Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

What happen to "everything in the cloud" when you die?

At my house I have literally several boxes that they used to belong to my grandmother, before she passed away, and they contain an odd mix of junk and precious family history.

I am sure that this is not an uncommon story, and a lot of our history is composed of letters that were read after the sender / reciever were dead. A lot of the time this offers an unreplacable view of what really happened.

And if we try to look at less than the human history, then just having the possibility of going through the mail / documents of someone allows you to understand what is going on, and take actions with regards to it. (Such as paying the mortage)

I don't get any written letters anymore, excepts bills. Everything is done using emails. I am not unique. I keep a lot of what I do up in the cloud.

So, what happens when someone dies? To the best of my knowledge, there is no real process / precedant for that.

Even assuming that you have access to the passwords, would anyone would go through those emails in a hundred years? Would they be able to?

Comments

Grimace of Despair
09/27/2007 07:14 AM by
Grimace of Despair

I think you can relate that to what many people already do when they learn to know someone, either irl or online, they want to know more about. If you start googling on their name or email address, most of the time you already get a lot of information, e.g., by looking at their forum activity on the "kitten stroking fetish network", or something like it :)

And I can imagine indeed, if you have the possibility when someone passes away, you would Google Desktop their pc. Just to find out your dad was a pr0n addict :P That's where the privacy discussion might enter.

Sanket
09/27/2007 08:42 AM by
Sanket

I read your blogs regularly, but never comment. Some how i could not stop from doing that today.

what ever happens... should be happenning for good, I guess :)

But yeah, its ages since I have written letters to my near and dear ones ... oh yes, i do miss that a lot ...

Peter w
09/27/2007 01:01 PM by
Peter w

The world is a smaller place than it used to be, in our generation everything is quite temporal. Aside from buddhist sand art, software is the most temporal work of arts I know of, which is why I enjoy it. Can one truly leave a lasting legacy in software?

pb
09/27/2007 01:14 PM by
pb

Literally several?

Steven Harman
09/27/2007 04:01 PM by
Steven Harman

I've been thinking about the same thing lately. What were to happen if I was walking across the street and got hit by a beer truck (b/c that's the only kind of trunk I picture in my mind)?

Right now I've got my workstation, laptop, and server all sitting here in my house - plus the network hardware. I'm the only person in the world that knows the passwords for these devices... though once the hardware is in hand it's easy enough to get around that. But what about my stuff in the cloud - email, calendar, blogs, OSS, etc... what happens to all of that?

Perhaps I should come up with some kind of in-case-of-death plan that will be executed when I die. Maybe it will send the credential for my email on to my girlfriend and parents so they can deal with anything in there. And maybe my blog stuff will be sent on to a trusted (geek) friend so he can ensure it lives on.

Hmm... maybe this is a new blog post in itself. Seems like the kind of thing Hanselman might already have worked out. :)

Kalpesh
09/28/2007 07:20 AM by
Kalpesh

It seems I read the web in advance a bit.

I was talking about this to a friend of mine a few days back - who will check my email (+ posts that Oren writes) when I die? :)

Tudor
09/28/2007 10:27 AM by
Tudor

The question is: how many of the current web mail providers (Yahoo, Google, Hotmal etc..) will still exists 50 years into the future?

rbellamy
09/28/2007 11:11 PM by
rbellamy

I saw something really, really spooky, that many people also witnessed. It was about a year ago when the founder of FreeNode, "lilo", passed away.

He would leave his computer logged in.

He got hit by a car, and was killed.

Normally I hate the word "avatar", it's such a marketing term; but in a very real sense, "lilo" was the channel through which this person touched literally thousands of lives.

Eventually, of course, they took lilo offline.

El Gonzo
10/01/2007 04:18 PM by
El Gonzo

There should be a global standard for companies that manage other people's data, with a sort of obligation to persist in a "final" way all your data, even in a loose format.

Example: if someone die, the family members should be able to request a copy of all the contents managed by the person while still alive, in an XML or plain text format, zipped or whatever. And with the option to permanently delete the original data. On top of that, everyone should be able to decide wich content must be eligible to a "final transposition" and wich not. I see something like the "star" tagging in GMail, but like a small "R.I.P." icon (just kidding) that mark the e-mail as to be "exportable" after you pass.

What you think =) ?

Ayende Rahien
10/01/2007 04:36 PM by
Ayende Rahien

El,

The idea has merit, but it would freak me OUT if it was implemented.

El Gonzo
10/01/2007 08:58 PM by
El Gonzo

Ayende, I can imagine, but from a "coldly logical" point of view it's a very good implementation of an already used pattern, shall we say.

Point is, luckily enough, in the real life not everything that is right is allways right =) ...

p.s.: it would freak me OUT to, rest assured...

Comments have been closed on this topic.