Backing Up Your Social Media


Of course, we are all told to eat our vegetables, do our exercise, and backup our computers.

But I’m here today to tell you to backup your social media presence. If you are like me, you have pictures of family on Facebook, Flickr, and elsewhere, so have e-mail in G-mail, you tweet, and maybe you have a blog. How can you ensure that you never lose a major component of your life in the cloud and in social media?

Let me tell you a story. Mirco Wilhelm, a technologist and user of Flickr, with approximately 5 years of images (5,000) up in Flickr in a paid FlickrPro account, complained about inappropriate re-use of his photos. Instead of disabling the account in question, the support engineer deleted Mirco’s acount, with all of the images and metadata, never to be recovered. Mirco writes about this in his [warning f-bomb in the article title and URL] blog,  and the story has also been picked up in the LA Times blog (“Flickr fumble? 4,000 photos deleted, never to be return, user says“). It seems that he has the images in a backup of some sort, but he does not have the metadata, and he also has created numerous links to these images from other places, and none of these will work without a substantial investment of time on his part.

None of us can know how reliable any particular service will be in our particular case. In the days of Ma Bell, there was a goal of service: five nines, or 99.999% planned uptime. That meant, when the phone company did not have a planned outage for service or upgrade, their system would be up 99.999% of the time. It sounds great, but even this very demanding goal didn’t mean the system was perfect. It meant that the GOAL was to be down no more than 5 minutes a year.

I cannot say it any more plainly than this: Systems fail.

So, you want a backup, not only for your personal computer, but also for your data in the cloud, some of which has only seen your computer in the context of your browser. has impressed me as a very versatile cloud backup service. It can backup:

  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Google Sites
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Contacts
  • Picasa
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Blogger
  • Zoho

A free account gets you 2 GB of storage is Amazon’s S3, weekly backups of up to 5 accounts. For $4.99 a month, you can backup 25 accounts, totaling up to 20 GB, on a nightly basis. It allows for a fair amount of peace of mind.

Would this have helped Mirco Wilhelm? No, not really. He would have had his Flickr images, and some of his metadata, but he would still have a lot of re-assembly ahead. But without this kind of service, you could lose source content, especially on sites like Facebook, where a friend might take down a photo you still wanted to see.

(I note that also picked up the Wilhelm story. In their blog post they claim that one third of data loss is due to human error.) iOS Apps

1920 Census in the App on an iPad announced apps for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices ( blog link).

The free app allows members to access family trees they have created or that have been created by their friends, and get access to the documents they have attached to these trees while they not at a computer, but have an Apple iOS device handy. ( says they are investigating creating an Android operating system version of the App.)

This announcement involves Ancestry improving it’s iPhone App, and also releasing an iPad-specific app designed specifically for use with the larger format of the iPad.

The blog entry says:

“Today, we announced the availability of an enhanced version of our iPhone app, Ancestry, that now has universal support for the iPad and offers several new features:

  • An interactive family tree viewer to visualize relationships in your family history
  • Access to family trees that were shared with you
  • Ability to view attached historical documents and source citations attached via
  • An improved user experience
  • Available on the iPad”

On the iPad, makes the point that this will be a powerful sharing tool for genealogists to show one another and their families what they have found.

While I do not have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and haven’t felt a real desire to get one until now, being happy with my HTC Evo Android phone, my Mac laptops, and my Kindle, this looks quite interesting.

With’s acquisitions last year of Footnote, one wonders if the interactivity available on that site will seed creativity around these mobile apps, allowing users to annotate images for themselves and others from the App, and upload this information to the web.

The app becomes really compelling if I can make “notes” about the genealogical images, say that have been incorrectly indexed, and then, the next time I am online, upload those notes for others. Or, if I can take quick snapshots (iPad 2 is rumored to have a camera), then upload these quickly to Flickr, Ancestry, and other accounts with default privacy settings. As a one-way app, Ancestry looks cool; as a portable collaborating and crowd sourcing tool, it would be an almost essential addition to any genealogist’s technological toolkit.