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Future proofing digital assets

The passing of fellow ZDNet blogger Marc Orchant caused Dave Winer to pose the question: what happens to your Web presence (and by extension all your digital assets) when you are no longer here?Like Dave, I have a number of servers that will stop running without some care and attention and hosting services that will stop if I no longer pay the bills.

The passing of fellow ZDNet blogger Marc Orchant caused Dave Winer to pose the question: what happens to your Web presence (and by extension all your digital assets) when you are no longer here?

Like Dave, I have a number of servers that will stop running without some care and attention and hosting services that will stop if I no longer pay the bills. I've got things (bills, pictures, music, etc.) on my password-protected laptop that I'm sure my family would want to get at for various reasons. All of these could be lost if I don't take steps to prepare and educate my family about what has to happen to keep them going.

As Dave mentions, Archive.org tries to maintain an archive of the 'Net, but it's (a) incomplete and (b) not in the right location--people who are looking for my work aren't necessarily going to go looking there. Phil Wolff has a great list of things to do before you die to protect your digital assets. Here's a summary:

  1. List your digital assets
  2. For each asset, list what you'd like done
  3. Fund your plans
  4. Arrange for an executor
  5. Work on your general and living wills first

The range of things you'd want done with each asset is broad ranging from destroy, to keep, to sell and even transform. Even things as simple as an email address, if linked to an online bank account or something similar, would make your loved one's work much easier if getting to it, redirecting it, and arranging for it's continuance were made easy.

If you look through the comments on Dave's original post, you'll see a lot of proposed techo-solutions to the problem. Nothing wrong with that, but this is more of a personal preparedness challenge, I think than a technology challenge. Phil's post clearly articulates that most of what we want to do can be done within existing frameworks with some thought and preparation. Of course, for most of us, those are the two things that are hardest to do.  Of course all that means is that there's a business here.