It looks like I’ve missed an anniversary! I’ve been blogging continuously for three years.
I’ve also recently turned thirty-one – and it’s got me thinking about the digital trail that I leave across the Internet.
I started blogging nine years ago – but they were private blogs. Love letters to the woman who would eventually become my wife.
I’m sure I hope I have them backed up somewhere. I know that all my emails from university and before are etched into CD-ROMs somewhere.
But my trail goes back further. I started out life online as “101234,3340” on CompuServe. I’m not sure what happened to all the posts, questions, answers and jokes that my 28.8Kbps modem spewed out. I guess they’re backed up on tape in a vault waiting either to be erased or archived.
However, the earliest reliable UseNet discussion I can find which includes me is in January of 2000.
Now, I know for a fact that I was on UseNet since 1998 but my brief digging has come to a standstill. Where are the traces of me that future historians will use to discover the origins of their Glorious Leader?
Archive.org has snatches of my earliest web pages from 1999 (Why, yes, it is a Phantom Menace fan site. Got a problem with that?)
Any URLs or pages I did have prior to that seem to have vanished. Pages that I created more recently have evaporated to.
What, for example, has happened to all my comments posted on sites which have since bitten the dust? Gone, gone, gone.
Do we owe it to future generations to preserve every bit that passes from us into the Internet? Think how amazingly useful we find even the most mundane scribbling from ancient times.
It’s worrying to think that in little over ten years, the majority of my online activity has rotted away like cheap parchment.
A Canticle for Eden?
I blog for two reasons. I enjoy it. I hope other people find what I blog useful. That’s it.
Looking back through three years’ worth of posts shows me many things I’m proud of – and a few I regret.
My biggest worry is not that some over zealous HR drone will find I had a drink at university and block me from a job. Tragically, my biggest fear is of being misremembered.
In Walter M Miller’s seminal “Canticle for Leibowitz” we see generations of war and rivalry over what amounts to little more than a shopping list. It shows that anything taken out of context can be perverted far beyond it’s original ambit.
I don’t think I’ll ever be quite that influential on the world. Even if I’m not – I want the world to know that I was here. That I am more than a patchy collection of text strewn about the net. That there exists a whole which is the sum of its parts – even if most of those parts are lost forever.