A few weeks ago, the WordPress community (and the world) lost an amazing person: Alex King. You can read much more about who he was as well as a round-up of tweets and posts all about him on WP Tavern.

Our Legacy

I’m not a fan of trying to summarize a person’s life in a quote or a sentence so I won’t be doing that. Instead, I wanted to highlight that Alex did something that’s been on my mind ever since I first read the post:

One of the things my wife and I are trying to do is put together some information about my career that will hopefully give my 6 year-old daughter a better sense of who I was as an adult. She knows me as “dad”, but when she gets older she’ll be curious about who I was to my peers and colleagues.

Take the time to read the entire post and its feedback, as well.

Whenever we lose people that have made a significant impact on our lives, be it directly or indirectly, it can be a challenge to process it. I don’t think it gets any easier nor do I believe it’s supposed to, either.

With that said, I’ve been thinking about how so many of us are sharing content via our blogs and how this may impact the legacy we leave behind.

In short, what we publish can be come part of our legacy.

Our Legacy

When getting introspective like this, it’s easy to become focused on ourselves, isn’t it? The thing is, a legacy is one of those things that impacts those around us since its what we leave behind.

What We Publish, What We Share

To that end, I think it’s important that we consider the implications of what we publish and we share. When others look back at our online lives, they get a sense of who we are (or were).

Whenever anyone asks about the writing-style of this blog, I always say that I try to write like I speak. Sure, it’s easy to think about writing in a more academic sense but that’s not who I am. I’d rather write so when we meet face-to-face, you feel as if you’ve got a sense of who I am based on what you’ve read.

Furthermore, I hope the things that I write – be it here or on other properties – are helpful to others. We live in a vocal world (which isn’t a bad thing) where we can share just as much negative as we can positive. I’d much rather be contributing to the latter.

Finally, one of the things that I often discuss with my wife, Meghan, is how we handle our digital assets should one of us die.

  • Do we take them down or leave them up?
  • Do we lock them down so only people with certain credentials can access them?
  • If we opt to leave them up, then for how long?
  • If something were to happen to both of us, who has the keys to our accounts?
  • …and so on.

As of now, I don’t have answers though we talk about them often. And I think the gravity of the questions increases when you have children.

What We Share Impacts Others

For those interested, a friend of mine has written a piece that talks about what to do with your content after you pass. It’s worth a read if for no other reason than consideration.

Anyway, my bottom line is that the content we’re sharing online can be part of our legacy. It’s things that those who survive us can refer to get a sense of who we were. They can derive information about our personalities, our likes, dislikes, and so on.

To pretend the things we’re sharing won’t somehow impact others now and later is shortsighted.

If you’re contributing anything to the Internet through blog posts, status updates, comments, and so on, please keep that in mind.