Our online lives slowly leak away

I just looked at the baby photos of Milan being born. Back then we did something pretty cool with a service called “Twittergram.” We recorded his first cry. But now Twittergram seems to have gone away and with it, our baby’s first cry. That was only two years ago. You can see the link there, but it doesn’t work.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed things online disappearing over time. My first two years of blogging are gone. Some of that was backed up by the wayback machine.

I’ve seen other people’s blogs, or other online items go away too. Hey, quick, find some of your Tweets from just four months ago. They are all still online, but you probably can’t find them. Me neither.

Or, wait until you are hacked and don’t have a backup, like happened with me. I love the folks who say “you should have backed up.” How do you back up everything you do online? You can’t. Quick, back up all your Google Docs, your Tweets, your Flickr photos and all the metadata surrounding them (comments, tags, etc), your Facebook items, etc etc. You will die trying.

I know, I’ve been backing up like a crazy man lately since I got hacked. What’s funny is one of my brand new hard drives died. Luckily I had a backup of that. But what if I didn’t?

What if my house burned down tonight? I wouldn’t be able to save everything. Heck, I’d be worried about getting my family out and screw the hard drives.

So our online lives leak away.

It gets worse after you die.

You think your family will be able to save your Flickr photos? Not if you don’t give them your passwords. Here’s why: they won’t be able to find them.

I let my Flickr Pro account lapse cause I was too lazy to put in a new credit card. I couldn’t even find my old photos. Why? Because Flickr’s search only shows the last few photos and they turn off the calendar and all sorts of things if you stop paying for the pro account. Yowza.

Reminds me of an interview I had with Jeremy Toeman who built a new company called Legacy Locker. But now we need to put enough cash in there to keep Flickr accounts paid up so my sons will be able to see their photos after I die.

Some best practices I’ve learned:

1. If you care that it stays around, use services from big companies. Google will probably stick around for a while. Twittergram? Gone.

2. Put your stuff in multiple places. Why? Because maybe Yahoo will decide to turn off the Flickr service in 10 years. So, make sure your photos go to other services.

3. Back up what you can, but that won’t help long term. Quick, if your dad handed you a hard drive with 10,000 photos would you be able to find anything on there? What if you got that hard drive in 30 years? Would you be able to even look at what’s on it? Remember, when I was in college my entire life was on floppy disks. I can’t even read those now.

4. Print out stuff that you really want to save. I still have my trunk of photos from my childhood, but lots of my photos taken digitally over the years are gone or hard to find.

5. Use services like Legacy Locker to ensure that your kids at least will have your passwords and rights to your stuff and accounts.

Any other “best practices?”

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

58 thoughts on “Our online lives slowly leak away

  1. If you're overwhelmed by data then you probably look from the wrong perspective. That's an algorythmics principle.

    Direct derivative of your first point is that – No one will be interested in your memories in 100y.

    Tough but true.

  2. If you're overwhelmed by data then you probably look from the wrong perspective. That's an algorythmics principle.

    Direct derivative of your first point is that – No one will be interested in your memories in 100y.

    Tough but true.

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  5. The guys above have a point in that most people probably shouldn't keep EVERYTHING. I use Facebook and Twitter the same way I use my telephone–”Where are you?”, “I'm here!” and “I need a sofa” aren't going to do much for posterity.

    However, if you're a blogger, an artist, or someone else whose online presense is a huge part of your life and work, these things do become necessary. This post also made me think of some of my online “penpals” who I've never met: if something happened to me, how would they know when I'm the only one with the passwords to Twitter and my IM account?

  6. This is a must read for anyone regularily using the web and a reminder to all of us that “think” we're immune to failure and blessed with genes to live for ever. Thanks Rob !

  7. Don't worry about it. It happens.
    There's lots of stuff from my (pre-computer age) youth that's gone, like hardcopy photos. That's how it is. Focus on the important things you need now. Older stuff will hop along, much of it anyway.

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