Thursday, December 15, 2005

E-Mail Time Capsule

เป็นโครงการของ Forbes.com ที่ให้ผู้คนเข้าไปส่งอีเมล์ถึงตัวเอง โดยสามารถตั้งเวลาให้ส่งกลับได้ยาวนานถึง 20 ปี ครับ
From Oct. 24, 2005, to Nov. 30, 2005, Forbes.com collected over 140,000 letters that our readers wrote to themselves. And now we're setting out to deliver them up to 20 years later.

The project, which we called an "E-mail Time Capsule," was part of our special report on Communicating, and was designed as an experiment to allow readers to communicate with their "future selves."

Nearly a third (32%) of the messages submitted are scheduled to be delivered just one year from now. But many of our readers hope to communicate over much longer time frames: 15% chose three years, 18% chose five years, 16% chose ten years, and 19% will wait two decades to get their message.

Preserving a physical time capsule is simple: Just shove it in the dirt, and forget about it. But the process gets a lot more complicated when you're trying to store something digitally.

Simply scheduling an e-mail for future delivery is pretty easy--just a matter of writing it and setting a send date in the future. Some e-mail clients will do it for you, and small Web sites like futureme.org will take over the task as well. But once your message is written and waiting to be sent, all kinds of things can happen to prevent delivery, particularly if you're going to be waiting for decades.

You could protect the data on some physical medium, like a CD or magnetic tape. But we're not just storing messages in a box. We're saving e-mails, so we need the messages online, along with a mechanism to actually send them.

So how did we do it? Obviously we can't 100% guarantee that our program will work, but we vastly increased the odds by using the same strategy that helps the Internet up and running--redundancy.

Even though Forbes magazine has been around for 85 years, and Forbes.com for a decade, we can't just assume that the company will be around in another 20 years--or that a database and application will be safe sitting on our servers for that long. But we can be fairly certain that if several different entities are charged with storing and potentially sending our e-mails, at least one of them will come through. So we decided to recruit two very different kinds of partners to help with this effort.

The first, Codefix Consulting, is a small technology consultancy based in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Its president, Garrison Hoffman, wrote the e-mail time capsule application and designed the database that will store the messages, so we know he has the expertise to keep it running. He can also adapt the software to work on any new networks and computers that might come online in the future. By asking him to contribute, we're vesting our hopes in the entrepreneurial model of getting things done--by making the time capsule one individual's personal project, they'll be less likely to forget about it or abandon it.

For our second partner, we decided to go in the opposite direction, and choose a multibillion-dollar international corporation. The hope here is that a huge business can provide the support and expertise needed to keep our project going, and that it will survive in institutional memory--even if the employee in charge of it today drops the ball, someone else will pick it up.

We chose Internet giant Yahoo! to take over the responsibility. Yahoo! has the savvy to shepherd our time capsule through whatever technological changes occur over the next 20 years. And their business is big enough and strong enough that we feel they're probably going to be around for a long time to come.

On Nov. 30, 2005, we sealed the time capsule, and copies of the application and data are now saved at Yahoo! and at Codefix Consulting.

But the job's not over. We don't want you to get two copies of your e-mail if both applications stay up and running. So we've designed the software to keep the partners in touch with each other over the Internet. Once a year, a few days before that year's messages are set to go out, the application running on Codefix servers will send a message to Yahoo!, letting them know it's up and running, and that it's ready to send the e-mails. Once they get that message, Yahoo! will stand down, and won't send duplicates.

But if something happens to the Codefix server and that message doesn't get sent, the other two partners know something is wrong. Yahoo! will then take over the year's mailings. All this happens automatically, so human intervention isn't needed.

There's still one weak link in the equation: What if you're using a different e-mail address in five, ten or 20 years? Well, if that happens, you're not getting your message. But we encouraged submitters to use e-mail addresses that they thought they'd keep for a while, and from a provider which isn't likely to disappear, such as Yahoo!, Microsoft or Google. We believe that enough people are maintaining permanent personal e-mail addresses that many of our long-term messages will get delivered with no problems.

Will the entrepreneur, the media company and the Internet giant be able to pull this project off? You'll find out the answer in 20 years.
เป็นโครงการที่สนใจทีเดียว เสียดายที่หมดเขตการเข้าร่วมไปซะแล้ว

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