Help & advice

Moving pictures

You don't have to be putting your autodotbiography together for long before you realise how essential it is to include those 'windows into the past' - photographs. Fortunately, other than a few technicalities to make sure that they are sharp enough to print well, putting them into your book is simple. But what are you going to do about the film or video that you have?

Film/video storage will always be a compromise and its long term survival will depend on your descendants transferring them to their current technology and keeping them accessible.

One possibility is to transfer them onto DVD or a memory stick and include a disc/USB stick with your book. But in 50 or more years' time is it going to be playable on the technology of the day? Probably not. Your book may last 500 years or more, but will your descendants even know what the DVD or memory stick is?

In time, physical books may come with built-in readable memory chips on which you can store video, but we are not there yet, and even if they were they may become inaccessible in the far future!

So what is the best current compromise?

I'd suggest that the best option at the moment is to transfer films and videos into the most up to date online video format (high definition mp4) and upload them to the internet. Once they are in this format they can, in the future, be transferred into its successor formats.

You then print links in your book to tell people where to find them.

But there are pros and cons to where you put the videos!

There are many companies offering free and paid services to where one can upload and view videos. There is a long list on Wikipedia ( but let me focus on YouTube ( as it offers some of the best 'pros' but also typical 'cons'.

Pros - 1) YouTube is huge and is the second most popular site on the internet. It appears to be here to stay. 2) You can set up a free private 'channel' for your book-related videos and, if you do not want to share them with the whole world, set them to be viewable only by people who have the link. 3) YouTube will show your video to viewers in the format which best suits the device they are viewing on. This last is not to be underestimated as some mobile phones and tablets use proprietary technology that refuses to show some formats.

Cons - 1) YouTube is owned by Google which funds it through considerable advertising income. There is no guarantee that Google will not pull the plug on YouTube if it becomes unprofitable. 2) It is easy to fall foul of Google/YouTube's account terms and conditions unwittingly and be banned! In which case your videos will disappear without appeal. 3) We do not know what their policy will be about deleting the accounts of deceased people, when they have billions of them. In all these cases a YouTube video link in a printed book will be useless.

How can you minimise the risk of future unavailability of your videos?

You need a two-step linking process from a website that you (and not some company that does not care a fig about you) control.

In outline, the two-step linking strategy is:

1) acquire a domain name and inexpensive website hosting

2) upload videos to YouTube

3) link to the YouTube videos from your site

4) publish the addresses of your site's links, not the YouTube ones, in your autobiography

You have the choice of letting your videos be viewed on your site, which will require some site maintenance, or of redirecting viewers straight from your web link to YouTube (or wherever you have hosted them), so no one needs to maintain a site, just keep renewing the domain name and hosting.

Providing that you give your descendants information about how to access your website as administrators you give them opportunities to preserve your videos. If necessary, they can update the format of your videos or move them to an alternative video hosting service. If all else fails, they will also have backup copies of your 'original' mp4 videos that you will have uploaded.

So, should your descendants discover that your YouTube channel has been shut down they can upload your videos from the backups on your site to a different service and link to the videos' new locations from your website.

Voilà! The links you put in your book still work!

Unlike sites such as YouTube, domain names are part of the DNA of the internet. They will only stop being useable if the internet itself ceases. There are domain name renewal and hosting costs each year, so you might want to make provision in your will for enough to fund them for, say 50 years, by which time you hope a descendant, or group of them, are inspired enough to keep it going themselves!

If you do not have the skills to arrange such a setup, any reasonably tech-savvy member of your family should be able to work out what to do. But if you would like a follow-up blog post with detailed step-by-step instructions and advice on setting it up, please let me know in a comment on the autodotbiography Facebook page (

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