Read an amusing post this morning by Kevin Kelley. In a post called “Temporary becomes permanent” he muses about how some things end up becoming permanent, even if it wasn’t intended that way:
Most permanent things begin as a temporary fix. A footpath becomes a road becomes a highway. A quick hut becomes a house becomes a hotel. A doodle becomes a logo becomes a brand. A patch becomes an operating keystone. A camp becomes a city.
He goes on and talks about software development:
One could imagine that in 5 centuries, parts of unix will be found operating in servers. But it is clear that no one would be more surprised than the creators of unix. Most creations, including software, are written in less than optimal conditions. Creators always have the idea that they will go back later to fix the many known imperfections. Of course they are never fixed because the shipped rev is “good enough” — and so the temporary good enough becomes a permanent good enough.
It got me thinking about what happens in the current web. In the early days the web wasn’t a very public place. It was a library of information that you could visit. But it was hard to add your own books or information to it. The most important “social” media then (still now I’m betting) was e-mail. E-mail was private too. Your send and received mails were stored on a server (usually at an ISP) and this data lived as long as you kept paying the service provider money for the e-mail subscription. As a result of this your on-line presence was focused around a single place, your inbox. This on-line presence distributed to some extend into other people’s inboxes.
But things have changed since then. Everything has become social. As a result, we leave traces of ourselves across this ever expanding social web universe. We have blogs, profiles on multiple social networks, we buy stuff, sign up for services, we interact in public. Every single action we take on the web is not only recorded, analyzed and stored for later use, it is also increasingly related to your identity.
The funny thing about this is that you once had to pay to keep your on-line data alive. Now it is not only free, it’s impossible to delete any of it. I can (like in the old days 😉 ) delete my e-mail account, but I can’t get rid of my on-line interactions. There are servers listening now as I type. They record everything I do and never forget. My on-line presence, interaction, and even identity is spread across uncountable data servers and services. We are all Googled, Yahoo’ed, Facebooked and so on. With the democracy of the web comes along the machines. They listen, analyze and store, potentially forever. There isn’t a delete button possible.
The data becomes pretty much useless after a while of course. My life changes, my habits, my preferences. But everything remains on those servers, even when I’m long gone and dead. Google, Facebook, all web 2.0 Orwellian services and their successors can’t forget.
It makes me feel good that even when I’m gone I’m still here online. Parts of me will be on those servers, driving costs, being useless to those that have stored it. Serves them right, following me around online and never allowing me to delete anything that they stored. Give them more useless information, let them store all trivial stuff in the knowledge that if millions do so there isn’t a way to delete it, ever again. They give me a free services so that they have the right to track and trace me for advertisement purposes. I’ll give them data, it’s useless anyways. But it will cost them to store it, to analyse it, to make money off of it. Spam those data hogging bastards. And it’s our recipe to live forever.
And part of me probably likes the idea that in 500 years or so someone might stumble across this van Elsas dude in some forgotten part of some giant data server. Maybe some musings he wrote about this crazy, ancient web 2.0 world we lived in then. It’s temping, this idea of an eternal life 😉