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Dead serious: How to haunt people after you've gone... using your smartphone

This app could have grave consequences etc

By Alistair Dabbs, 30 Jun 2017

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I will be annoying when I am dead. In fact, I plan to be much more of an irritant after passing away than I am at the moment as the once-dicky ticker continues to clock up the artery miles.

How will I inflict annoyance from the grave? Well, I have an app for that. Or at least I will have once it's available on Android: currently my post-expiry intentions of vexation are limited to iOS.

Bloody smartphone format wars. They'll be the death of me.

Swonsong – the app in question – promises to hold on to personal messages that I choose to prepare in a variety of digital media, then distribute them on cue after I snuff it. I can write letters in a cheesy script font to loved ones, record audio messages (complete with slideshow and mawkish background music) and even prepare a video eulogy in HD for streaming to a smart TV in whichever pub they're holding the wake.

This is how you're supposed to use the app. This is not, of course, how I intend using it.

Surely the most compelling thing about this service is its time-delayed delivery option. It means I can fire off all manner of confusing nonsense, irritants and abuse to whoever I like without any fear of comeback – what with me being dead – according to a custom schedule, quite literally from beyond the grave.

In other words, I will be able to haunt people. Using an app.

Over the years, friends and colleagues have mused on how they might deliberately become more grouchy and troublesome as they get older, purely out of mischief. Don't worry guys, there's nothing deliberate about it: involuntary dementia will come to us all if we're reckless enough to stay alive too long.

This plan therefore fails on two counts. One: if you insist on growing old, most people around you will have the decency to pop their clogs before you get a chance to piss them off in return. You will quickly run out of people to be grouchy at or troublesome to. Two: you will be so bonkers yourself that you won't remember where your feet are, let alone a list of enemies with whom you planned to get even one day.

Since a long life is neither desirable nor likely for my post-boomer generation, SwonSong could be my chance to stick the boot in while there's still time, effortlessly from the safety of my own urn.

Just think of the virtual laughs to be had from scheduling a text message to your colleagues six months after the cremation to say that unforeseen events have held you up for that morning's so-important standup meeting but you wanted to assure them that you expect to see the project manager "very soon".

Consider the chuckles resulting from being able to time-delay a repeating email to various wankers you have known, always set to arrive at midnight and telling them you will tear their souls apart.

I am also investigating the potential of setting up IFTT triggers so that I can text random posts to Slack rooms long after I have joined the celestial chorus. I'm pretty sure if my interventions are generic enough – such as "Hmm I'm not so sure", "Do we have access to resources?" or "That would be an ecumenical matter" – they will appear spookily relevant to whatever is being discussed at the time. That'll really send the shits up everyone.

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There are caveats, unfortunately.

My primary concern is, of course, the product name. Despite being a member of the Extreme Pedants closed group on Facebook, I'm not insufferable but "SwonSong" drives me up the wall because it's unnecessarily misspelt.

Sure, apps often sport names that have deliberately been spelt in silly ways like Slade song titles – for reference, m'lud, may I refer the court to Cum On Feel The Noize, Coz I Luv You, Gudbuy T'Jane and Mama Weer All Crazy Now – but this one doesn't make sense. SwonSong is not a pun nor is it an acronym, and its misspelling serves no marketing purpose whatsoever unless that purpose is to be fucking infantile.

On equal footing is coding company WeKanCode, co-developer of such essential apps as Staller ("the Airbnb for horses"), whose inability to distinguish between the letters C and K really ought be a kause for koncern.

Maybe I should crowdfund a startup project under the name WiKantSpel. The blurb: "You have the kash, I have the cnow-how".

Another issue that might interfere with my devilish plans is that I can't be sure that SwonSong will be around for long enough to keep my haunting up. The website claims it doesn't matter whether the message activation delay is set to five years or 75 years – which is plainly ridiculous. Not only will email, SMS, MP3 and today's video codecs be conspicuous by their absence in the 2090s, so will smartphones and therefore, one can safely assume, the SwonSong app itself.

So I should expect my haunting programme to survive my physical demise by no more than a couple of years at best. Given that SwonSong ceased posting to its own blog ten months ago, I might have to revise this to an even shorter period.

Just the same, I have begun building a shortlist of people and organisations to haunt. If you could help me add to the list with suggestions in the reader comments area, it would be greatly appreciated. The more bastards I can send running to the bathroom, the better.

So far, my public list includes all companies whose customer contact phone line answers with the declaration "We record calls for security and training purposes" but when you try to follow up a previous complaint they claim they have no record of it.

Also high up on the list are those companies who put you on hold with the infamous recorded message: "Your call is important to us". A close second to this is any company with a website that shows a Chat With Us Online Now! button which, when you click on it and complete your personal details, promptly displays the response "No customer representatives are online at the moment".

A very special haunting will be directed towards Electronic Sound magazine for repeatedly insisting on trying to sell me exclusive vinyl-only tracks, thereby demonstrating what happens when you combine spam with a total lack of understanding of the concept of irony.

Joint first at the top of the list, though, is the bloke who invented the InterCap and all app startups with misspelt names. BarSteds, the lot of 'em. ®

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He worries that it might be a shame not to be able to see people's faces when his hauntings cross the great divide and wonders whether he should wait a bit longer before keeling over. As one of Rudyard Kipling's characters says in Wireless, "There's nothing we shan't be able to do in ten years. I want to live – my God, how I want to live, and see it develop!"

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