Colin Douthwaite Logs Off
November 7, 2009 1:04 AM   Subscribe

A posting last month to RISKS on the topic of posthumous emails brings to mind the story of Colin Douthwaite. Mr. Douthwaite, an active USENET user, passed away in March of 1999 after some prolonged medical difficulties. His son Ian's farewell message to alt.ascii-art inspired a small flood of original memorial works and a much larger flood from members' personal archives in his memory.

Relatedly, Facebook and LiveJournal now allow profiles of deceased users to be frozen in time as a memorial, and numerous services now exist for preparing your own final words for your net.friends.
posted by mkb (7 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I actually find these kind of memorials, and moreover our own internet voices from beyond the void very touching, and also in some ways a beautiful metaphor for the process of death itself (as an atheist).

Our bodies decompose, the atoms and molecules that make our essence do not disintegrate; rather, they disperse, begetting other life, other movements, other chemical processes and reactions. Who knows that I may end up part of a cloud? A power station? A nematode?

Meanwhile, our thoughts and actions move in parallel; borne in the minds of others, reproduced, echoed, respected, derided. Our thoughts may yet surface in the minds of nascent generations, as unaware of our ghostly presence as we are of our forebearers, or as unattributed as the carbon in our bodies from the fuel we took it from.

A moving, beautiful process. May it never end.
posted by smoke at 2:17 AM on November 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

May it never end...

...until we stop dying.
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:34 AM on November 7, 2009

Previously: Should the profiles of deceased MeFites be preserved?

(Apt quote: "Have you guys ever noticed how fucking weird the future is?")
posted by Rhaomi at 7:05 AM on November 7, 2009

Yeah, I've come across this problem.

I do various technologies for screenreader users (blind people). I corresponded with and admired the work of a guy called Veli-Pekka Tätilä. His website was full of useful commentary.

While doing a routine check of links on my website I found his had gone. Well, it was a student site, happens all the time. A quick Google to locate where he's gone, fix the links or host the pages myself.

I was sad to find that he'd died at the age of 24.

So, I've pulled his pages out of the wayback machine - so they're actually still online, of course - and I've reformatted his web pages for my site with an appropriate note in case of any complaints. I've also carefully credited each page.

At the time I just noted that I hadn't been able to contact the family - though the honest truth is that apart from an hour Googling I didn't try very hard, assuming it wasn't going to be very easy - but now I've found the Dolphin link above I'll try through the company.

I've not linked to my site because I don't want to look like I'm astroturfing using someone else's work. You can find it by Googling WebbIE. It's the web browser, not the rapper...
posted by alasdair at 8:37 AM on November 7, 2009

Got this piece of email that I thought people might like: "Colin was my father and it touched me to see that people still remembered him. I'm not a member of your site (and don't wish to be) but I'd be glad if someone could post a follow-up comment to this post, letting people know I'd seen it, and appreciated the sentiments."
posted by jessamyn at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by smoke at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2009

Aw, shucks, jessamyn.
posted by mkb at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2009

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