I spent most of today writing out URLs, usernames, passwords, and instructions in a large spiral notebook, in longhand. That sounds silly, but there were good reasons for it.
A few months ago, my wife Air presented me with the notebook, asking me to write down the details of all our online activities, because since the very beginning of our relationship in 1994, I've been in charge of most of those things. (I showed her how to use email back then, for instance—though it was she who convinced me to join Facebook and Twitter.) Now that I've had cancer and have been undergoing treatment for close to four years, we have to prepare for a time when I could be too sick (or, to be frank, too dead) to handle that anymore.
Initially, I put together a big list of URLs, usernames, and passwords in a spreadsheet, and printed out a copy to put into the notebook. But that wasn't enough: what are all those sites for, anyway? What are the steps if we need to modify something, like renew a domain registration or update to the latest version of WordPress (easier than it used to be)? Sure, I could have typed everything up in a word-processing document and printed that out, but sometimes writing things with a pen, the way I used to write essays on the bus in high school, forces a better focus. Plus I could easily draw arrows and rule marks and circles and boxes if I wanted.
I ended up with pages and pages of notes, and realized that in addition to all the fairly complicated instructions they contained, there were dozens of different usernames and passwords involved. Yes, people like Air's former student Kaliya, organizations like the OpenID Foundation, and companies ranging from Sxip to Automattic to Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have been working at reducing that proliferation of logins. But those efforts have had mixed success, or have raised their own concerns.
So now we have our notebook, to which we'll add as we think of new things it should contain. It also got me thinking again of our digital legacies—specifically, what of my online life (like this blog) I want to endure, and what (like my Windows Live ID or my Apple MobileMe account) can be deleted or shut down. Not all those decisions are clear yet, but at least now Air has a decent reference to have them implemented, or to make them herself if I can't make them with her. That's a relief.
It occurs to me just now that I should make copies of those pages and put them in our safety deposit box, because paper needs backups too.