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.