Preparing for a Digital Afterlife
When you get old like me, you begin to think about your legacy. A good legacy is a life well remembered by loved ones and friends. In the old days, you wrote a book containing lots of good things that helped you, printed copies and handed them out to people you wanted to remember you. In today’s world, books are on their way out. Everything is in digital electronic format.
I’ve written a lot of good essays and placed them online for public viewing. I’d like to make sure they are still available long after I’m gone. That’s a difficult proposition unless you hire someone to make sure payments are made to all the right people involved in your digital identity. It’s not that I am vain; I just hope that someday I might have descendants that will treasure my words.
I wondered if it’s possible to set things up so that they will always be available without making payments. So I got to thinking about it and did a little research. Depending on how complex your online identity has become, you may not have as many concerns as I do. My blog is a bit more involved. Here are the components of what I have created and would like to keep going:
I have original copies on my local hard drive, backed up onto a second hard drive, with copies occasionally burned onto CDs or DVDs and even copies on a couple of flash drives. Of course, I also have printed copies over the years but have neglected to put them all in a single notebook. That might be a good project for a rainy weekend when I have lots of time and ink.
I started posting my essays on Blogger in 2007, then switched to WordPress hosted on Dotster in 2009 and have just recently switched to WordPress.com after Dotster suffered an extended server failure. I also decided to go back and import all my WordPress essays back into Blogger. So now I have 290 essays in two online repositories, some with synced comments and many that are not.
The comments are an important part of my essays. I wrote many of my posts in a controversial way on purpose because I wanted the comments. Reading other’s viewpoints helps me to learn and grow. I am a very orthodox conservative Mormon and greatly appreciate those who do not see things the same way. I learn so much from those who share my religion but not my views.
I own 3tcm.net and latterdaycommentary.com, both registered and hosted with Dotster. I can’t think of any way to keep a domain name going without payments after you’re dead and gone. The longest you can register a domain name right now is for ten years. So while it’s nice to have my own domain name today, a private domain name is not the best choice in the long run.
That’s why I decided to keep my essays in two major public blogging sites. In theory, as long as there is electricity, Google and the Internet, my blog will always be there on blogspot. I’m not so sure about WordPress.com but much prefer it as a blogging platform. Of course it’s a bit more complex with the MySQL and PHP admin requirements but offers so much more than Blogger.
Besides my work email, I have my two private email accounts, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. I like the private domain address which I have had for over ten years. I thought I would use the Gmail account in signing up for stuff on the Internet so I didn’t have to wade through so much spam on my 3tcm account, but ended up forwarding most of it anyway.
Of course I won’t need email when I’m gone, but for now it’s a concern because so much of what we do these days is via email. I have enjoyed hundreds of extended dialogs from readers of my essays who wanted to know more but didn’t want to share that in the public comments. I was shocked when Dotster killed my email recently. I asked them to only cancel my website hosting.
For most people, this is more complicated than they want to know. Up until last week I used Dotster DNS, but when they proved to be unreliable with the loss of my websites and blog, I went with FreeDNS. That way I can control my MX record, which still points to Dotster where I host my email, while I forward my domains to wherever I decide to host them.
I will keep Doster as a registrar for now. In my opinion one is as good as any other. They all have their horror stories. When I first started ten years ago, Dotster was the best. It has declined over the years in both the number of domains registered and the number of sites hosted. But I will no longer use their hosting services – DNS or website. Their tech support was atrocious.
And that brings me to the last piece of my puzzle. I can host my website on my home network and have done so in the past but decided I didn’t want to have to deal with the extra traffic and security concerns. When Dotster failed me I started looking for alternatives. I am impressed with Bluehost, HostGator and DreamHost, but am also looking at free sites.
I chose a free site called host-ed.net but so far am not impressed. They apparently require that you use their DNS servers to make your domain name resolve properly. I don’t want that. I want to use my own DNS server – FreeDNS. Host-ed is located in Germany. I think I would prefer a site that is in the United States. I also don’t want a site that forces me to run their advertising.
I miss having the control of WordPress plugins and third-party themes that WordPress.com doesn’t offer. I had my blog finely tuned with comment filters that kept me from having to wade through all the crap. I also had XML SEO plugins that brought my essays to the front page of Google searches. I can see the difference already. My traffic has decreased considerably lately.
Free Website Hosting
I’m an IT professional so I think I understand how to do a Google search, but I have yet to find a good objective review of free hosting websites. I have a friend who writes reviews of hosting services but he gets paid $50 every time someone signs up with a service he recommends. He has multiple domains, hosted with different hosts and gets paid for recommending them both.
I think I’m going to give Google Sites a go. It’s free and obviously with a well-known company. Some of the free sites I researched look like they may not be in business tomorrow. Besides, it looks like you can redirect your domain name to the site you create. If any of my readers are using Google Sites, I would be interested in knowing about your experience with the service.
I’m already on Google Plus so it seems like an easy integration with new essay announcements. I rely on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook and a few specialized blog aggregators to get the word out when I post something new. I am especially pleased with the results I have received over the years with ldsblogs.org, mormonblogs.org and nothingwavering.org. Thanks for the traffic.
Future of Latter-day Commentary
Sure hope I got my Feedburner feed changed or nobody is going to see this. I’m working on another essay about what various online LDS personalities have to say about how the modern LDS church members feel about evil and unclean spirits. I’ve got a lot of ideas for future posts that I think will be exciting, perhaps even “edgy,” but very interesting. Stayed tuned as I get the bugs worked out.