In our advice about planning your digital legacy, we talk at length about usernames, passwords and wishes. Leaving behind detailed instructions for accessing your online accounts can save your heirs a good deal of frustration. But this approach assumes that the service is still available when your heirs go looking. Moreover, it assumes that you’re willing to share access to an account. It seems perfectly reasonable that you might want to share the content, but not grant access. While we still think securely sharing your passwords is a good idea, it’s also important to archive copies of your content. When you create a copy, you’re almost doubling the chances that the content will continue to exist. To quote the saying from Library Science, LOCKSS: Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.
Making backup or archival copies is relatively easy when files are stored locally on your computer, but when they’re stored online at sites like Facebook and Twitter, things become a bit dicey. To help you through the various complexities of archiving your social media content, here are three resources you should check out.
Fast Company has a great article that covers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Picasa Web Albums. It’s definitely worth checking out. In fact, I wanted to write an article just like this, but it’s much easier to give you a link.
We put together a list of social media backup tools for our book, Your Digital Afterlife. We include tools for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.
The Internet Archive has a subscription-based tool that can be used to create an archive copy of most any website, including social media sites. They have specific instructions for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Due to the complex setup and the HTML output, I would only recommend this option to advanced users.
I’m primarily concerned with the content I have at Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. I periodically download all of my data from Facebook using their download feature. It delivers a nice set of HTML files that you can open in a web browser.
For Twitter, I’m quite fond of Tweetbook, which delivers PDF and XML downloads of your last 3,200 tweets. The limit is due to the Twitter API and is easily circumvented as long as you start making downloads before you reach the 3,200 mark. The most recent time I used Tweetbook, I did have to wait about 45 seconds for some users to log out of the site before I could use it. It seems that they’re limiting the number of active users to keep within the rate limits of the Twitter API.
Finally, I keep a local copy of everything I share on Flickr. In many respects, I consider Flickr to be a backup location for the photos I value most.
Once the Twitter and Facebook downloads are on my computer, they become a part of my regular backup process along with all of the photos I’m sharing on Flickr. After all, having more copies is usually better.