Let’s Discuss: Infosuicide

This past week, Mark Pilgrim, a well-known and well-beloved pillar of the Python community, vanished. He deleted his social accounts, his websites, and any email sent to him bounced.

At first, people wanted to know if he was okay; Jason Scott was able to find out that the man just wants to be left alone.

Once the state of his well-being was established, comments ranged from sadness to outrage. Many people (myself included) are deeply saddened to see that his Creative Commons Licensed development books (Dive Into Python, Dive Into Accessablilty, Dive Into Greasemonkey) have gone away. Code repositories have vanished. Documentation is gone.

“The moral of all this is that if you want to disappear silently, you should disappear silently. Silently on the internet does not mean deleting your content. It means leaving it there.” — user on Hacker News

Removing your content, your social identity and all of your work effectively is killing your online self — infosuicide. While the online community might respect a person’s privacy if they leave their work online and vanish quietly, they get downright hostile if the content creator takes down everything they have ever produced. Many feel the way one of my coworkers put it, “It’s the consummate dick move.”

The question to coders and content creators is this: * Is it wrong to pull all the content that one creates if one decides to vanish from the Internet? What is the responsibility of a content creator toward their audience when a personal decision causes them to abandon their Internet life?*