Susan knew that physical possessions always get sorted out in one way or the other. She was curious about what actually happens to the digital stuff. She had a hard time because she couldn’t find much information and she felt like she was probably the only person who feels that this is important. However, in a short time this topic started to be discussed in newspapers and on many blogs. She found particularly striking that most of the web-based services don’t acknowledge for the possibility of the users’ death. She was baffled when she read a newspaper article about the case of a family who were suing ‘Yahoo!’ in order to get access to an email account of their son, who was a U. S. marine and died in Iraq. Susan became especially careful with keeping all her important information in a separate folder, so it could be accessible even after her death without having to go through court.
Frequently Bequeathed Digital Artifacts and Assets
Access to the Email Account Wanted
The Most Powerful Digital Asset: Email
The email account is probably the most powerful digital asset. Most of us have at least one. Its content can represent a great deal of who we are and what we do. A casual observer with access to our inbox and sent messages might be able to infer a lot concerning our friends or what tasks fill up our typical day, which services we use, what we do for a living and so on. We should be especially careful with our email account password, since it is often enough to reset the passwords of other web-based services. Email applications can handle many different activities from task or contact management to the construction of a diary. However, none of these were its original purpose, so it may not do any of them especially well.
There are some useful guidelines one can follow for the interaction with an email account, which may contribute to an easier retrieval of its content and better productivity.
We should organize (or filter) the most important information into folders and assign labels to it, while leaving the rest, because we can always get back to it. Even though the email is generally the less well organized part of our personal information space, some people use it to process all of their information, which enables them to have everything within the same structure and at one place.
We have to use clear subject lines. The email messages that we send to others should be short and to the point, as we can always send more if we need to. With a short, clear message, we will get an answer faster. Furthermore, if we manage to put our question directly in the subject line, we will get it right away. If we send too many unrelated questions within the same message, we increase the risk of not getting answers to all. We shouldn’t ask unanswerable questions with no clear alternatives for a response. If we receive more messages related to the same topic, we should read the most recent first. Many problems get solved out, if we wait long enough. If we don’t have a smart solution right ahead, it is better to wait until we (or someone else) find one. It is useful to quote back entirely by ‘reply’ or just a portion of the previous emails in order to establish the context. We should use plain text and avoid the use of all caps which SEEMS LIKE SHOUTING. We should minimize the use of URLs and attachments, since these require more time to be viewed, force people to leave their current context and cause a wider consideration of the information. We should take a deep breath before responding to contentious emails. If we answer these messages at all, we should ask someone else to read it before we press the send button. An efficient spam filter is a must. Our productivity increases if we switch off the email beep and read the email messages during breaks between other tasks.
Email accounts should be included in the personal inventories. We are often encouraged to bequeath our email password to our survivors, but this option should be considered carefully, as it puts our privacy and security at risk. Having access to our email account after our death may be especially important to the bereaved, if we apply the everything through email approach. However, we better place all the information relevant to bequeathing to a secure place, aside from accounts that are accessible only with a password and whose providers are often against a post-humous access of the bereaved.