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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How To Blog—Codicil: What Happens to Your Blog When You’re Dead?

I’ve got to admit that having the Virus that Will Not Die has been taking my thoughts to morbid places. And I think a lot of us may have been dealing with dark thoughts as our emotions process recent disasters—especially the senseless tragedy in Tucson.

I notice the first thing we do when somebody commits mass murder these days is look at his social network sites. With good reason—the murderers usually have posted something suitably creepy to feed the media’s curiosity.

But what if you did NOT get up this morning planning to make yourself famous by doing something so despicable that people couldn’t ignore you any more? What if you’re one of the victims? Or you get hit by a random truck?

Or what if, at the age of 34, you go to sleep and have a heart attack and don’t wake up, like blogger Mac Tonnies did last year? What happens to your social network sites then?

And—what happens to your blog?

According to the New York Times, on October18, 2009, Mr. Tonnies updated his blog, went to bed and died of cardiac arrhythmia. His blog, Posthuman Blues, is still just as he left it. The thread of comments is heartbreaking—first expressions of annoyance from his regular followers about his lack of updates, then rumors, then the death announcement, then poignant memorials, then…spam.

Without his password, nobody can delete it, and his cyber remains may hang in limbo for years.

I’m not the first person who has worried about this. The subject of our cyber legacies is addressed by Evan Carroll and John Romano in their 2010 book, Your Digital Afterlife. They also have lots of valuable information at their site, the Digital Beyond. They have pressured networks like Facebook and Twitter to put mechanisms in place for heirs to present a memorial and/or delete an account by sending administrators a death certificate.

Adele McAlear is another blogger who focuses on the electronic remains the modern human leaves behind. On her blog, Death and Digital Legacy she notes over 200,000 Facebook members die every year and most survivors are unprepared to deal with contacting cyber-friends or deleting the account. She offers excellent tips on how heirs can deal with Facebook and Twitter, as well as Flickr and other photo-storing sites.

But I haven’t found anything that directly addresses the problem of blogs. So far, there’s no standardized system for dealing with our blogs once we’ve gone home to the Great Social Network in the Sky. That means that unless you’ve got a designated blog executor, your blog could hang forever in cyberspace, untended—attracting endless invitations to meet hot Russian women and enlarge your penis.

That’s why I’ve just asked a writer friend in my critique group to be my blog executor and care for this blog in case I’m suddenly done in by the Virus that Will Not Die, a surfeit of iceberg lettuce—or one of the random maniacs the US gun industry likes to keep armed to the teeth.

I’m suggesting that all bloggers do the same: designate a blog executor—right now.

Yes, now. While you’re thinking about it. Don’t just hope your Luddite parents or spouse will know what to do. Give your username and password to a trusted, blog-savvy friend who can post a death notice and leave it up long enough for followers to express their grief—and then take it down or tend to it regularly.

If you’re in the query process, it’s also a good idea to let your blog executor know where to find the list of your outstanding requested manuscripts and story submissions. A quick email to the agents or editors who are reading your material would not only be kind, but it might even make it possible for your story or book to be published posthumously. (If we can judge by Steig Larssen’s phenomenal success, being deceased might even be a good career move.)

Nobody likes to think about suddenly shuffling off one’s mortal coil, but it’s not a bad idea to have some plans in place. I figure it’s like carrying an umbrella. It always seems more likely to rain when I don’t have one.

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Blogger Florence said...

Wow, I didn't know that when I gave my daughter all my passwords that it might mean what you are talking about today. Thanks, Anne.

Now I'll have to educate her in what to do. I've had plans for stuff in storage, old books and what-not, but until now I didn't think of the blog or the drafts of my work.

Who the heck said, life is a b$$ch and then you die, didn't know you might die in the middle of a life crisis, leaving thoughts hanging in cyber space like space junk.

How very sad for him and those who loved him.

January 16, 2011 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Well, this is another reason to have a group blog!

January 16, 2011 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My wife knows my passwords and can let everyone know if something happens. Eventually...

January 16, 2011 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger J.L. Campbell said...

Sensible advice. My husband isn't computer savvy so this subject has crossed my mind a time or two. Assigning someone to take care of things once I'm gone is one additional thing on my 'to do' list.

January 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Very good advice on many levels. How many of us have living wills or run of the mill wills for that matter. It would be comforting to know that what ever you leave behind will be given away, passed on, paid, filed away for posterity or properly and utterly deleted! I wonder how many cyber spirits are floating around out there in the social network ethers?

January 16, 2011 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger February Grace said...

First, hope you feel better soon, Anne.

Second- I guess you're right- I should do this. I know who I'd ask, without question.

Question is- if I'm gone does it really matter so much? I don't know. I'm more worried about making sure that the people I love know every day that I love them in case something happens to me suddenly (and with my health...) than about what happens to my blog or my FB page.

Maybe I should care more. I'll give it some thought.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful post.

Now, rest up and GET BETTER!!!

Maybe the virus that won't die isn't a virus and you need antibiotics? Just sayin'.


January 16, 2011 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Carol Riggs said...

Oh yes, very good advice. I hadn't ever thought about it, so thanks for thinking about it for me!

January 16, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger TK Richardson said...

Great post! And, yes, I've thought about this, too. I've given my info to the right family members so they know what to do. This is great advice and something we should all keep in mind.

Also, more importantly, I do hope you feel better soon. :)

January 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Dearest Miss Allen,
What do you think of the possibility that the Virus-That-Won't-Die is (even as I type) morphing into the Amazing-Health-&Good-Publishing-News Virus?

There's a virus our writers' group would LOVE you to spread around a bit.

Get healthy!

January 16, 2011 at 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Susan Tuttle said...

Wise words from the Wit of the Central Coast...And it's now on my to-do list! Thanks, Anne. And get better. Soon. And yes, that's an order! LOL (LMK if I can do anything for you...)

January 16, 2011 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger BECKY said...

Anne, I hope you feel so much better, so very quickly! AND, what a wonderful post! I hadn't really thought about this. I will definitely tell the proper person(s) all the pertinent info. Thanks so much.

January 16, 2011 at 7:45 PM  
Anonymous buy twitter followers said...

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January 17, 2011 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Yvonne Osborne said...

I hadn't thought of this, thought I've wondered what would happen to all my manuscripts, finished and half finished, and how the career move you mentioned would effect them. I'd like to think my daughter or sisters would pursue publishers but haven't discussed it. I guess I would want my blog made into a book and then taken down. Maybe I should tell someone so.

Get well soon, Anne. Viruses that won't die are, I fear, going to be a growing problem. Who knows what tomorrow holds.

Thanks for a very insightful post.

January 17, 2011 at 5:03 AM  
Anonymous Michelle Miller said...

Wow! What a great post. I never would have thought of this!

It also brought a number of sci-fi scenarios to mind involving a world drowning in defunct internet content where documenting the past is bigger than prepping for the future... I feel a short story coming on.

Lastly, the mom in me is insisting that I agree with February Grace. It takes our bodies 10 days to kill a virus. After that, you've got something else.

January 17, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks so much for all your good wishes. I think they're working. I actually got out for a little walk yesterday and today I woke up feeling almost human.

Bru and Michelle, I didn't know that--about viruses lasting 10 days. It may be that my virus didn't get the memo. Or maybe it sent out for reinforcements. But they're all on the run now. Thanks for playing "mom."

January 17, 2011 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

Anne, what a great post, and beautifully said.
In particular posting the link to Mac Tonnies's blog was illuminating. I'm not sure I'm ready to appoint a blog executor, but my guess is I come around to it real soon thanks to you!

January 17, 2011 at 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Anne, I know this is a serious matter, but I can't help laughing. Simply because *I* did not think of this before. Here I am, blogging for nearly a year, and this never occurred to me, and I AM the sort of person that things like this occur to! Must put the kettle on and contemplate what it all means!

January 18, 2011 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Kittie Howard said...

Great advice, Anne!! When you have a chance, I've a little something for you at my place.

January 18, 2011 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Jan Markley said...

That's an amazing story. I've never thought about that, thanks.

January 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne - I think I caught your virus! This is a fascinating post. I hadn't really thought much about what happens to blogs/FB pages after one dies (although on My Space, there is Death Space for that purpose). I, like Sierra, am not ready to appt a blog executor (although I do have a living trust, will, etc. so it's not like I'm afraid to think about those things). But it's definitely something I'll consider in the future. Thanks for posting this!

January 19, 2011 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Simon Kewin said...


Wow, that's quite a thought. That had never occurred to me but yes - I should definitely do that.

January 20, 2011 at 5:28 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

Never thought of this and it's such a good point! I guess I've been more worried about the un-edited old journals laying around! ;)

January 22, 2011 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sierra and Kittie--thanks for the Google Round-up and Smiley award kudos!

Jean, Jan, Simon and Simon--Mac Tonnies' story hit me so hard I figured I should pass it along.

Nina--ack! Those journals. I hadn't thought about them. What to do? Instructions to a trusted friend to burn them?

January 22, 2011 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Texanne said...

Truly disturbing post, in the sense that it disturbs my complacency. One thing you can do right now is to turn off comments to posts older than, say, 14 days. At least that way, your blog won't be collecting spam for all eternity.
All my login info is in a proprietary data base on my computer so my survivors can get into the bank accounts, etc. Heehee--if they can find the password to start my computer up.

January 22, 2011 at 3:27 PM  
OpenID BJ said...

You might check out Neil Gaiman's post on a will for writers:


January 22, 2011 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Liz Czukas said...

I have never thought of this! What an amazing brain shock! I'm about to bring this up to my husband who helps people plan their estates. I bet he'll add it to his practice.

Thanks for the great information.

- Liz

January 22, 2011 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger SavvyD said...

Poignant and hilarious! "That great social network in the sky"!!!!

January 23, 2011 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Dawn Alexander said...

Found this from a twitter link. Very interesting post. To the person who said, what does it really matter? I recently received an email from a dear friend, who passed away two years ago.

Imagine my joy (and temporary journey into denial) when I saw her name on the notification. Then deep disappointment to see it was spam. Someone has hacked her account.

So, it doesn't really cause any harm, but it sure can cause more sadness.

January 30, 2011 at 5:40 AM  

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