Derek K. Miller
June 30, 1969 – May 3, 2011
Derek K. Miller was an incredible man. He blogged his way through stage 4 metastic colorectal cancer. He coined the term “digital executor” in 2008. He was a father, husband, musician, podcaster, photographer, writer and inquisitive soul.
He blogged for more than 10 years, leaving behind a gift for us all. His children, Lauren (11) and Marina (13), will have an archive of their father’s insights and feelings about the world as a treasured part of their family history.
Derek’s father, Karl, was quoted today in the Vancouver Province newspaper, “He was proud of his blog, and now it is his legacy. It connects him to the world, and to his family, forever. We were there for him, but Derek was comfortable sharing his thoughts with a worldwide community.”
For everyone, but particularly those who are facing death as a result of cancer or other means, his blog shows how he extracted every last drop of joy that he could out of his life before the end. From his final post:
The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don’t look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.
My Interview with Derek K. Miller
I had the great fortune of having a long conversation with Derek about digital legacy, digital identity and technology on May 28, 2010. Despite our intentions at the time, it would be our one and only discussion. He wrote a blog post about our “gabfest” then, which included his thoughts on preparing a digital legacy. I recorded our talk, with his permission, as an alternative to note-taking. When I wrote my post at the time, I promised to write more about the discussion we had. As sometimes happens in life, I didn’t get back to that plan.
As a tribute to Derek and his contribution to the topic of digital legacy and digital executorship, I’ve decided to post the entire unedited conversation here – late beginning, sketchy audio in places, and free-flowing. It’s clear from listening to it again how thoughtful and passionate Derek K. Miller was about technology and the effects that it has on our lives.
I’m feeling a loss today, but am grateful that he did so much to preserve his digital self for all of us to discover and learn from.
Tomorrow is Digital Death Day in Mountain View, CA. In our interview, we discussed last year’s event and I hope that Derek’s contributions to our burgeoning field are remembered there tomorrow.
My condolences to his wife Airdrie, Marina, Lauren and the rest of his family and loved ones.
Thanks to Dave Delaney who, while mourning the loss of his friend, volunteered to help me get this audio online.
CBC Radio “On the Coast” interview, rebroadcast May 4, 2011
CBC Radio “Spark” on Derek K. Miller, May 5, 2011
Vancouver Sun “A Death Foretold“, May 5, 2011
- January 6 – The New York Times Magazine published the cover story, “Cyberspace When You’re Dead“, which had been in the works since they interviewed me back in August, 2010.
- January 11 – La Presse, Montreal, published “Les fantômes de facebook“, including an interview with me. (Google Translate English version.)
- January 16 – The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi, ran an interview in “Digital (after)life: Protect your legacy after you go“, (not available online).
- February 8 – I was in studio to record an interview for CBC Radio “Spark“, a show about technology and culture. Air date TBA.
- February 19 – I’m privileged to be speaking about digital legacy at TEDxConcordia in Montreal.
- March 2 – I’ll be interviewed about digital legacy for a yet-to-be-announced documentary film about Facebook.
- March 14 – “You’re Dead, Your Data Isn’t: What Happens Now?” is the SXSW panel let by my friends John Romano and Evan Carroll at The Digital Beyond. I’m thrilled to be participating along with Jeremy Toeman from Legacy Locker and Dazza Greenwood from CIVICS.com.
And that’s just my brag list. John and Evan have been getting lots of interviews and coverage of their newly released book, “Your Digital Afterlife” , which I’ll review in an upcoming post. And, on the business side, I’ll be writing about the new services on the market that I’ve discovered since the new year and some venture capital funding coming out of silicon valley.
This year, I plan to spend more time working in the digital legacy space, interviewing people about their experiences, speaking with industry professionals to understand their struggles and helping to educate people about this very important topic.
I’ll tell you about my discoveries here on Death and Digital Legacy .com and hope that you’ll join me for what will be a very interesting year.
I’m speaking on Death and Digital Legacy today at webcom Montreal. The line up from the social media world is incredible – Jimmy Wales, founder of wikipedia, Tara Hunt, Julien Smith, Chris Heuer, Kristie Wells, Jeff Pulver and loads of other people who are at the forefront of the profession. Kindly, before my session the team were kind enough to interview me.
I’ll follow up with more from the conference after I present and have a moment to breathe.
(The next day…)
What a great conference! My thanks to Claude Malaison and the producers of webcom Montreal for a really well-run event. It was quite an experience to speak on that BIG stage, with the UN emblem behind me.
(That’s the brilliant Sean Power on stage talking about social media analytics.)
Feedback on my session was good and I hope that I got the audience thinking about their own digital legacy and who they might assign as their digital executor.
Thanks to everyone who came out to my session.
I was very happy to have been interviewed by journalist Amy Dempsey for the Canadian Press article “Prepping digital assets for the great off-line.” Even more gratifying was introducing Amy to Tamu Townsend, champion of bone marrow donation, who’s story of her brother Emru was featured in the piece. I met Tamu last year when I was organizing Twestival Montreal, but I had learned of Emru’s struggle via Twitter many months before that. I’m grateful to Tamu for taking the time last summer to talk to me about Emru, his life and death, and her struggle to gain access to his online accounts. It’s a story I tell frequently when I speak about the many issues surrounding death and digital legacy.
Yesterday The New York Times ran the interview I did about The Digital Afterlife and the need to appoint a digital executor:
Internet Protocol is Jenna Wortham’s advice column for technology. The question was:
Not to be morbid, but I have a lot of private information and details stored on my computer — in various Google Chat logs, e-mail and social networking accounts — that I wouldn’t want to be revealed when I log off for good. Who should I consult or what do I need to do to ensure my cache is cleared and e-mail and social networking sites accounts are deleted when I die?
This person wants to keep private things quiet. Perhaps they have another online persona or have made some online indiscretions or simply don’t want their family to know about certain dealings?
Things become much more complicated in attempting to keep this secret after they pass. Although there are automated services to notify your friends on social networks or selected individuals of your passing, in the case above, you’d still have to rely on someone to access your computer if you want your cache or sensitive files deleted. Yes, you’d need the digital equivalent of a “porn buddy” to wipe your computer clean of sensitive information, from financial information to, well, porn.
You can read my advice on appointing a digital executor here. What would you advise?
Have you appointed a digital executor to keep your online digital legacy alive? What about someone to delete private information from your computer or from online? Have you thought about it at all?
Let me know what you think.