I have a very old, precious book on the shelf at home. It’s all about the history of Oxted and Limpsfield, the area where I grew up. I am told the book is quite rare, but to be honest it probably isn’t of interest unless you live locally.

Pages from a local history book

In among the tales of local legend and ghost stories is an interesting description of the annual ritual of ‘beating the bounds’. This is where the local dignitaries lead people on a tour of the village borders to check everything is in order: fences, buildings, monuments and so on.

During this particular tour they find all sorts of things that they didn’t realise had changed or been left behind, in the 12 months since the last tour: Farmer Giles plowing some common land, an abandoned cottage, and a slightly harrowing encounter with an adder.

Seems bizarre that much could have lapsed or changed in such a small area, but it had. Things are forgotten, overlooked or missed.

I don’t have an estate on which to beat the bounds (I wish I did). Instead the book got me thinking about digital estates, and what turns up when you search online for the name of an organisation, project, or person.

To a lesser or greater extent we all have a personal digital estate to take care of, and the organisations we work for certainly do.

Like those dignitaries beating the bounds, I don’t think it’s about owning every part of the estate, but it is important to be aware of what’s going on:

  • listening to relevant conversations
  • re-purposing the things that aren’t working
  • developing the better channels or ideas
  • making sure there’s some kind of consistency of experience, for people passing through or visiting the fringes

Blogs need to be rejuvenated or wound up, social media channels activated or merged into better ones. In some cases, perhaps other communities can take on the spaces originally set up by someone else.

Busy digital teams need to be really mindful of this; make decisions about where to focus their effort, and be decisive about channels that aren’t working.

I’ve started walking the boundaries at BIS and with colleagues’ help, hope to keep the estate in order.