in microsoft, seattle, Uncategorized

Is Dave Chen Still Alive?

There are many logistical challenges to moving across the country. One of them is the inability to bring your social network with you. I am blessed to have many friends in the Seattle area, but I am still new here and in the process of trying to integrate myself into the lives of those around me.

I occasionally worry about “worst case scenarios.” Like, what would happen if something terrible were to befall me? What if, God forbid, I died all of a sudden? How would it play out?

As a single guy living in a one-bedroom apartment, it would probably be days before anybody realized anything was wrong. To me, that’s an unacceptably long time for my corpse to lay in my apartment, unattended. “There has to be a better way!” I thought.

Thus, I bring to you

The purpose of this website is to answer a very simple question: Is Dave Chen (me) still alive? The answer will either be yes or no, and is promptly displayed when you visit the website. How is this determined?

I discussed this project with my brother, Mike (a web developer) for quite some time. The way I figured it, I would log in to the website once per day and check some kind of box, confirming that i’m still alive. Mike did not think this was a good system. Here’s my reconstruction of our conversation:

Mike: Dave, you’re going to have to check this box every day for the rest of your life. Are you really ready to add this to your routine? Forever?
Dave: I’ve considered this, and the answer is yes.
Mike: This sounds like a terrible idea for many reasons.
Dave: Why?
Mike: Well, here’s one reason, and I’m just going off the top of my head here: what if you accidentally forget to check the box one day? Then people freak out because they think you’re dead. And then you need to re-assure them that you’re NOT dead. But then in the event that you ARE dead next time, people won’t actually believe it’s the case, thus invalidating the whole purpose of the site.
Dave: Well then, I’ll just have to work very hard not to forget.
Mike: That’s madness. I can easily come up with a better solution.

And he did! So now, every day, I receive an e-mail asking me if I’m still alive. If I click on the “yes” link, then the status quo is maintained. So really, if the site says “No,” then either Dave Chen is dead, or for some reason he did not have access to his e-mail.

So,! Bookmark it and you’ll always know the answer to one of my most pressing questions.

[Related: For those of you reading this also contemplate the journey to the undiscovered country, there’s a service called DeadSocial that will store messages to be delivered to your social networks until you die. Seems like a pretty cool idea, but I can’t say I trust any service with my deepest darkest secret messages, let alone one that will only deploy them when I’m dead. What if there’s a false negative, or more likely, an incident that causes an accidental message deployment? If you’re not dead yet, it could drive you to be!]

  • Recently a friend of mine passed away and I've been thinking about this idea of death with respects to having a digital life and a digital legacy. As a fan of comic books, I came to liken it to how heroes had to set up means by which of setting things in order. And I see it also working for us in the digital age. How many of us have services like YouTube and Flickr, and have things that aren't public. Sure we have private things but I also imagine we have things we have stored and saved for later use. It's like how people search for Picasso things, but for us, we'll need people to scour our digital life to see things we haven't shown. Just interesting things, I suppose…

  • jpk

    The email idea is the same idea as a checkbox. Both are stupid.

    Just wear a wristband and have the doctor who confirms your death mark you as dead.

  • Just tie it into your social networks, both private and public, to monitor activity at a set time interval such as once a day/week/month. You, Dave Chen, are quite active online so this process can easily be automated. If the site notices no activity across all your social networks, then it can automatically reach out to connect with you via email or text. Use Google Voice or something to automate a text message and have it await a reply.

  • Mr Chen, the intricacies of your thought processes intrigue me to no end.

  • Considering recent events in Seattle, I'm glad to see a YES this morning.

  • Stephen: Coincidentally, my brother and I chose this morning to test the system and see if it could reliably deliver a "No." But fortunately, I was up super early in the morning and was able to update it 🙂