Most people do not leave such directives, making the fate of their digital lives uncertain. One of the better-known instances of a disappeared digital legacy involves Leslie Harpold, a Web pioneer who died unexpectedly in 2006, at age 40. Her writing and other online projects connected her with friends and admirers who were helping create the Internet’s self-expression tool kit back in the mid-1990s. In early 2010, after her sites Harpold.com and Smug.com quietly disappeared, some of those friends lobbied Harpold’s family to let them preserve her work. “Her work is her legacy,” one admirer, Rogers Cadenhead, wrote to Harpold’s niece, Melissa Krauskopf, an attorney who served as the personal representative of Harpold’s estate. “I have corresponded with several of Leslie’s friends about her sites all disappearing from the Web. For what it is worth, all of us believe that she would not have wanted that to happen.”
This offer was declined. Harpold’s niece replied that Harpold’s legacy isn’t in her online work but rather “is with every person who knew her and loved her.” I spoke to Krauskopf briefly, and while she was cordial, she had little to add. Had her aunt left directives about her online work, they would of course have been honored, she said. But in their absence, the domains were part of the estate that went to Harpold’s mother, and while Krauskopf appreciates the perspective of her aunt’s Web friends, it was a family decision that doesn’t require public explanation. “People need to appreciate that she was a real person,” Krauskopf says, and the family prefers to “remember her as she was.”” —
Does anybody who knew Leslie actually believe that she would have been okay with this?
I should have a reasoned response to this, but right now I’m just busy trying to cry as quietly as I can at work.