Maybe I’m a fatalist. Or maybe I’m a realist. Either way, a thought occurred to me the other day. What if I’m crossing the road, run down and killed? Or I’m running across a field and struck by lightning – death being instantaneous. Or maybe I’m going to put a cheque in the bank to find it’s being robbed by a masked gang, overpower them, call the police, deliver the baby of the pregnant woman there and then (there’s always one), generally save the day, but trip on the kerb outside, fall down and break my neck, dead as I hit the ground.
The point is, accidents can happen, I could shuffle off the mortal coil at any point. For me that’s the end of it, but what about my good lady? Sure, she’ll have to deal with the loss, sell the house, cash in the insurance policies and buy a nice beach house somewhere warm. But without knowing the login details to this site she won’t be able to write a post informing the world wide web that I’m dead. She won’t be able to look at all my old emails and realise I’d been living a double life as a bigamist / spy / special forces operative / singer in a church choir / take your pick. She won’t be able to log onto my Windows 2003 server and apply the latest patches, or update Apache on the box John’s Adventures runs on. She won’t even be able to log on to see my credit card statements and wonder why I’d made so many payments to Interflora when I never used to buy her flowers.
In short, my untimely death would leave a lot of loose ends that I doubt I could solve from beyond the grave. Then I came up with a solution – it’s called John’s Dead Man Switch.
The idea is simple. If I don’t browse to a particular web page or click a particular button on my computer every 3 weeks, then an email will magically send itself to my good lady. That email will contain not only all the login details to every site and computer I use, but an explanation of how to use any of these systems that she’ll understand. It’ll have things like a step by step guide to creating a new article here announcing my death, approving comments and so forth. Knowing me the email will start with something like this:
“Hello good wife, you have received this email for one of the following reasons. Either I’m dead, in which case I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m even more sorry to inform you that you’re not allowed to marry someone younger and hunkier than me (unless it’s my brother). Or alternatively I’ve forgotten to press my dead man’s switch and you can delete this email now. Hmmm, now I think about it, if the latter is the case then maybe I should have put that first to spare you the trauma…”
Now the way I see it John’s Dead Man Switch (or JDMS) will consist of a couple of components. First there’ll be a web site that lets me manage my dead man’s switch so I can:
- Click a link to reset my dead man’s switch and prove I’m alive.
- Determine the minimum timeout – if I go on holiday for a month I’d want to make the time-before-assumed-death or TBAD a bit longer.
- Decide on how often an “are you still alive?” email should be sent (if I’m dead I won’t receive it but if I’m alive but forgetful it’ll remind me to click the dead man’s switch).
- Upload and edit my “Used to be-mail” – strong encryption would be a requirement to ensure nobody else can read the contents even if they break into the site and that the JDMS platform is secure.
- Download one of the JDMS client applications.
Which brings me onto the JDMS client applications themselves. The client applications will need to support all major operating systems (including the iPhone) and the user interface will consist of a large button that looks something like this:
I’m thinking I can either have it scheduled to appear at the intervals I’ve set on the website, run manually as-and-when, or appearing every 2 minutes in case I’m so strung out on coffee that I need reminding that I’m still alive!
Clearly John’s Dead Man Switch needs some further investigation and a full specification fleshing out. At the moment it’s just an idea but, unless someone else has only gone and come up with the idea already, I think I’ll make it my next side project. So what do you think of John’s Dead Man Switch? The next great thing or dead before it begins?!