do with someone else’s site and writing?

    Consider that what we have now is a gift, to be enjoyed and partaken of now–knowing that, someday, it will be gone. Appreciate the now, rather than fret over the future.

  12. You all don’t read people’s past work now, and few people comment or link to existing work, other than a few big names…

    Why, then, this discussion on what you all want to do with someone else’s site and writing?

    Consider that what we have now is a gift, to be enjoyed and partaken of now–knowing that, someday, it will be gone. Appreciate the now, rather than fret over the future.

  13. CDs/DVDs are NOT a good option for long-term storage. Paper works, but use archival paper and ink if you want long-term preservation (300+ years). Not all things can easily be reduced to paper, though, and of course it’s not an option for multi-media!

    Many libraries and archives, which have traditionally specialized in paper materials, are starting up institutional repositories for digital materials. DSpace, Fedora (not the Red Hat variety), and Digital Commons are some of the more common applications. Governments at the state and national level are also pursuing options for digital archiving. A few companies that specialize in records management are already selling digital archiving services, primarily to corporations — I’m thinking of Iron Mountain, as that’s the company I’m most familiar with. I don’t know if anyone is selling these types of services to personal consumers.

    It’s fairly complicated to think about long-term digital archiving — you have to consider issues like migrating materials to newer versions of applications or emulating older applications through virtualization, etc. There are graduate programs were you can study these issues — my alma mater, the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, has a strong program — and quite a few conferences devoted to the topic.

  14. CDs/DVDs are NOT a good option for long-term storage. Paper works, but use archival paper and ink if you want long-term preservation (300+ years). Not all things can easily be reduced to paper, though, and of course it’s not an option for multi-media!

    Many libraries and archives, which have traditionally specialized in paper materials, are starting up institutional repositories for digital materials. DSpace, Fedora (not the Red Hat variety), and Digital Commons are some of the more common applications. Governments at the state and national level are also pursuing options for digital archiving. A few companies that specialize in records management are already selling digital archiving services, primarily to corporations — I’m thinking of Iron Mountain, as that’s the company I’m most familiar with. I don’t know if anyone is selling these types of services to personal consumers.

    It’s fairly complicated to think about long-term digital archiving — you have to consider issues like migrating materials to newer versions of applications or emulating older applications through virtualization, etc. There are graduate programs were you can study these issues — my alma mater, the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, has a strong program — and quite a few conferences devoted to the topic.

  15. @9 – Tim, society has always been able to preserve _some_ good works because they have been material and humanity has a tradition of passing on material assets on death. The vast bulk of human history is however still being pieced together from the small fragments that remain because, by the very entropic nature of the universe, things decay / decline / get lost or erased…

    In the land of the mediocre however, the popular man is king. Online, many many “good works” may very well go un-noticed, due to the floods of mediocre ramblings (which I am really happy to read and contribute to). What is good is not always what is popular but what is popular is most likely to be retained as thousands and thousands of people read / copy it.

    For now if anyone wants immortality I would still recommend hardcopy. The printed word has been around far longer than the digital. If someone can come up with a way to guarantee online (and backed up) storage for more than a hundred years I’d love to see it happen. For now though – if it’s important I print it. If I want to publish something that my great grandkids can read – I’ll publish a book. It can alwys be digitised later ;-)

  16. @9 – Tim, society has always been able to preserve _some_ good works because they have been material and humanity has a tradition of passing on material assets on death. The vast bulk of human history is however still being pieced together from the small fragments that remain because, by the very entropic nature of the universe, things decay / decline / get lost or erased…

    In the land of the mediocre however, the popular man is king. Online, many many “good works” may very well go un-noticed, due to the floods of mediocre ramblings (which I am really happy to read and contribute to). What is good is not always what is popular but what is popular is most likely to be retained as thousands and thousands of people read / copy it.

    For now if anyone wants immortality I would still recommend hardcopy. The printed word has been around far longer than the digital. If someone can come up with a way to guarantee online (and backed up) storage for more than a hundred years I’d love to see it happen. For now though – if it’s important I print it. If I want to publish something that my great grandkids can read – I’ll publish a book. It can alwys be digitised later ;-)

  17. I think Tim has it exactly right. There will be enough of the good stuff preserved for historians and researchers. Want to ensure immortality? Do something with more long term benefit to humanity. Otherwise, fall in with the vast majority of us who will be glad to “live” a few generations into the future in the hearts and minds of loved ones left behind.

  18. I think Tim has it exactly right. There will be enough of the good stuff preserved for historians and researchers. Want to ensure immortality? Do something with more long term benefit to humanity. Otherwise, fall in with the vast majority of us who will be glad to “live” a few generations into the future in the hearts and minds of loved ones left behind.

  19. If you want your kids to see it, put it on CD/DVD and give them a copy. Giving physical items to your children has worked pretty well for a long time now.

    To enable everyone else to see it, try getting over yourself.

    Society usually finds a way to preserve good works. The mediocre will wither away. It is the way of the world.

  20. If you want your kids to see it, put it on CD/DVD and give them a copy. Giving physical items to your children has worked pretty well for a long time now.

    To enable everyone else to see it, try getting over yourself.

    Society usually finds a way to preserve good works. The mediocre will wither away. It is the way of the world.

  21. Dave Winer can easily be kept around even after he’s dead. A simple bot can simulate posts to Scripting News and Twitter. It can be set to be rude, obnoxious and generally arrogant to some random person at random intervals. Then follow up each incident trying to turn things around with a few “cry me a river” posts. Things calm down and back to normal with technology and blog talk. Then it all it goes around in endless circles until the sun engulfs the Earth. It’d be like he never left. Quite simple really. :)

  22. Dave Winer can easily be kept around even after he’s dead. A simple bot can simulate posts to Scripting News and Twitter. It can be set to be rude, obnoxious and generally arrogant to some random person at random intervals. Then follow up each incident trying to turn things around with a few “cry me a river” posts. Things calm down and back to normal with technology and blog talk. Then it all it goes around in endless circles until the sun engulfs the Earth. It’d be like he never left. Quite simple really. :)

  23. Isn’t that what archive.org is doing? Im pretty sure that search engines are backing up whatever they crawl. I think it will be more an issue of indexing all this information to search it than storing it.

  24. Isn’t that what archive.org is doing? Im pretty sure that search engines are backing up whatever they crawl. I think it will be more an issue of indexing all this information to search it than storing it.

  25. With my cancer diagnosis and treatment and all this year, I’ve been wondering about this very concept, and hoped that after he discussed it earlier this year, Dave might have come up with a solution, and I had hoped to ask him about that an Gnomedex, which I ended up not being able to attend in person.

    Um, any ideas on how we can get on this? I’m still doing fine now, but I would like to plan ahead.

  26. With my cancer diagnosis and treatment and all this year, I’ve been wondering about this very concept, and hoped that after he discussed it earlier this year, Dave might have come up with a solution, and I had hoped to ask him about that an Gnomedex, which I ended up not being able to attend in person.

    Um, any ideas on how we can get on this? I’m still doing fine now, but I would like to plan ahead.

  27. I absolutely agree. I’m afraid that one day, we may find that practically an entire segment of our history has been lost thanks to ever-changing format standards and the lack of a good paper trail. Say what you will about flexibility, paper at least has that going for it. It continues to function completely passively. Of course, we may cease to understand English or something, but that’s another matter entirely.

    And Peter, I like that idea too. Could be very interesting indeed… although, almost by definition, many of us may never be around to see it happen. Oh well.

  28. You did an interviiew on PodTech with a guy on this very subject… more like the cultural implications of our generation creating so much bu it not being backed up properly… just like your first blog posts that have gone down the drain! Got a link to it? It was really good.

  29. You did an interviiew on PodTech with a guy on this very subject… more like the cultural implications of our generation creating so much bu it not being backed up properly… just like your first blog posts that have gone down the drain! Got a link to it? It was really good.

  30. I absolutely agree. I’m afraid that one day, we may find that practically an entire segment of our history has been lost thanks to ever-changing format standards and the lack of a good paper trail. Say what you will about flexibility, paper at least has that going for it. It continues to function completely passively. Of course, we may cease to understand English or something, but that’s another matter entirely.

    And Peter, I like that idea too. Could be very interesting indeed… although, almost by definition, many of us may never be around to see it happen. Oh well.

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