What happens to our information when we die?

February 22, 2007

There’s a good article on UXmatters about the increasing difficulty of keeping a handle on all our digital information. I’ve mostly thought about this as a short term, immediate problem: how can I make my life easier now? But of course, there is also the question of how we are going to manage all this information going forward. Are we going to be able to access photos and email that are 20 years old?

Luckily, I think the two points of view (immediate vs. long-term) are basically the same problem. If we can make it easier to navigate, manipulate, and share our information now, then it will be easier to access in the future. Again, it basically comes back to the core ideas of the semantic web (from the W3C):

The Semantic Web is about two things. It is about common formats for integration and combination of data drawn from diverse sources, where on the original Web mainly concentrated on the interchange of documents. It is also about language for recording how the data relates to real world objects. That allows a person, or a machine, to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing.

For the longest time, I saw this as being a separate problem from personal information management. But our personal information is increasingly becoming part of the web, and I see now that it’s really all the same problem.