Jump to content

Have you thought about your content on AALBC after your spirit flies aka die ?

Recommended Posts

Do You Know Where Your Memories Are?

Kashmir Hill

Sat, December 31, 2022 at 10:14 AM EST

I have many fears as a mother. My kindergarten-age daughter recently learned a game on the school bus called “Truth or Force.” My youngest refuses to eat almost anything but Kraft Mac & Cheese. Added to the list this year, alongside outside influences and health concerns, is the possibility that my daughters could inadvertently lock me out of my digital life.

That’s what happened to a mother in Colorado whose 9-year-old son used her old smartphone to stream himself naked on YouTube, and a father in San Francisco whose Google account was disabled and deleted because he took naked photos of his toddler for the doctor.

I reported on their experiences for The New York Times, and as I talked to these parents, who were stunned and bereft at the loss of their emails, photos, videos, contacts and important documents spanning decades, I realized I was similarly at risk.

Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

I am “cloud-complacent,” keeping my most important digital information not on a hard drive at home but in the huge digital basement provided via technology companies’ servers. Google gives all users 15 gigabytes free, one-quarter of what comes standard on an Android phone, and I have not managed to max it out in 18 years of using the company’s many services.

I did fill up Apple’s free 5 GB, so I now pay $9.99 a month for additional iCloud storage space. Meta has no max; like scrolling on Instagram, the allowed space is infinite.

If I were suddenly cut off from any of these services, the data loss would be professionally and personally devastating.

As a child of the 1980s, I used to have physical constraints on how many photos, journals, VHS tapes and notes passed in seventh grade that I could reasonably keep. But the immense expanse and relatively cheap rent of the so-called cloud has made me a data hoarder. Heading into 2023, I set out to excavate everything I was storing on every service, and find somewhere to save it that I had control over. As I grappled with all the gigabytes, my concern morphed from losing it all to figuring out what was actually worth saving.

Data Harvesting

I find nearly 100 photos from one November night 15 years ago, out with my family at a Tampa Bay Lightning game when my sisters and I were home for the holidays. We’re tailgating with a mini-keg of Heineken. My dad is posing by the car, making a funny face at the ridiculousness of a parking garage party. Then, we’re posing in the stadium with the hockey rink in the background, toasting with a stranger we sat next to. Had we bonded with him during an especially close third period? The metadata in the Google Photos JPG file didn’t say.

The photos transported me back to a tremendously fun evening that I had all but forgotten. Yet I wondered how there could be so many photos from just one night. How do I decide which to keep and which to get rid of?

This kind of data explosion is a result of economics, said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco that saves copies of websites and digitizes books and television shows. Taking a photo used to be expensive because it involved film that needed to be developed.

“It cost a dollar every time you hit a shutter,” Kahle said. “That’s no longer the case so we hit the shutter all the time and keep way, way too much.”

I had captured the 2007 evening in Tampa, Florida, pre-smartphone on a digital Canon camera that had a relatively small memory card that I regularly emptied into Google Photos. I found more than 4,000 other photos there, along with 10 gigabytes of data from Blogger, Gmail, Google Chat and Google Search, when I requested a copy of the data in my account using a Google tool called Takeout.

I just pressed a button and a couple of days later got my data in a three-file chunk, which was great, although some of it, including all my emails, was not human-readable. Instead, it came in a form that needed to be uploaded to another service or Google account.

According to a company spokesperson, 50 million people a year use Takeout to download their data from 80 Google products, with 400 billion files exported in 2021. These people may have had plans to move to a different service, simply wanted their own copy or were preserving what they had on Google before deleting it from the company’s servers.

Takeout was created in 2011 by a group of Google engineers who called themselves the Data Liberation Front. Brian Fitzpatrick, a former Google employee in Chicago who led the team, said he thought it was important that the company’s users had an easy “off ramp” to leave Google and take their data elsewhere. But Fitzpatrick said he worried that when people stored their digital belongings on a company’s server, they “don’t think about it or care about it.”

Some of my data landlords were more accommodating than others. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offered Takeout-like tools, while Apple had a more complicated data transfer process that involved voluminous instructions and a USB cable.

The amount of data I eventually pulled down was staggering, including more than 30,000 photos, 2,000 videos, 22,000 Twitter posts, 57,000 emails, 15,000 pages of old Google chats and 16,000 pages of Google searches going back to 2011.

It was such an overwhelming amount of digital stuff that I wasn’t surprised to see that Google had hired Marie Kondo as a spokesperson for the paid version of its storage service — starting at $1.99 per month for 100 gigabytes. Kondo suggested better labeling and organization of emails, photos and documents to make it “easy to find the memories that spark joy.”

The Missing

The trove of data brought forgotten episodes of my life back in vivid color. A blurry photo of my best friend’s husband with a tiny baby strapped to his chest, standing in front of a wall-size Beetlejuician face, made me recall a long-ago outing to a Tim Burton exhibit at a museum in Los Angeles. I don’t remember what I learned about the gothic filmmaker, but I do remember my friends’ horror when their weeks-old son, now 11, had a blowout and they had to beg a comically oversize diaper from a stranger.

The granularity of what was in my digital archive accentuated the parts of my life that were missing entirely: emails from college in a university-provided account that I hadn’t thought to migrate; photos and videos I took on an Android phone that I backed up to an external hard drive that has since disappeared; and stories I’d written in journalism school for publications that no longer exist. They were as lost to me as the confessional journal I once left in the seatback of a plane. The idea that information, once digitized, will stick around forever is flawed.

“We often say the internet never forgets, but it does,” said web historian Ian Milligan. Companies shut down, as happened to GeoCities, an early, popular place for hosting personal websites, or a service cuts back on the amount of free storage it’s offering, as when the new owner of Flickr announced in 2019 that free accounts had a limit of 1,000 photos and anything more would be deleted.

Margot Note, an archivist, said members of her profession thought a lot about the accessibility of the medium on which data was stored, given the challenge of recovering videos from older formats such as DVDs, VHS tapes and reel film. Note asks the kinds of questions most of us don’t: Will there be the right software or hardware to open all our digital files many years from now? With something called “bit rot” — the degradation of a digital file overtime — the files may not be in good shape.

Individuals and institutions think that when they digitize material it will be safe, she said. “But digital files can be more fragile than physical ones.”

Where to Put It

Once I assembled my data Frankenstein, I had to decide where to put it. More than a decade ago, pre-cloud complacency, I would regularly back my stuff up to a hard drive that I probably bought at Best Buy. Digital self-storage has gotten more complex as I discovered when I visited the DataHoarder subreddit. Posts there with technical advice for the best home setup were jargon-filled to the point of incomprehension for a newbie. A sample post: “Started with single bay Synology Nas and recently built a 16TB unRAID server on a xeon 1230. Very happy with result.”

I felt as if I’d landed on an alien planet, so I turned instead to professional archivists and tech-savvy friends. They recommended two $299 12-terabyte hard drives, one of which should have ample room for what I have now and what I will create in the future, and another to mirror the first, as well as a $249 NAS, or network-attached storage system, to connect to my home router, so I could access the files remotely and monitor the health of the drives.

Archivists regularly cited the “3-2-1 rule”: three copies of everything, two copies on different cloud services and one at home. Some also said to keep yet another copy “offsite,” that is, at a relative’s house or in a bank lockbox, depending on your level of paranoia. History is awash in tales of lost data, including the burning of invaluable master recordings of famous musicians in a Universal Studios fire. John Markoff, a technology journalist who writes for the Times, mined the extensive personal archives of internet pioneer Stewart Brand for a biography. He found that even Brand, who meticulously preserved his communications, was missing several years of early emails because of the loss of backup tapes and had hundreds of thousands of others on an old Macintosh that were a jumble of data that was largely impossible to read.

Getting all your data and figuring out how to securely store it is cumbersome, complicated and costly. There’s a reason most people ignore all their stuff in the cloud.

What to Keep

I noticed a philosophical divide among the archivists I spoke with. Digital archivists were committed to keeping everything with the mentality that you never know what you might want one day, while professional archivists who worked with family and institutional collections said it was important to pare down to make an archive manageable for people who look at it in the future.

“It’s often very surprising what turns out to matter,” said Jeff Ubois, who is in the first camp and has organized conferences dedicated to personal archiving.

He brought up a historical example. During World War II, the British War Office asked people who had taken coastal vacations to send in their postcards and photographs, an intelligence-gathering exercise to map the coastline that led to the selection of Normandy as the best place to land troops.

Ubois said it was hard to predict the future uses of what we save. Am I socking this away just for me, to reflect on my life as I age? Is it for my descendants? Is it for an artificial intelligence that will act as a memory prosthetic when I’m 90? And if so, does that AI really need to remember that I Googled “starbucks ice cream calorie count” one morning in January 2011?

Pre-internet, we pared down our collections to make them manageable. But now, we have metadata and advanced search techniques to sort through our lives: timestamps, geotags, object recognition. When I recently lost a close relative, I used the facial recognition feature in Apple Photos to unearth photos of him I’d forgotten. I was glad to have them, but should I keep all the photos, even the unflattering ones?

Bob Clark, the director of archives at the Rockefeller Archive Center, said that the general rule of thumb in his profession was that less than 5% of the material in a collection was worth saving. He faulted the technology companies for offering too much storage space, eliminating the need for deliberating over what we keep.

“They’ve made it so easy that they have turned us into unintentional data hoarders,” he said.

The companies try, occasionally, to play the role of memory miner, surfacing moments that they think should be meaningful, probably aiming to increase my engagement with their platform or inspire brand loyalty. But their algorithmic archivists inadvertently highlight the value of human curation.

Recently, my iPhone served me “Waterfalls over the years,” which, as promised, featured a slide show with instrumental music and photos of myself and others in front of a random assortment of waterfalls. Like the British War Office during World War II, the technology saw the backdrop as the star of the show.

“I don’t think we can simply rely on the algorithms to help you decide what’s important or not,” Clark said. “There need to be points of human intervention and judgment involved.”

Paring It Down

Rather than just keeping a full digital copy of everything, I decided to take the archivists’ advice and pare it down somewhat, a process the professionals call appraisal. An easy place to start was the screenshots: the QR codes for flights long ago boarded, privacy agreements I had to click to use an app, emails that were best forwarded to my husband via text and a message from Words With Friends that “nutjob” was not an acceptable word.

There were some clear keepers: a selfie I took in Beijing with artist Ai Weiwei in April 2015; a video of my eldest daughter’s first steps in December 2017; and a shot of me on a camel in front of the Giza Pyramids in 2007, a photo I had purposely staged to recreate one we had on my childhood refrigerator of my great-grandmother in the same place doing the same thing, but with a disgruntled expression on her face.

Then there’s the stuff I’m ambivalent about, like the many photos with long-ago exes, which for now I’ll continue to hoard given that I’m still on good terms with them and I’m not going to fill up 12 terabytes any time soon.

There was also a lot of “data exhaust,” as security technologist Matt Mitchell calls it, a polite term for the record of my life rendered in Google searches, from a 2011 query for karaoke bars in Washington to a more recent search for the closest Chuck E. Cheese. I will not keep those on my personal hard drive, and I may take the step of deleting them from Google’s servers, which the company makes possible, because their embarrassment potential is higher than their archival value.Mitchell said super hoarders should pare down, not to make memories easier to find, but to eliminate data that could come back to bite them.

“You need to let go because you can’t get hacked if there’s nothing to hack,” said Mitchell, the founder of CryptoHarlem, a cybersecurity education nonprofit. “It’s only when you’re storing too much that you run into the worst of these problems.”

Inactive Accounts

Right now, it’s cheap to hoard all this data in the cloud.

“The cost of storage long term continues to fall,” said George Blood, who runs a business outside Philadelphia digitizing information from obsolete media, creating 10 terabytes of data per day, on average. “They may charge you more for the cost of the electricity — spinning the disk your data is on — than the storage itself.”

Big technology companies don’t often prompt people to minimize their data footprints, until, that is, they near the end of their free storage space. That’s when companies force them to decide whether to move to the paid plans. There are signs, though, that the companies don’t want to hold on to our data forever: Most have policies allowing them to delete accounts that are inactive for a year or more.

Aware of the potential value of data left behind by those who euphemistically go “inactive,” Apple recently introduced a legacy contact feature, to designate a person who can access an Apple account after the owner’s death. Google has long had a similar tool, prosaically called inactive account manager. Facebook created legacy contacts in 2015 to look after accounts that have been memorialized.

And that really is the ultimate question around personal archives: What becomes of them after we die? By keeping so much, more than we want to sort through, which is almost certainly more than anyone else wants to sort through on our behalf, we may leave behind less than previous generations because our accounts will go inactive and be deleted. Our personal clouds may grow so vast that no one will ever go through them, and all the bits and bytes could end up just blowing away.

© 2022 The New York Times Company

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This media age is crazy!


But, it's good to think about this issue of what will happen or what does happen with individual files when people die.

It could be correlated to the death of a star, maybe. 

If that person did not make a stamp on humanity, a name amongst many, of their life, then I suppose all of their personal data being deleted would not be important to anyone. 

But certainly, if someone allowed a teen child to get ahold of their smartphone and take nude pics of themselves and sent it to a classmate, then the law should step in.

If someone took nude pics of their toddler and send to a doctor, well, that might need to be regulated by the law, to prevent perverts from abusing this type of privilege.

So, this media age is crazy!

I don't want to lose some of my files either, but hope to make a good finish of my life in script and hopefully, not have my words perverted by evildoers. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Internet archive is great. I’ve found found files from AALBC that i lost. 

Maintaining AALBC over the decades and through various upgrades has been a challenge. I lost the first few years of this discussion forum because i could not maintain the software that was driving it. 

At some point this discussion software will likely become obsolete. There is a cloud version but I’m not using it as I’m storing it on my server. But eventually the OS or PHP will evolve to the point where it can no longer run the discussion forum software. The data will still be on a database but there will be no way to access it.


i used the Internet archives wayback machine to find one of the first posts on this discussion forum “de self-hate debate” The wayback machine showed the link but not the actual post. I then used the search engine on this discussion forum (which is not very good)  to find the post, but it did not come up. I then went to Google and found the actual post from almost 13 years ago: 


At some point the company that built the software that runs this forum may go out of business and it then it will be a real challenge to manage this discussion forum’s data.




  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whether it is physical possessions or digital data, some human beings have an attachment to their stuff. 


Yet, unless that stuff is of some value, significance or importance to someone else, it becomes junk or trash when that individual to whom it belongs Is no longer around. 


In other words, one person's trash is treasure to another or vice versa applies. 


It's a good idea to manage physical possessions and digital data in such a way that it can be consolidated or discarded quickly. 


Hard drive technology has made data storage cheap enough to keep data secure offline.


To Troy's point, being able to retrieve and access it could be a challenge. That goes back to how important is that stuff in the grand scheme of things. 


Im acutely aware of my mortality. As a result, I'm a minimalist. I purge often enough so that when I die, there won't be a whole bunch of my stuff to keep or throw away.😎

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, ProfD said:

Im acutely aware of my mortality. As a result, I'm a minimalist.


I hear you man and need to adopt that mentality.  I have a lot of stuff some of it I consider archival material.  I've donated well over 1,000 books in the past and need to donate hundreds more.


When I left my last corporate job 15 years ago (wow).  One of the managers asked me on my way out the door, "Troy, you don't have anything to take with you?" I was like. "Nope."  I was acutely aware that I was not going to around months before I left. 


I just discovered that I lost all of the discussion forum data prior to 2010!  Well I did not lose the data.  I transferred the domain registrar to Google from a much smaller company and I broke the site?!  I need to fix it because there were some great posts there.  


@richardmurray I see now that it is up to the individual to maintain their information, but technology failures and changes, and individual fallibility really make it difficult for individuals to save their own information. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Chevdove @Troy @ProfD

great comment all


to Troy ... yes, I will not go on a rant about how the usa  internet was designed poorly in the first place. I really think people don't see how the internet's design and buildup over the years including the commonly  called cloud  infrastructure, is the problem to many issues like this. but, again, yes, it is up to the individual today. That is the simple truth and individual accountability is the term of the times. IT saves big firms lawsuits or liabilities and it allows individuals to lose all or be judged as the cause to all  that is negative. I do think the internet of the future that will break away from the usa modeled one will have as one of its pillars a far more efficient design structure ,alongside a simple communal push by people to exist on the internet with less robustness.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As somebody who has been contributing to this forum since the 1990s, I do think about my "legacy" here since I am in the twilight of my years, doing good to wake up every morning.  and do have serious doubts about making it to my 90th birthday in August.  but, know that I've led a full life and as ready as I'll ever been to pass on.  


First and foremost I think about the good ol days when  there was a large crew of contributors, - a real cast of characters!  I miss those fun days, and all my  "frienemies", most of whom have moved on and some of whom I am still in contact with on FaceBook. 


Once and a while, I skim through the archives and come across a lot of posts I have absolutely no recollection of having written.  But there is a consistency to my vibe.   I've always been a contrarian, challenging the opinions of others. Always an exponent of the "ad hominem" attacks which, to this day, are a tactic I defend on the grounds that making unflattering comments about an adversary is permissible if the shoe fits and the insult advances the point I am trying to make.  Whatever. i don't imagine i have made that great of an impact on this board. Unless you get points for longevity. C'est la Vie.


When it comes to AALBC's founder and monitor, however,  Troy Johnson,  got better with age.  i salute you ol buddy, 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, Cynique said:

Whatever. i don't imagine i have made that great of an impact on this board. Unless you get points of longevity. C'est la Vie.

Well, I haven't been around that long but I've thoroughly  enjoyed your contributions here.  I've read through some of the archives too.


Whenever the sun decides to set in our lives, I'm grateful to have been able to meet, converse and laugh with you in the virtual world.🤗😎

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK thanks to the internet Archives I should be able to restore the old Thumper's Corner Forums Archives which broke recently because the website for the forum no longer supports CGI scripts, so the program displaying the forum links does not work. 


Fortunately, the forum posts are text files.  I have saved all of these I just need to remap all of the hyperlinks to the locations where the reside now:


Original Location (where CGI is broken, so the forum links do not display)


Internet Archive (to the rescue)



So now I have the links to the files.  I just need to remap all of the hyperlinks for 123,567 posts in 9,583 conversations.  Hopefully, it will be as easy as a global find and replace.



Archive Name Posts Pages Last Comment


Thumpers Corner

Thumper's Corner - Archive 2010 (Final)
1052 175 01-15-10  07:19 pm


Thumper's Corner - Archive 2009

715 84 06-17-09  06:57 pm
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2008
3522 451 12-28-08  09:27 pm
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2007
2897 316 08-20-08  11:55 am
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2006
2413 316 01-24-07  11:32 am
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2005
1924 218 12-30-05  01:36 am
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2004
6273 412 05-01-05  12:44 pm
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2003
3806 319 05-01-05  12:43 pm
Thumper's Corner - Archive 2002
67 11 05-01-05  12:43 pm



Race, Culture, and Economy

Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2010 (Final)
3331 312 01-16-10  02:08 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2009
1397 156 06-17-09  06:54 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2008
8453 1215 01-04-09  10:30 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2007
27511 1683 12-31-07  01:04 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2006
31831 1604 12-31-06  12:14 am
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2005
5216 309 03-14-06  05:36 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2004
7650 311 05-01-05  02:57 pm
Culture, Race & Economy - Archive 2003
1316 88 05-01-05  03:11 pm



The Poetree

The Poetree - 2006 to 2010 Archive (Final)
558 211 01-14-10  12:56 pm
The Poetree - 2002 to 2005 Archive
1184 229 04-15-06  09:28 am



The Kool Room (spun off from Thumper' Corner)

The Kool Room - Archive May 2006 to March 2007 (Final)
31 9 03-21-07  02:15 pm
The Kool Room - Archive July 2005 to April 2006
6525 403 04-15-06  02:47 am
The Kool Room - Archive to July 2005
4872 246 09-10-05  03:25 pm




EVENTS - Archive 2007 to 2010 (Final)
168 141 01-05-10  04:49 pm
EVENTS - Archive 2005 to 2007
438 297 06-15-07  03:28 pm




AALBC.com Inbox - Archive 2005 to 2010 (Final)
187 45 01-01-10  08:43 am
Vote for Your Favorite Discussion Board Contributor
44 2 01-13-07  07:17 pm
"Keepers of the Flame" Serial Boards (2005)
146 10 02-22-05  12:28 pm
What is Your Favorite Discussion Board Conversation?
7 2 03-09-07  03:49 pm
AALBC.com - Off The Record (2006)
33 8 07-06-06  12:06 pm










  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Having had many an occasion due to circumstance to consider the inevitable moment when my life would end either as caused by  an external influence, or because I have somehow managed to LIVE a FULL LIFE and I will simply expire of young age.

It was very simple to figure out both HOW TO LIVE and HOW TO DIE. Especially since LIFE is the prerequisite for DEATH.

It goes like this:

Eat when you are hungry.

Snack when you are in need.

Drink whatever you want whenever you want.

Sleep when you are tired.

Nap when you need rest.

Don't buy anything you already have.

Stock up on what you need.

Maintain a vast supply of what you enjoy.

Love who you are with.

Protect what is important to you.

Defend what has meaning to you.

Secure what you treasure.

Give away anything that has no more use to you no matter how new or old.

Do what you enjoy.

Say NO to anything unpleasant.

Fulfill ALL of your RESPONSIBILITIES without error.

Remain accountable.

Plan for every potential failure that you can conceive.

Anyone that has decided to make themself your enemy.

Destroy your enemies. Their families. Their friends. Their place of business. Their homes. Their lives. Their life.

Anything you begin you finish.

Be thorough.

Never hate.

Don't do anything you will regret.

Don't do anything that will cause you to live with guilt.

Be upright.

Don't do anything you cant manage.

Always be honest.

Never ever tell lies.

Remain loyal.

Don't let emotions rule your decisions

Don't guess, ever.

In this way I knew that I would leave behind the real me. I also knew that the real me is what everyone wants a part of.

Which goes for all of us.

I can most likely fit all of my personal belongings in two carry cases and one computer bag. I am still working at having less. Because in life. Less is more. The less I have. The more LIFE I LIVE.

My content is a thing that I will always strive to give away. There is always someone in need more than me.

I also know that the more I have the more I can help others. That is my sole motivation and ambition to accumulate the otherwise useless and worthless currency and material items.

So although I am not actively seeking to profit or gain from my work. I will not let anyone else do so without the proper kickback.

Kickbacks which I will use to help others.

I will do this until people become self sufficient.

It is in that design that I allow my work to be distributed As the caretaker of the work so chooses.

Its free.

But if you make money from it then so do I.

Its that simple.

This is why my content is always designed to strengthen and empower the person who makes use of it.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...