Comic Update: When I Die, Burn Me Viking Style

January 25, 2010

Today’s comic explores a subject that is one of the most difficult, for me at least, to approach humorously. Featuring Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman and Dylan Wilbanks (I love his site’s content), I think I manage it with the grace and agility only a fifty-foot lizard could manage.

Over the past couple weeks, some people have died. Well, thousands die every week, even without disasters like the one that has recently struck Haiti. With no disrespect meant to the many who have died, it was the death of two specific individuals that caused an attention-worthy explosion of conversation in my Twitter feed, and I didn’t know either one of them: Brad L. Graham and Jack Pickard. I linked their Twitter feeds, as I don’t know how enduring the website of either individual will be after their death (a topic addressed in more detail below).

Their passing started a discussion on death, both theirs and that of others.

Eric Meyer had a couple of tweets that highlighted the poignancy of loss, even over a digital medium. Jeffrey Zeldman, in a post entitled Posthumous Hosting and Digital Culture, addresses the Big Question (well, its little cousin): “Where do our sites go when we die?” I’d like to think that the entire readership of my site are aware of how fragile the survival of sites on the Internet is, as highlighted in this strip that discussed the end of Geocities.

If we hope to have any lasting legacy for friends, family or a curious future, we can’t hope for a copy of a book resting on a shelf for a few hundred years. Instead, we need to think, while alive, about how we’re going to preserve our digital identities (which have become a huge part of who we are) long enough so that those who come after can decide for themselves whether it was worth it.

Dylan Wilbanks recently had a presentation at Ignite Seattle about this very topic. Everyone Coredumps, he reminds us, and he addresses both the grieving process and how to preserve your online data for future generations. He also discusses viking funerals. Check out his slides for thoughts on the topic, especially the tips on keeping your websites alive beyond the grave.

I recently was reminded by my registrar that I need to get this site’s domain registration renewed. It’s disturbing to think that if a bus hit me today, the laughs I’ve created would simply disappear at the end of the month, well before any tears from my passing would (hopefully) have ended.

I think I’m going to go get that renewal handled right now.

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One Response to “Comic Update: When I Die, Burn Me Viking Style”

  1. I can’t say what happens necessarily to websites when we die (although I have pondered this issue, myself – after all, will my family continue to pay to host my website when I’m gone? I doubt it), I can say that the web is still a great medium for preserving the memories of people who have passed on.

    Two years ago, when my grandfather passed away and his obituary was posted in the newspaper, that newspaper (The Daily News) sets up a full obituary section on their website and hosts it for a year, allowing people to find those who have passed on and comment with memories, stories, or just condolences to the family. They allow you also to extend the time the guestbook is kept online or print it out so that you can preserve the comments.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have those same features on a person’s website, to allow them to live on through it?