Morbid Question for Tech Workers

This post is more than 2 years old.

So, I don't know why, but I had a rather morbid thought this morning, and my mind just wouldn't let it go. So imagine the situation - you are a tech worker and are involved in the community. (Any community, not just ColdFusion.) Then you die. (Here is the morbid part.) Your significant other, if you have one, is not a tech person. What then happens to your blog? Your personal web site? Your user groups, etc?

As an example - if I were to die (let's hope not), my wife wouldn't have any idea of how to handle CFLib, or my Gmail account, or my blog, etc. My wife is more than competent enough to send email, so my thinking is that I need to write up a document (and let her know where it is!) that explains all of my sites, how to edit them, or potentially shut them down, who to contact, etc.

Have others thought about this at all? If so, have you actually made any plans/documents/etc?

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA https://www.raymondcamden.com

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Serkan Tüten posted on 11/11/2005 at 7:40 PM

You're definitely getting older, Ray ;-)

Comment 2 by Khary posted on 11/11/2005 at 7:41 PM

I think you should create an in case I die page that will send posts to your blog, change your home page, and so forth to say "unfortunaley I'm dead so this site will no longer be updated". Your wife isnt going to care about the websites if, god forbid that happens. Also disable comments on your blog so people wont be posting sorry to here that. Then give your wife that link. So in one shot she can do it all

Comment 3 by Johnathan Gifford posted on 11/11/2005 at 7:57 PM

Unfortunately, this has been happening. There have been several cases involving families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afganistan. Their families want to preserve the web site as a memorial to them. However, because the of the privacy policies of many of the ISP's, those families cannot gain access to the site, retain the content of the site, redirect e-mail, etc. Even with power of attorney, they have little recourse. The bad thing is, if site fee payments are missed, or domain names not renewed, ISP going belly up, the family's memorial is lost.

Comment 4 by dave ross posted on 11/11/2005 at 7:59 PM

I thought about this recently myself. The crazy thing is that the web is so young that we really haven't had to deal with it yet. Give it 20 years, and this will be a much more common occurance...there will probably be companies that specialize in gracefully closing down your "web presence" after you pass.

Comment 5 by Mark Fuqua posted on 11/11/2005 at 8:00 PM

All joking aside, it is surely a legitimate concern. Especially when you have something CFLib, which others depend on.

I guess you should have a succession plan...similar to what you might have for a business. It should not involve your wife at all really (unless she has an emotional attachment to your work) she will have enough to deal with.

Maybe it could be as simple as an agreement between you and someone else in the same situation, to take over for each other, when one or the other dies. Your thoughts mey be morbid, but they are prudent as well.

Mark

Comment 6 by Rob Brooks-Bilson posted on 11/11/2005 at 8:13 PM

I've got cflib covered for ya ;-) Of course that would eman I'd need to start releasing a heck of a lot more UDFs again!

Comment 7 by Christopher Wigginton posted on 11/11/2005 at 8:22 PM

I believe there's a couple of services for emails after death. You basically register with the company and then leave instructions on where to send your death certificate. When the company get's the certificate and verifies you're dead, they initiate a final email campaign for you.
http://www.thelastemail.com...

Then again, you could always reach back from beyond the grave and install a coffincam (http://www.seemerot.com/cam...

Comment 8 by Jeff posted on 11/11/2005 at 9:08 PM

This is just another form of disaster recovery planning. Unfortunately, for this disaster, you won't be the one executing recovery.

I think documenting access to your sites, and instructions for how to maintain them after the tragedy is good.

That said, I find it hard to believe that web hosts won't turn over account information to someone w/ power of attorney for the account owner.

Comment 9 by SJ posted on 11/11/2005 at 9:35 PM

The problem doesn't seem to be with "web hosts" as it is with websites like Yahoo! that offer free email or other services. For them to spend time reviewing Power of Attorney paperwork and matching it up would be an undue burden considering they provide a free service. And they would have to give these documents more than a cursory examination or it would be an easy back-door into anybodys account. Keep in mind that Yahoo! hosts millions of email accounts, there are probably tens of thousands of their customers that die ever year.

Comment 10 by john posted on 11/11/2005 at 9:36 PM

Ray,

This is something I've added to my living and final wills. I have a printed copy of a file I maintain as an attachment to each, and these documents reference the current file location on my computer and how to retrieve it. I think there may be an opportunity to develop an application for storing these, but execution of the actual disposition or disolution of these assets is something you probably want in your will.

Comment 11 by tony petruzzi posted on 11/11/2005 at 9:46 PM

This is is quite a simple question and John hit right on it.

In your will, put a list of all the websites that you maintain. Next to each list the name or the community that you want to give that site to. Make sure that you also list the hosting provider that these sites are hosted with. Have a blank document stating the name of the site, the new person / community that now owns the site and statements giving them full control over the accounts and everything else they would need to take control over the sites.

As for your peronsal sites. List thoughs as well with instructions for your wife to call the hosting provider and take them down.

Comment 12 by mac.jordan posted on 11/11/2005 at 10:44 PM

scary thoughts. My husband and I are both geeks, and run our webdev company together. However, his programming and linux skills far exceed mine, so I am constantly nagging him to put stuff in our Wiki.

Comment 13 by Tariq Ahmed posted on 11/12/2005 at 12:19 AM

Oddly enough, the whole purpose of my blog is to eventually live beyond me. I've been blogging before the word blog even existed (since 1995). I view it as an on going auto-biography. So that my kids and generations beyond have information into their past. Like I know only basic stuff about my grandparents. And know VERY LITTLE of my grandparents. And I want to know more.

So my BCP (Blog Continuity Plan) - is that if I croak... my will pretty much needs to either have someone take over my hosting account, or basically just prepay the webhosting company a few decades worth of payments. :)

Comment 14 by David Porter posted on 11/12/2005 at 1:28 AM

Hmm, yeah, it's an aspect of Disaster Preparedness Planning isn't it? Right there with daily backups and off-location copies.

It occurs to me that the document you suggest should "update itself" (I have enough to remember already) with each change of:
-URL
-Host
-Renewal or Sunset dates
-Password
etc., sorta like a bug-fix history.

If you come up with an ingenious utility for this, let us know, Master! :o)

Comment 15 by James Edmunds posted on 11/12/2005 at 1:36 AM

While you have garnered some very good suggestions and advice here, I would still argue that the best thing is for you just not to die.

Comment 16 by Mark Fuqua posted on 11/12/2005 at 1:43 AM

I like James idea. As my father used to say:

"Getting old sucks, but it beats the alternative!"

Comment 17 by Scott Barnes posted on 11/12/2005 at 4:23 AM

Actually yes,

I had asked my wife to put a site up that i've made in the event of my own death, which basically has a bio and tells people who have pissed me off over the years to kiss my aussie butt.

heh,

No, actually in my Will i've got it stipulated that my son is to take care of MossyBlog (My other siblings will do so in the event he's still 3 at the time of my passing), and post a bio of my life on there as the final post. They both are IT savvy and hopefully it will be in their care.

I have thought of that though, ie i ride dirtbikes in my spare time, and i've had a lot of close calls. One stood out, where i hit a jump in bushland behind my house, didn't pick my landing right and came off... no biggy, except i flipped the bike and landed chest first on the ground...right next to a jaggered stump... basically 6 inches to the left, and i'd have a wooden piercing that was fatal.. on the ride back home i had one of those "what if i died then, thoughts" and the domain did come up.

Comment 18 by Peter Tilbrook posted on 11/12/2005 at 5:10 AM

LOL! Will I be on that list Scotty?

Comment 19 by Micha Schopman posted on 11/13/2005 at 4:46 PM

I think my wife has other, more important concerns, than the continuation of a website when I die. A website is the last thing I would put on her shoulders.

Comment 20 by tof posted on 11/14/2005 at 4:19 AM

Ray, I thought you'd know that, but since coldfusion 5.0, there's a file that's part of the framework you can use to handle these things. it's called onUltimateRequestEnd.cfm ;-)

Comment 21 by Ben posted on 11/14/2005 at 9:15 AM

I had the same thought myself a couple of years ago and came up with a solution, since none of my family are nerds and I do not have a partner. I have a note pad that sits in my safe deposit box with my will and it contains EVERYTHING. Accounts, passwords, private keys, phone numbers, usernames and handles. This includes everything from my ebay and paypal account to the CFXtras and Logware backups. The DB access, phone numbers of companies and even the location of the backed up files are specified. Basically, it could be handled off to a nerd and their is a enough info to have everything shut down or handed off. I update the box with changed passwords about once a quarter and add other changes too. It is a large notebook.

-ben

Comment 22 by Ron posted on 11/14/2005 at 9:30 PM

Worse yet? Disability! An acquaintance was hit by West Nile, spent 30 days raving in ICU and two more months recuperating before he could even understand his own code.

Then he had to go back trying to make his living marketing through a website that had been unresponsive for 3 months. Do they even MAKE insurance for that? I mean, if you die, your dog's sorry, your family's sorry, and your cat could care less.

But if you're disabled, then YOU'RE sorry.

Ron

Comment 23 by Michael posted on 11/17/2005 at 2:27 AM

Ben -

You may want to check with your bank and attorney about putting things in a Safe Deposit box for use after your demise. If you do expire the contents of your safe deposit box are usually 'sealed' until the court/Executor of your will determine the deposition of your wordly possessions. Kind of like the ultimate Catch-22, your final instructions (will, insurance policies, what to do with my website and all of the computers and whatever) are locked away in a safe deposit box until your final instructions can be determined which are in the locked box that can't be opened and so on and so on. Check with your family attorney for specifics.

Comment 24 by DontWorry posted on 11/25/2005 at 3:54 AM

Maybe this is a way for eternal life:
Our blogs, our spam, our credit card advertising will continue to fill the mail box (the GMail and the one of your wife) during years, and this will continue to expand.
In order to continue to survive virtuallu, we should have little programs, like viruses, checking our email, sending mail to marketing companies, like that we would survive for the next centuries.

Comment 25 by Jeff Wilkinson posted on 11/29/2005 at 12:52 AM

I've thought about this, particularly after seeing some sites go black after their maintainers passed on. There have also been some similar topics come up on slashdot the past few years. I have a 'just in case' file with all sorts of info, but for websites the following:

- who to pass info to (techie or site owner)
- login info, (host, username, passwd, etc) for ftp and any admin interfaces
- hosting information
- who/where to pay bills to continue hosting (sites can go black easiest just because she doesn't know what bills to pay)

email accounts:
- setup/login info
- where to pay any bills to continue it

Comment 26 by Jeff Wilkinson posted on 11/29/2005 at 12:56 AM

And... as someone else mentioned ... have a PRINTOUT of your just-in-case file in your firebox and safe deposit box. Just in case your survivors can't find it on your computer. Or in case your computer's demise is synchronous with your own. ;-)

(For security reasons, you might not *want* your JIC file on your computer at all, where it provides such good login and identity theft info for anyone who manages to hack you. Best to keep on a removable disk of some kind, and on a printout.)