by Gerald Oskoboiny
This isn't as well-written yet as I would like; I wrote it quickly in one sitting and haven't finished or edited it or anything.
For a few years (1994-1997), I maintained a bunch of web sites but didn't have much of a home page or personal presence on the web -- just a silly image of myself and a bunch of links to stuff I had done.
Then, in January 1998, after being at W3C for a few months, I became convinced that having an up-to-date web site was actually a fairly useful thing to do, so I started doing it -- keeping track of interesting events, putting trip reports online, etc.
Since then, various people (family and friends) have asked,
Let's see if I can answer.
The main person I'm maintaining this site for is: me!
There are lots of bits of my past that I vaguely recall but don't remember as well as I would like. I find that the smallest memory of a person or event from my past can trigger a whole chain of related memories. And the more details I write down now, the better my chances will be of being able to trigger related memories in the future -- a lot of my childhood and high school memories are already quite fuzzy because I didn't record much about what I did.
For this reason, I've been becoming increasingly obsessed about recording more and more detail about my life. I don't yet have the discipline to keep a daily journal or anything like that, but I am quite anal about things like archiving my email (I have every message I've sent or received since 1992 or so); I keep all my receipts because they have interesting data (what I ate, when, where, which can remind me who I was with); I recently started archiving all my HTTP traffic; every revision to my web site gets time/date-stamped and stored in a version repository, etc. I regularly fall behind on keeping my site up to date, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I expect that sometime in the future we'll have memory-navigation devices that will allow us to walk around the memories stored in our brains, place bookmarks, follow links, etc. and all my effort will have been for naught, but if that doesn't happen in my lifetime I can always fall back on my web site. (though I do expect something like that within my lifetime.)
If my house or apartment were to burn down, the biggest tragedy I could imagine (aside from people being injured or killed) would be to lose the only copy of items that are truly personal -- pictures and negatives, souvenirs from trips you've taken; none of the other junk (furniture, computers, etc.) would really matter.
I've been minimizing this risk for a few years by storing my negatives separate from my photos, but even better is to scan them all and put them online -- once you have an electronic copy, it's simple to make extra copies, burn them onto CDs, give extra CDs to family members, etc.
My goal is to eventually have a copy of every photo I've ever taken online (many of them with access restricted to myself, family, friends, or colleagues, of course); once this is done I'll never have to worry about losing the negatives or prints again. (well, of course, having the negative is best for quality reasons, but losing it isn't as much of a tragedy if you have a fairly good-quality scan of the same photo.)
This site isn't just here for me -- family, friends, and colleagues can visit it to see photos of trips we've taken together, or just to see what I've been up to lately. It can also give them insight into what kind of person I am -- everyone I know should be able to learn at least a few things about me by visiting my site. My family can learn about my geeky side, colleagues can learn about my personal life, etc.
And strangers who see email from me or one of my web sites can put a face to the name, find out that I haven't answered their email because I've been away or busy with other things, or just learn about life on another side of the world.
In general, there isn't much personal information on my web site that can't be found readily by other means (so far I haven't even put my phone numbers or addresses online, even though anyone can find those things out from publicly-available sources.)
I'm still working out my ideas on personal privacy, but in general I like to be as open as possible and to conduct myself in a way that I wouldn't be embarassed by something about me being discovered. (If I get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, my family will be going through all my stuff and I wouldn't want them to find anything in there that would disappoint them.)
@@ public archives, archive.org, password-protected areas of my site, ... Salon article: the net never forgets, Transparent Society, Boston Globe: A Nation of Voyeurs, practical obscurity