When you die, what happens to your blog(s)? What happens to all that writing? Think about how things have changed... traditional "writers" have always left behind their writings. On paper, in journals/diaries, in printed books and magazines. Perhaps out in public view or perhaps in the "box up in the attic". However they are stored, the writings survive the death of the writer and then are seen some day by family or perhaps by researchers. Indeed, historians relish finding old caches of (snail-mail) letters, diaries, unfinished books or poems. Famous (or wealthy) people have bequeathed their "papers" to a library, often at the university they attended. Families pass down the "family bible" through generations. It's all part and parcel of how we have accounted for - and preserved - our history as a culture. Often the historians prize most the "everyday" writings... the letters... the postcards... the brief notes... as they offer a glimpse into a distant era.
Fast forward to today... while we still generate printed books by the millions and while people still do write in paper diaries/journals/etc., so much of our writing has moved online. Yet let's think about what happens when you die:
- Sooner or later, the registration for your domain(s) will expire and people won't be able to find your material at the regular URL.
- Likewise, sooner or later your subscription at your hosting provider expires. (whether that is a true hosting provider where you are running your own software or a hosted blogging provider like TypePad)
- Because of #2, your files are eventually purged from the hosting provider.
- Your writing disappears... except, perhaps, to maybe live on in the Way Back Machine if your site was included in one of its snapshots.
Now, #1 and #2 might be delayed a bit if you set your subscriptions/registrations to "auto-renew". They would keep auto-renewing at least until the credit card they have listed expired. (Which, one might think, might be relatively soon if your bank cancels it.) Perhaps you could tie it to a bank account that might live longer... but the point is that sooner or later it runs out.
What about the "free" blogging sites like Blogger, LiveJournal, Wordpress.com, etc? Good question. Blogs that are created there do seem to stay around for a very long time after they've been updated. But still, you'd have to think that after some (potentially lengthy) period of inactivity, eventually the system admins are going to archive off inactive accounts. Odds are that some historian 20 years from now won't see your pages on LiveJournal (if, indeed, LiveJournal is even still around in its current form).
So what does happen? Do your entries... just... stop? Does someone else go in and put in a final entry? (as was done for Dave Ross in "Oh Crap. I have Cancer.") Who has your username(s) and password(s) to be able to go and do this? Does someone else pay for your domain name? Or print it all out? Do you have instructions for someone? (Is this a new area to be added to wills?)
Or do you even care? Are your online writings not worth saving? Do you want them all to die out with you?
(I got on this train of thought because of recent conversations on FIR and in other places about "what happens to your corporate blog when you leave the company?" Should it stay up? Or should it be removed? (as email addresses would be removed for employees who left the company) It just occurred to me that the argument begged the follow-on question raised here.)