in Technology

Digital Permanence: Death & Data

I’m worried about dying. No, not in terms of my mortal flesh and immortal soul; I’m worried about what will happen to my data when I die. :-p

That may sound a little, shall we say, geeky, so let me explain. There’s two ways you can ‘live for ever’ in this world. The first is to become so famous that people talk about you until the end of time. As that’s difficult for most of us, the second way is more likely. All you’ve got to do with the second way is to pass on your genes (and your surname) to your offspring. I’m doing well with the latter: my son Benjamin Belshaw was born 20 months ago and will, I hope, continue the illustrious Belshaw line. With the first method, however, I’m still struggling.

My problem is this:

  1. Most of my ideas are in the form of writing in the digital landscape (i.e. on this blog or others on the Internet)
  2. Books and other printed matter in the physical realm are a lot more ‘permanent’ at present that writing in the digital realm.
  3. When I die dougbelshaw.com will cease to exist.
  4. Ergo, unless my ideas are so amazing that they become ubiquitous during my lifetime, they will have little impact after my death.

So I’m left with a problem. Should I start writing a book? Is all I’m writing here ultimately futile? Should I be creating static HTML pages so archive.org can index them?

Does this even matter?

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  • http://johnjohnston.info/blog John Johnston

    Books go out of print, acid free paper is expensive, digital formats change and become unreadable. You could dump your data every week and entrust it to Ben, updating to the latest format and media as you go. Or you could hope that your best ideas are borrowed and live a life of there own (information wants to be free;-)).

  • http://johnjohnston.info/blog John Johnston

    Books go out of print, acid free paper is expensive, digital formats change and become unreadable. You could dump your data every week and entrust it to Ben, updating to the latest format and media as you go. Or you could hope that your best ideas are borrowed and live a life of there own (information wants to be free;-)).

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      I think bringing up Ben as a kind of ‘digital custodian’ is a fantastic idea, John! ;-)

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    I’m very fond of you, Doug – and have the highest respect for you, but I have to say that no, I don’t think it matters. You share your ideas with people in this space and the various other spaces that you inhabit. Some will stick, others will not.

    “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Ps 103:15-16

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      Yes, but my point, Karyn (probably somewhat egotistically) is that some people’s ideas aren’t truly appreciated after their death… ;-)

      • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

        C’est la vie (shrugs)

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    I'm very fond of you, Doug – and have the highest respect for you, but I have to say that no, I don't think it matters. You share your ideas with people in this space and the various other spaces that you inhabit. Some will stick, others will not. “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Ps 103:15-16

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    C'est la vie (shrugs)

  • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Yes, but my point, Karyn (probably somewhat egotistically) is that some people's ideas aren't truly appreciated after their death… ;-)

  • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    I think bringing up Ben as a kind of 'digital custodian' is a fantastic idea, John! ;-)

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