Our online lives slowly leak away

I just looked at the baby photos of Milan being born. Back then we did something pretty cool with a service called “Twittergram.” We recorded his first cry. But now Twittergram seems to have gone away and with it, our baby’s first cry. That was only two years ago. You can see the link there, but it doesn’t work.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed things online disappearing over time. My first two years of blogging are gone. Some of that was backed up by the wayback machine.

I’ve seen other people’s blogs, or other online items go away too. Hey, quick, find some of your Tweets from just four months ago. They are all still online, but you probably can’t find them. Me neither.

Or, wait until you are hacked and don’t have a backup, like happened with me. I love the folks who say “you should have backed up.” How do you back up everything you do online? You can’t. Quick, back up all your Google Docs, your Tweets, your Flickr photos and all the metadata surrounding them (comments, tags, etc), your Facebook items, etc etc. You will die trying.

I know, I’ve been backing up like a crazy man lately since I got hacked. What’s funny is one of my brand new hard drives died. Luckily I had a backup of that. But what if I didn’t?

What if my house burned down tonight? I wouldn’t be able to save everything. Heck, I’d be worried about getting my family out and screw the hard drives.

So our online lives leak away.

It gets worse after you die.

You think your family will be able to save your Flickr photos? Not if you don’t give them your passwords. Here’s why: they won’t be able to find them.

I let my Flickr Pro account lapse cause I was too lazy to put in a new credit card. I couldn’t even find my old photos. Why? Because Flickr’s search only shows the last few photos and they turn off the calendar and all sorts of things if you stop paying for the pro account. Yowza.

Reminds me of an interview I had with Jeremy Toeman who built a new company called Legacy Locker. But now we need to put enough cash in there to keep Flickr accounts paid up so my sons will be able to see their photos after I die.

Some best practices I’ve learned:

1. If you care that it stays around, use services from big companies. Google will probably stick around for a while. Twittergram? Gone.

2. Put your stuff in multiple places. Why? Because maybe Yahoo will decide to turn off the Flickr service in 10 years. So, make sure your photos go to other services.

3. Back up what you can, but that won’t help long term. Quick, if your dad handed you a hard drive with 10,000 photos would you be able to find anything on there? What if you got that hard drive in 30 years? Would you be able to even look at what’s on it? Remember, when I was in college my entire life was on floppy disks. I can’t even read those now.

4. Print out stuff that you really want to save. I still have my trunk of photos from my childhood, but lots of my photos taken digitally over the years are gone or hard to find.

5. Use services like Legacy Locker to ensure that your kids at least will have your passwords and rights to your stuff and accounts.

Any other “best practices?”

Helping businesses get into the 2010 web

It’s been a while since I’ve talked much about building43. Heck, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged that much! But we’ve been busy over on building43 helping businesses get into the modern world.

It really pisses me off when I try to find a business on Google and they don’t even have a web site. That’s just not excusable anymore in today’s business world. But it also gets me sad when I see businesses that haven’t improved their sites beyond 1994. If your site was last updated with Microsoft FrontPage you aren’t keeping up.

Here’s some of the videos over on building43 and how they help businesses.

Zoho shows off their customer relationship management suite and talk about how they are going to eat away at Microsoft’s dominance, even as Microsoft releases Office 2010.

Brian Alvey, the geek who built Engadget’s back end, is now building a new content management system aimed at professional bloggers and publishing houses. He comes onto building43 to talk about the modern world of publishing and what he sees them need.

Yelp is getting millions of new users every month who are searching for businesses. So we took our cameras to Yelp to understand what’s going on there and how businesses should engage with users there.

Speaking of Yelp, we visited a new restaurant that’s just nine months old and already has almost 300 reviews on Yelp. So, we visited Phat Philly Cheesesteaks to understand how they did it. Tons of tips for businesses on how to handle angry customers and encourage love from the happy ones.

You’ve heard the hype behind Twitter (lots of it from me) so we head to Boulder, Colorado, to find out how a Sushi Restaurant, Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar, is using Twitter to engage with customers.

We visited Facebook to find out how they view business using their service.

But there’s tons of other stuff including videos from Guy Kawasaki’s Revenue Bootcamp and these articles:

Too small to fail: startups can grow in recessions, by Jason Cohen.
Why social media … even if you don’t want to, by Jason Cohen.
ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick explains to Michelle Greer about managing social media.

And many others.

People often ask me how to help with building43 as we turn this into a real community of people who are helping other businesses get into the modern world. Just visit our contributor page where we explain how to get involved.

The unknown story behind CitySourced

Yesterday afternoon I visited a startup, CitySourced, that is so new that they haven’t even bought any chairs yet. So we sat on the floor. Me. Kurt Daradics, co-founder. And David Kralik.

You probably know that CitySourced almost won TC50 (they came in second and today Sarah Lacy called them out as one of the few companies she saw that was trying to change the world). You’ve probably seen the boatload of press that came from that.

You probably know that CitySourced was one of the few companies to actually bring a customer on stage (a councilman from San Jose, CA, one of the largest cities in California and centerspot in Silicon Valley).

You probably know that Kralik worked for Newt Gingrich on a bunch of eGovernment initiatives (I’ve interviewed him before for Fast Company).

But what didn’t you know?

I bet you didn’t know that their product didn’t exist five weeks ago.

I bet you didn’t know that they had less than $100,000 in investment.

I bet that you didn’t know that about a week ago they thought they had been turned down for TC50 and that they would have to decide whether to be in the Demo Pit.

It’s an amazing story and more will be told when we get the video up on building43 in a couple of weeks.

What did they make? Something very simple. It’s an iPhone app where you can report things that are wrong in your city. But there’s more to the story than that.

How big a company can they be? Well, let’s say they get even a few percent of Americans using the app. Imagine all the candidates who will want to advertise there, or study the data for new ways to win. Imagine a screen that says “so and so isn’t going to fix your potholes in your street, but I will.” I’d give that girl or guy my vote!

CitySourced is an amazing story that’s just getting started. Wait until you hear their tips for winning TC. I love stories of how a few people get together with very little investment and try to change the world. Anyone else?