Your Online Life and Offline Death in Post-Apocalyptic Times

Three things receive unconditional respect and are regarded as
near-holy in my home: a German work ethic (Kurt, my partner, is of
German heritage), good food (preferably made with lots of butter), and
Terminators (you heard me). I like to consider the Terminator ethos and ask myself, W.W.J.C.D? In fact, it’s what came to mind after Daily Gumboot editor-and-chief John Horn asked me to contribute to the post-apocalyptic series: what would John Connor do?

As a huge Terminator fan, I can say with some certainty that in times like these, with our online lives spread across social networks, ecommerce sites and Google, John Conner would be prepared. And Sarah Connor would be proud.

More of us need to be thinking like John Connor. That’s because, in totally non-resistance fashion, there’s no universal protocol on what happens to our online life after we die.

Facebook, for example and with proper documentation, can turn your profile into an online memorial. There’s also an app that allows you to prepare a video message for your friends and family. The people in charge of releasing that message are called your “trustees” and will only allow it to be sent when you’re gone. Twitter, on the other hand, simply shuts down your account rather than hand it off to next of kin.

There will come a day when it’s left to our family and friends to manage our digital identity. Assuming that Skynet hasn’t tried to destroy the human race and the Resistance isn’t too busy fighting to worry about your digital life which would no doubt be controlled by Skynet anyways, it’s worth considering the following checklist to better help the people you love take care of your memory, both on and offline.

What To Do Online Before You Die

1. To the best of your ability (let’s face it, it’s hard to keep track of it all) list all of the online networks, communities, websites, companies and organizations you belong to that require a password login. This includes Facebook and other social network websites as well as online banks and websites you’ve bought from in the past. Keep this in a safe place somewhere on your computer and, preferably, offline. It’s likely a document you’ll want to update, annually. When the time comes your friends and family can follow your wishes.

2. Tools like 1Password will help keep all of your passwords and login information handy and in one place for your next of kin.

3. Do you host your own blog or website? Prepare all of the hosting information and keep it together in one place with instructions on how to proceed. There are also hosting solutions that, for a price, will keep your blog up and live and operating, indefinitely. Maybe even through Judgement Day.

4. There are online services that can send email messages to your contacts so long as it’s prompted by someone you’ve given control. If final farewells are important to you, this may be a service you want to consider. Personally, I would ask one of my close friends (likely a writer from the Daily Gumboot) to prepare a digital eulogy and send it out to my contacts.

5. It’s important to have a will and there are templates and online tools available to help you create a digital version of it. Keep in mind you will still need a notary to make it official.

6. Finally, think about what you want your online legacy to look like — do you want a place where people can come together to send your loved ones their deepest sympathies? Will there be a digital component to your wake? These may sound like morbid questions but I know they’re the ones my friends and family will ask when I’m gone.

I think we’re going to see a lot more activity and conversation around the topic of how we die online in the years ahead. In the meantime, prepare like you would for the Resistance and against any damage that could harm your online memory and the efforts of your loved ones. It’s certainly what John Connor would do.

Photo courtesy Maxwell Hamilton, flickr.

Have I missed anything? I’d love your feedback and advice on how to better preserve  online memory and build an online legacy. Feel free to post, below.

Get your vote on!

November 19 is just around the corner and its time to get your vote on. Across the Province of BC, municipal voters will be heading to the polls. Here’s hoping last time’s abysmal showing of 31 percent ( that’s right – less than a third of all eligible voters) doesn’t repeat. Initial estimates based on the numbers turning out for advanced polling seems to be pointing out this year may have a higher turnout. Hurray!

One of my favourite things about any election is the range of videos and ads that appear in the lead up. While there is always the more generic “thoughtful” ads jammed with canned music, earnest looking political sermons and glossy images of our “Vancouver”, there’s also the guerilla videos produced by various parties and cadidates that are meant to get you laughing all the way to the polling station. To give you a flavour for what’s out there, here are a few recent creations by We Back the Juice Man. The particularly fun ones are the faux attack-ads. If you want to see some real attack ads, check out the NPA’s Take Back the City. I’d put them up here, but they are kind mean. Anyway, enjoy!


A Planetary Champion Turns 40

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace and the Daily Gumboot would like to tip its hat to the founders who began an environmental movement forty years ago in their Vancouver, Kitsilano living room.

Greenpeace Turns 40

On September 15th, 1971 Greenpeace set sail on its first voyage to try and stop nuclear testing in Alaska. The small crew of activists that sailed out of False Creek has now grown into the world’s largest, independent environmental organization.

In celebration of this milestone, Greenpeace is throwing a free all-day festival at Jericho beach in Vancouver on Saturday, September 17th from 11am to 6pm.

The Rainbow Warrior

Earlier this year, The Daily Gumboot wrote about the New Rainbow warrior, the ship Greenpeace has sailed for the last 40 years.

In 2010, in an effort to fundraise for a new ship, Greenpeace International launched an online campaign that encouraged donors to select a part of the ship they want to sponsor.  The end result was an interactive project that not only broke the mold on what an online fundraising campaign can accomplish, it was a lot of fun.

Word on the open seas is that the new Rainbow Warrior is in the North Sea right now doing sea trials so it’s unlikely she’ll make an appearance in Vancouver this weekend. Rest assured there will be a real party atmosphere as Greenpeace celebrates its 40th in it’s hometown.

Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior have left their marks on the global psyche and I expect this organization will continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be a planetary champion, this week and for the next forty years.

Happy Birthday!

Blast from the Past: The Ultimate Wedding Playlist

This fantastic photo is listed under Flickr's creative commons license by Edward:

Editors Note: This is the second of our “Blast from the Past” series where we feature top Gumboot posts of years past. This story was first posted May 6, 2010. It is among our most popular and quite timely posts.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine who is getting married asked me to compile a wedding playlist for him. I posted the news to Facebook and suggested an open playlist that anyone could add to – the idea was pretty well received. It turns out there are other people out there looking for the perfect wedding playlist, too.

I thought a good place to start compiling this imaginary perfect list would be on Facebook. So, I created a fan page: “The Ultimate Wedding Playlist.” If it catches, wonderful! Here’s hoping this seemingly “simple” way to manage song suggestions doesn’t turn complicated. If this page turns out to be a flop, no big deal. I’m confident I can come up with a damn good list on my own.

I have a sneaking suspicion my saving grace will be the fact that some truly universal wedding dance songs exist. You know what I’m talking about – those songs that have the ability to crack even the most reserved of wedding guests. Like “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles made fabulous by John Lennon’s vocal gymnastics. Or “Love Shack” by the B-52’s – who can resist throwing your arms and voice up when singer Cindy Wilson belts out “Tin roof… rusted!” (it was ranked #243 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.) These days you can’t throw a garter without hitting a wedding that features Chris Brown’s “Forever,” thanks to Jill and Kevin’s unforgettable wedding entrance. I’m sure Gumboot editor Kurt Heinrich would argue that Coolio’sGangster’s Paradise” should show-up somewhere on our list (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he knows the lyrics by heart.) I know I would consider throwing in a little Jonsi into the mix (he’s the lead singer from Sigur Rós.) But that might be a little too “alternative” for some people’s tastes. And then you have to consider the fact that not all wedding playlists are created equal. It all comes down to the crowd and what sort of energy you want pulsing through your guests.

In any case, I hope to extract at least a few song suggestions that will help me on my musical compilation journey. Take a peek at the Facebook page – add your two cents and let’s try and build one, killer song list.

Digital Fill: Reddit and Why It’s Cool

Caribou Reddit Alien

Reddit, for those of you who don’t know, is an online social news website with content determined by users as opposed to news editors. Like Digg before it, Reddit users can vote content up and down. They can even vote up comments and ads. Reddit has been around since 2005 and describes its primary audience as male, between the ages of 28 and 32. Although clearly it’s not completely void of female contributors (I’m a user, too.)

With an account, you can follow and comment on subreddits, which are really just conversations within Reddit that follow specific and often niche topics. For example, if you’re a big fan of redheads, you can follow the redhead or ginger subreddit (I’ll let you search for that on your own – it’s pretty raunchy, for the most part.)

Subreddits have been known to turn into micro-communities with a philanthropic twist. One of my favourite Reddit stories involves members of the Christianity subreddit, Atheist subreddit and Islam subreddit who, in 2010, came together to raise money for World Vision.

Reddit users also have an online reputation for spearheading some of the web’s more recent crowd-sourced projects like Stephen Colbert’s “March for Sanity” in 2010 (it was originally organized by Redditors.)

One of my favourite pieces of content currently on Reddit (and not likely to change much) is Reddit’s rules of engagement aptly titled “Reddiquette.” As an online community manager, I’m impressed with these rules of online etiquette that encourage users to, among other things, spell correctly, back up their content with evidence and not opinion, and respect their fellow community members when it comes to their comments. Too often, we brush off bad spelling, syntax, tone and manners in general when it comes to social media. It’s nice to see an outfit like Reddit, a website dedicated to fast news, upholding a sense of online honour.

Here are a few of my favourite rules: (because aren’t rules fun?)

“Don’t ask people to troll others on Reddit, in real life, or on other blogs/sites. We aren’t your personal army.”

“Don’t complain about a story being old. Reddit is about interesting stuff, not new stuff only.”

“Don’t make comments that lack content.”

“Do moderate based on quality, not opinion.”

“Do look for the original source of content.”

“Do use proper grammar and spelling. Intelligent discourse requires a standard system of communication.”

Redddit is worth a look. It doesn’t look like anyone has started a subreddit about gumboots yet and there’s always a first for everything. And while you’re at it, click on the icon at the bottom of this page, fourth to the right – the Reddit Alien – and begin your Reddit experience.

Happy Redditing!

The Royal Wedding Debate

[Editor's Note: on Tuesday night, Theodora Lamb and I were sharing a few beers and watching hockey. We talked about non-hockey things in between periods. One of the things we talked about was the Royal Wedding. Even though more than 75% of Canadians do not care about said wedding, the national media just keep cramming images of balding princes and crooked teeth down our colonial gullets. And last night Theo donned a fancy hat and went over to a girlfriend's house at 2AM to watch the wedding live. Theo is going to tell you why this happened. And then I'm going to respond with three reasons why her wedding in February 2012 is more important to Canada than the Royal Wedding ever could be].

Why I Watched the Royal Wedding

Two hours into the royal nuptials party I attended, there was a collective sigh around the room when the newly married Prince William and now Princess Kate stepped out into the natural light at Westminster Abbey and waved to the crowd. All that was missing were Disney’s singing blue birds, descending from the sky, come to raise her gossamer veil.

A fairy tale wedding, indeed.

An estimated two billion people watched the royal wedding this morning. I was one of them. As John explained in the introduction, the two of us talked royal nuptials over beers in front of game seven, round one of the Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks a couple of nights ago and I remember turning red when I explained that I was getting up at 2 am to watch the wedding.

The funny thing is, a Royal Wedding is a lot like watching a live sporting event. It’s an opportunity to come together with friends over good food, good drink, great conversation and live entertainment happening right before your eyes. And even though there was no underdog (I’m not talking about Camilla) and the outcome was in the bag, the dress, the process, the guests, the pitch of her voice as she replied “I will” and the look in his eyes when he whispered “you look beautiful” after her veil was lifted amount to well-executed story, moment for moment.

I don’t expect to convince John why he should care about the wedding. I do (no pun intended) however hope that my interest and desire to watch an event that captured the attention of a little less than one third of the planet’s population is understand. More than the wedding itself, I wanted to be with a group of people (women, in this case) talking about a story unveiling right before our eyes, as if we had a stake in the event. Like a fan watching their team play in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I watched Will and Kate say “I do” with the delight of a person who knows, twenty years from now, I’ll have my own story to tell about where I was and what I was doing the morning Kate and William were married.

Also, I’m currently planning my own wedding and I like to think the moments I mentioned above are a kind of foreshadowing to the elements that will contribute to our story (mine and Gumboot editor, Kurt Heinrich), y’know, without the billions of guests, living trees in Westminster Abbey and Posh spice in pill box hat.

Happy Trails, Will and Kate!

Three Reasons Theo’s Wedding is Better

1. Theo and Kurt are Canadian.True story. Theo and her husband-to-be, Kurt Heinrich, are both from this country and they will both contribute to it’s local, regional and national communities over the next century decades. Unlike the scandalous Royals, there’s no family drama with the Lamrichs, either.

2. Better Guest List. People are coming from just as far away and from just as many countries as the guests of the Royal Wedding. And there are a few key “wins” to discuss on the Lamrich side of this debate. Maxwell Lamb is cooler and a better singer/songwriter than Elton John. Julian Christians can juggle fire, his wife is a Scottish Comedian-Chef-Marathon-Adventurer, and their daughter might be the cutest baby on Earth. Oh, and Lord Hashbrown of Skipper is delivering the ceremony. What do you have, Will and Kate? An Archbishop who flunked outta Hashbrown Academy? That’s what I thought.

3. Fancier Hats. Most of the pre-Royal-Wedding talk has surrounded the topic of fancy hats. Personally, I own over 5,129 different hats, toques, wraps, headbands, and tunics. Some provide shade, others style. None are matched by the pompy, circumstancy hats of the British Elite – I mean, there’s just a stylistic box that people just aren’t allowed to step outside of. Maybe David Bowie could, but he’s coming to Theo’s wedding, too, so it’s a wash.

SPECIAL BONUS REASON. John Horn is the Emcee of the Lamrich Wedding Reception. His tasteful, inclusive humour will go over with a multi-generational, inter-cultural audience way better than Ali G’s “jokes” – also, I assume Ali G will be hosting the Royal Wedding Reception.

So there it is. Some clear-cut reasons for why Canada’s national media have wasted countless human, natural and financial capital to spew propaganda about an event that has nothing to do with our community.

Still, I hope that you had a good time at the event, Theo. Did you pick up any tips?

Digital Fill: Infographics

I’ve been doing a lot of work around data visualiation lately. Writing about it, sharing it, researching it. I’m even getting ready to launch an infographic series with a non-profit organization I work with (stay tuned for that.) Data visualization is taking a lot of data and presenting it in a visual and efficient way. The end result is an infographic. Magazines like The Atlantic and newspapers like The Guardian first made them popular (think Harper’s Index, only in pictures.) The web loves them because they’re easy to share and “like.” As well, in true millennial online spirit, infographics are easy on the eyes. And we’re beginning to see more sophisticated infographics appear across the interwebs.  According to writer and web guy, Darren Barefoot, data visualization is only going to become more popular. In fact, he’s recommending an education in data visualization if a journalism degree is your cup of tea.

Infographics are on the rise and I thought I’d share a handful of them, old and new, that I think are pretty cool.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Someone particularly clever has developed a series of infographics that represent famous movie quotes. Even though the actual quotes aren’t visible anywhere, I can still hear the actors saying it in my head.

This is a fairly recent infographic. I’m partial to it because it outlines the average day of an online community manager, which is pretty much what I do. It’s not too far from the truth with a few exceptions. Although, heaven knows who’s been working in social media for more than “20 years.” I dare you to prove me wrong on that one.

A friend of mine is an online community manager in China. I recently sat down with her and she explained to me the incredible selection China has to choose from when it comes to online communities. Here in North America, it’s easy to forget how other cultures and countries are using social media to connect and build community in their own ways. Infographics remind us how “flat” the world really is, at least in online terms.

You may recognize this infographic. It really made the online rounds in 2010. It presents the true size of Africa relative to the size of several countries.

Infographics don’t necessarily need to present massive sets of data. Sometimes it just takes one detail to make a visual impact. This particular infographic was featured on A technician collected data from 80 different internet providers and visually pin pointed the moment when internet activity was stopped by the Egyptian government. Stunning, no?

Last but not least, this is an infographic an organization I work with,, produced last year. It’s called “How Wild is North America” and I’m fairly partial to it.

Your Digital Fill: The Johnny Cash Project

The Johnny Cash Project is a wonderful example of crowd sourcing to create a music video. The project is a complication of individually collect Johnny Cash portraits. The developers have asked people  to contribute their own interpretation of a Johnny Cash portrait, based on an image the site sends them. In turn, the developers treat each portrait as a frame in a stop motion movie which provides the music video to the last song Cash ever produced, “Ain’t No Grave.”  The project has control over the guiding portrait they send out to each online artist and they can control the arc of the story. Each artist is encouraged to add their own unique touch to their Cash portrait using basic, online illustrator tools adding, texture, line and meaning.

The video is constantly evolving as new people arrive at the site and contribute their own portrait. Absolutely everyone who contributes a portrait to this project can claim one, defined interest in common with each other: their love for Johnny Cash, his music, his role in pop culture or his immortalized memory. This project offers someone the chance to claim a place in Cash’s final compilation.

Ladies and Gentleman, here it is, The Johnny Cash Project:

3.2 Billion Cell Phone Chargers Earmarked for Parliament

I bought a printer on sale last Christmas and now it doesn’t work and I want to kick it and spit on it and smash it against a brick wall. What happens next is a story that repeats itself in households across North America. I need to decide whether I’ll take it in to get fixed (god knows if the warranty is still good or applies to what’s wrong) or buy a new one at half the price of what it would cost to repair it. Sure, I would have a new printer, but I’d also be adding more junk to the growing number of dumped electronics on this planet. Happy with working black ink? Or ungrateful and green?

Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Electronics” couldn’t come out at a better time. After watching her short animated film, I realize there’s not a whole lot of good that can come from passing on my old printer. For starters, according to Leonard, my printer was originally “designed for the dump.” Even if I did decide to purchase a new printer and recycle the old one, the chances of it joining the e-waste export cycle are pretty high. That means that one person in a developing country will be responsible for taking the printer apart, harvesting it for reusable materials, and burning the rest. Not only will I be contributing to an unhealthy economic cycle, I’ll be putting that worker at risk by exposing them to my printer’s chemical contents. The more I think about this printer, the more depressed I get. Thankfully, Annie Leonard and the fine folks at Free Range Studios didn’t leave me hanging without a solution, or, at least the beginning of a solution.

According to Leonard,  we’re all living in an unsustainable materials economy. To break this unsustainable cycle, we need to demand that companies who produce these materials and governments that regulate their production initiate “Product Take-Back” programs. Imagine a world where every time a company releases a product, they consider it’s life cycle and integrate a process that allows the consumer to return the product for safe re-use at the end of it’s time. Now imagine that this was the law. There would be no more temper tantrums when the printer you thought was such a steal breaks down (at least the dramatics would be kept at a minimum.) You could part with the printer with a good conscience. It’s a mighty big idea and we need to consider that big box electronic companies are not the only players in this game. We need to invite governments to the conversation as well. It’s time we supported this kind of “Take-Back” thinking.

For starters, I think I should send the Prime Minister my printer. Or what if we kicked off a campaign, asking Canadians to send their empty ink cartridges or old cell phone chargers to parliament, with a note attached? Wouldn’t that be something: 3.2 billion cell phone chargers earmarked for parliament. Now that’s not something they could ignore.

Memory for Diversity: Remembrance Day in East Vancouver

This year Grandview Park, home to our community cenotaph, is under construction as the city works to rejuvenate this space. Our Remembrance Day ceremony was moved to the much smaller courtyard outside the Britannia Community Centre. The master of ceremonies explained how they had trouble finding a complete band and horn player to perform “Last Post.” When all was said and done, the Commercial Drive community in East Vancouver honoured Veterans Day on a much smaller and significantly quieter scale than it’s accustomed to hosting.

My partner Kurt remarked on how Christian and English the ceremony was this year. Traditional but oddly out of place against the backdrop of our diverse neighbourhood.  Many people in attendance were honouring ancestors, family and friends from all around the world with Italian, German, Japanese, Greek, American, Canadian, and Middle Eastern roots. In fact, the list goes on and on. After all was said and done, Kurt and I found ourselves craving a more secular ceremony, one that compliments the multicultural generations of young veterans and peace keepers today, as well as our ancestors and veterans of World War I and World War II. It’s interesting to think about how these ceremonies will evolve as the years go by.

Some traditions, however, that have carried on from Armistice day, 92 years ago, will always move me. From the timbre of the horn during “Last Post” to the buzz of the engine of the World War II fighter plane as it flies in formation above my head. It’s these rituals that make the memory of my family come alive; men and women who served their country and belonged to a movement that sought peace and safety for people all around the world. A movement we continue to honour and support.