So now that you are dead… what are you going to do?
Probably you want to let everybody now that you are dead so they can mourn you. That dead man's switch cron task you’ve been running for years will finally trigger some action! First thing first: you’ll need a proof of death. Like a link to a public obituary. No fancy API for your local newspaper so your script must scrape the obituaries section looking for your name. As backup option –backup options… you smart bastard– your cron task have published a last post in your blog. It could interpreted as a joke and not accepted as proof but is better than nothing. Ok, let’s autofill that form to turn your Facebook into a memorial. They don’t allow to report yourself as dead so in the combo “Relationship to the deceased person” the script will select “Immediate family”. Umm… HTTP 500 after posting. Not good. Let aunt Thelma take care of Facebook.
Google will be easier. Their algorithms are already counting the days to execute the policy you set in the Inactive Account Manager. Because that product will not be discontinued like… Google Reader. Or iGoogle. Or Wave. Right? Twitter and Flickr ask for an official death certificate. Since your government does not provide an automated way to get it that’s another dead end… Tidying up your digital identity for eternity is hard.
Maybe you should try another approach. What about keeping yourself digitally alive? You could start by posting in Twitter your death. What about tracking the stats about your followers count after the announcement? An algorithmically generated monthly review of these numbers in your blog will be awesome! But then… should you relay on external free platforms (that can disappear overnight) or host your own services (and find a way to pay them after your death)? And if you choose your own then…
Every single provider of a digital service and a massive increasing number of users will need a deceased policy in the near future. It’s not easy to accept, but there are _very high_ probabilities all the people attending this talk will be dead at some point.
In this talk, I’ll reflect in the consequences of this universal fact and what it means for developers the two more usual reactions: acceptance (digital legacies, current policies of different services, digital executors…) and denial (options of pseudo-afterlife with bots, long term thinking for services & providers…). I’ll primarily focus in the situation and possibilities provided by the actual technological landscape (no science-fiction AIs, sorry) and explain the in-progress initiatives on this area.
As software eats the world and changes our lives creating new experiences, we’ll need to find digital metaphors and practices to accommodate one of the processes that has been with us since the dawn of time: death.