Will You Read My Blook After I’m Dead?

DeathBob is a blook writer. He hosts his blook on WordPress, buys his own hosting plan, and has completed a masterpiece: a beautifully written work entitled Bob’s Blook.

One day he steps out of his house to pick up a pound of beef. It is a wonderful day for a walk down the road: the sky is an azure blue, his garden is in full bloom; the smell like wine in the air. He hums as he steps out of his front yard – there are library books under his arm he wants to return – and as he turns to head down to the shops he is hit by a speeding car.

Let’s take our mind off Bob for a moment (he won’t survive, if you’re wondering) and give some thought to his blook. What will happen to it? Bob has not left the password to the WordPress blog to any of his acquaintances, nor has he left instructions for the maintenance of his domain name or his hosting plan. Both will expire, and when they do, Bob’s blook will be no more. Since all copies of it exist solely in the digital domain it is highly likely no trace of Bob’s Blook will remain after a 5 year period. There is no chance of a grandson finding a dusty manuscript in a drawer, and there is certainly no chance of publication after death – a Children Of Hurin will certainly not happen here.

Poor Bob.

The above story brings us to the topic at hand today: we’re not going to live forever. When we’re gone, what’s going to happen to our online scribblings?

It’s a handy thing to note that the printed page will still be accessible 100 years from now. The digital page, however, may not. Times change, so do file formats. Who isn’t to say that HTML would be phased out a century from now, and that PDFs are to be laughed at?

Dave Winer gets down to the heart of the matter in his article Future-Safe Archives, which was sparked off by the death of blogger Marc Orchant.

People are humble, no one wants to come out and say their work has any value that’s worth preserving past their death, but come on, we know that’s not true. If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing on the web. As would Hemingway or Faulkner, Vonnegut or Mailer, John Lennon or Dylan Thomas, Carl Sandberg or Robert Frost. Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. You think there isn’t any great literature out there on the web? I wouldn’t be so sure about that. What if there is? And what if a baby born today becomes a great creative force? Or what if there’s a social disaster like the Holocaust? Did you know that there are preserved diaries from pre-revolutionary America? Writings of ordinary people can be of enormous help to historians. And if we believe in citizen journalism (I do) why not citizen historians? Shouldn’t we be thinking out into the future? We should!

Winer humbly admits his entire web presence will disappear within mere days of his death. He runs his own server; tweaks and maintains it on a weekly basis. And in days his site will be gone, and the thoughts that defined him will be lost forever.

I agree with Winer’s view that creating future-safe archives will require ‘foresight and planning’. I intend to leave some form of continuation for all my web projects should I – knock wood – get hit by a bus. But, should it prove to be too complicated to protect my digital content, I have this to say:

There will always be paper.

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Category: Writing · Writing Web Fiction