You may have heard of this elsewhere, a site called “You’ve Been Left Behind” ( It’s been created in anticipation of the Rapture. The site will store many megabytes of documents and send these materials under certain conditions to up to 62 email addresses of your choosing when the Rapture occurs, so that those “left behind” can receive messages and materials from those chosen to ascend during the Rapture. What’s the trigger? If the site is not accessed or updated by a staff member over a 3-day period, with an additional three days given as a buffer, the emails get sent. So, six days of no activity from the staff, and the Rapture is assumed to have occurred.

Now, I’m not one to make fun of people who might believe in this stuff (I’m not one not to, either, just to be clear). But what struck me about this is the interesting math and fascinating inferences. It’s very clever, actually. Imagine this transferred to Google or eBay or Imagine if there were an algorithm humming silently in the Googleplex that stated simply: “If hits=0 and hours=24, then . . .”. What do you think Google’s fun-loving and incredibly bright, educated engineers might have in store for us?

The Web is so active and central that it has become a legitimate proxy for human activity, and one that can be programmed to continue on if we’re suddenly not clicking. If the Web is not active for 1-6 days, you can assume that we’re toast. And what would you want to happen if that were the case?

You may be concerned about falling traffic, but have you thought through what you’d trigger if your traffic were a big fat zero for an entire day?

Would your access controls come down? Would you start a slideshow of a set of pictures from a hidden directory? Would your server begin broadcasting to space? Would your site start playing salsa music?

What would be your site’s final publication event? What is your ultimate Easter egg?

[cue eerie music]

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


4 Thoughts on "0 = Initiate Final Algorithm"

Unfortunately, I do like to make fun of this stuff. I’m trying to imagine what the saved hope to convey to the sinners after they’ve been airlifted into heaven. (Where is that, anyway?) Do they mean to gloat? Micromanage their worldly affairs, now left to their sinful children? Kent, a better person than I am, at least brings this back to publishing; I can’t get past the sheer dopiness of it all. (And notice that it assumes that every single staff person at will be borne aloft, a necessary condition to ensure six days of no activity.)

i’m really glad i know about this. i have a friend or two who might well make *my* e-mail address be one of their 62. have to be sure i blacklist that domain as a spammer.

i toooootally wanna be left behind.

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