Digital Legacy

There’s a thought that’s occupied my mind lately – working in software, will I ever leave a lasting legacy? A central concept in the software world is building solutions that will inspire new and better solutions, and so the history of the earlier pieces is often lost.

I grew up being taught that anything you put online stays online. This was meant as a privacy safeguard more than anything else, but by the same reasoning I thought that my projects would also stand the test of time. Even if people forgot, the data would be there.

My first software project was an encyclopedia and skill calculator for an online game called Tibia. This was long before wikis were a thing, mind you. The game was still rather basic back then, and users often built tools one could use on the side to compensate for missing features. My inspiration to do this was a user called Loki X, who built a couple of tools to supplement the game. The only one I remember now is the friend list, which fetched a list of the players who are online from the game servers and displayed which of your friends were online. The tool became an integral part of playing the game, and I wanted to make a similar impact.

Today, when I query google for “Loki X” or “Loki tools”, nothing shows up in the results. My trigger for getting into software development has practically been purged from history. When it comes to the tool I made, it has suffered a similar fate. The web server I hosted it from is long gone, and the community site that also hosted it has disappeared as well. Luckily, it seems to live on in some people’s memories. Recently a thread discussing the game showed up on /v/, and I asked if anyone remembered Tomes of Knowledge. To my surprise, someone replied with a picture of their desktop, with my shitty old icon still sitting there!

Both Loki’s tools and my own application served as building blocks in one way or other, but as the game itself declined they became irrelevant. The only legacy I was left with was a simple piece of trivia that can’t even be verified anymore (as the web servers shut down, and I didn’t keep any offsite backups of the code).

This story is from when I was a teenager, long before I became a professional software developer. I’ve worked on a multitude of personal projects since, but none that have had the same reach as this one simple application made by a bored teenager. And even this application disappeared from history.

This post may sound more negative than I intended. It’s not all doom and gloom, as these thoughts have spurred me into finally setting up a proper github account and beginning to share my smaller projects with the world. I’ve kept thinking everything I make on my free time is insignificant, but if it can serve to inspire a better product (or even be integrated into something) then I can finally say I’ve done my part to serve human progress. And that would be something, wouldn’t it?