Having experienced the death of a friend, I wonder how many have considered the ghosts in the machine.
The video of my closing talk at this year’s Full Frontal conference, right here in Brighton.
I had a lot of fun with this, although I was surprisingly nervous before I started: I think it was because I didn’t want to let Remy down.
In describing her approach to building the wonderful Julius Cards project, Chloe touches on history, digital preservation, and the future of the web. There are uncomfortable questions here, but they are questions we should all be asking ourselves.
Brightonians, get yourselves along to the Corn Exchange on Monday evening for some fun with Seb’s digital fireworks.
Perma: Scoping and addressing the problem of “link rot” :: Future of the Internet – And how to stop it.
Lawrence Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain are uncovering disturbing data on link rot in Supreme Court documents: 50% of the the links cited no longer work.
An epic tale of data recovery.
Of course Jason Scott was involved.
Some good advice on how to mothball (rather than destroy) a project when it reaches the end of its useful life. In short, build a switch so that, when the worst comes to the worst, you can output static files and walk away.
In all your excitement starting a new project, spend a little time thinking about the end.
I took a little time out of the hacking here at CERN to answer a few questions about the line-mode browser project.
A heartfelt response from Vitaly to .net magazine’s digital destruction.
This is what I’m working on today (where by “working on”, I mean “watching other far more talented people work on”).
A timeline of technology.
Planetary: collecting and preserving code as a living object | Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York
Aaron Straup-Cope and Seb Chan on the challenges of adding (and keeping) code to the Cooper-Hewitt collection:
The distinction between preservation and access is increasingly blurred. This is especially true for digital objects.
The internet never forgets? Bollocks!
We were told — warned, even — that what we put on the internet would be forever; that we should think very carefully about what we commit to the digital page. And a lot of us did. We put thought into it, we put heart into, we wrote our truths. We let our real lives bleed onto the page, onto the internet, onto the blog. We were told, “Once you put this here, it will remain forever.” And we acted accordingly.
This is a beautiful love-letter to the archival web, and a horrifying description of its betrayal:
When they’re erased by a company abruptly and without warning, it’s something of a new-age arson.
Oh, dear. An otherwise perfectly well-reasoned article makes this claim:
But the internet is peculiarly adapted to deftly pricking pomposity. This is partly because nothing dies online, meaning your past indiscretions are never yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
Bollocks. Show me the data to back up this claim.
The insidious truism that “the internet never forgets” is extremely harmful. The true problem is the opposite: the internet forgets all the time.
Geocities, Pownce, Posterous, Vox, and thousands more sites are very much yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
A beauty of a post by Jason giving you even more reasons to donate to Archive.org.
Seriously. Do it now. It would mean a lot to me.
Related: I’m going to be in San Francisco next week and by hook or by crook, I plan to visit the Internet Archive’s HQ.
The Internet, day one. A sad tale of data loss.
This is why the Internet Archive matters. It is now the public record of Obama’s broken promise to protect whistleblowers.
I feel very bad for the smart, passionate, talented people who worked their asses off on change.gov, only to see their ideals betrayed.
A good article on Medium on Medium.
What I fear is that the entire web is basically becoming a slow-motion Snapchat, where content lives for some unknowable amount of time before it dies, lost forever.
A great history lesson from Dave.
Ah, I remember when the CSS Zen Garden was all fields. Now get off my CSS lawn.
I gave the opening keynote at the Beyond Tellerand conference a few weeks back. I’m talked about the web from my own perspective, so expect excitement and anger in equal measure.
This was a new talk but it went down well, and I’m quite happy with it.
Ben proposes an alternative to archive.org: changing the fundamental nature of DNS.
Regarding the boo-hooing of how hard companies have it maintaining unprofitable URLs, I think Ben hasn’t considered the possibility of a handover to a cooperative of users—something that might yet happen with MySpace (at least there’s a campaign to that effect; it will probably come to naught). As Ben rightly points on, domain names are leased, not bought, so the idea of handing them over to better caretakers isn’t that crazy.
This is a breath of fresh air: a blogging platform that promises to keep its URLs online in perpetuity.
Perhaps we are fetishising physical things because our digital creations are social media junk food:
It’s easy to fetishize Brutalist buildings when you don’t have to live in them. On the other hand, when the same Brutalist style is translated into the digital spaces we daily inhabit, it becomes a source of endless whinging. Facebook, for example, is Brutalist social media. It reproduces much the same relationship with its users as the Riis Houses and their ilk do with their residents: focusing on control and integration into the high-level planning scheme rather than individual life and the “ballet of a good blog comment thread”, to paraphrase Jane Jacobs.
Mark writes about his work with CERN to help restore the first website to its original URL.
I have two young children and I want them to experience the early web and understand how it came to be. To understand that the early web wasn’t that rudimentary but incredibly advanced in many ways.
A beautiful short film on the amazing work being done at the Internet Archive, produced on the occasion of their 10 petabyte celebration.
A profile in The Guardian of the Internet Archive and my hero, Brewster Kahle (who also pops up in the comments).
Heartbreaking and angry-making.
The story of one site’s disgraceful handling of acquisition and shutdown (Punchfork, acquired by Pinterest) and how its owner actively tried to block efforts to preserve user’s data.
A collection of those appalling doublespeek announcements that sites and services give when they get acquired. You know the ones: they begin with “We’re excited to announce…” and end with people’s data being flushed down the toilet.
A wonderful rallying cry from Drew.
Ever since the halcyon days of Web 2.0, we’ve been netting our butterflies and pinning them to someone else’s board.
Hope that what you’ve created never has to die. Make sure that if something has to die, it’s you that makes that decision. Own your own data, friends, and keep it safe.
David gets physidigital.
A really lovely piece on the repositories of information that aren’t catalogued—a fourth quadrant in the Rumsfeldian taxonomy, these dark archives are the unknown knowns.
Honestly, if you value the content you create and put online, then you need to be in control of your own stuff.
What an Orwellian title for a blog post announcing the wholesale destruction of user’s content. Oh, Yahoo, you sound so proud of your cavalier attitude towards the collective culture that you have harvested.
A fascinating discussion on sharecropping vs. homesteading. Josh Miller from Branch freely admits that he’s only ever known a web where your content is held by somone else. Gina Trapani’s response is spot-on:
For me, publishing on a platform I have some ownership and control over is a matter of future-proofing my work. If I’m going to spend time making something I really care about on the web—even if it’s a tweet, brevity doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful—I don’t want to do it somewhere that will make it inaccessible after a certain amount of time, or somewhere that might go away, get acquired, or change unrecognizably.
When you get old and your memory is long and you lose parents and start having kids, you value your own and others’ personal archive much more.
I hereby declare that this song is my official anthem.
I want some files that last, data that will not stray.
Files just as fresh tomorrow as they were yesterday.
Investigating the options for off-world backups.
Data is only as safe as the planet it sits on. It only takes one rock, not too big, not moving that fast, to hit the Earth at a certain angle and: WHAM! Most living species are done for.
How the hell is your Twitter archive supposed to survive that?
Here’s a treasure trove of web history: an archive of the www-talk list dating back to 1991. Watch as HTML gets hammered out by a small group of early implementors: Tim Berners-Lee, Dave Raggett, Marc Andreessen, Dan Connolly…
A nice Readlist based on that excellent article by Craig on digital publishing:
This reader is made up of Craigmod’s essay “Subcompact Publishing” and essays linked to in the footnotes.
Very smart thinking from Craig about digital publishing.
Jason goes into detail describing the File Format problem that he and others are going to tackle in the effort known as Just Solve The Problem.
A step-by-step guide to unDRMing your Kindle books—a prudent course of action given Amazon’s recent unilateral wiping of Kindles.
Live in or near San Francisco? Interested in preserving computer history? Then you should meet up with Jason this Friday:
This Friday, October 5th, the Internet Archive has an open lunch where there’s tours of the place, including the scanning room, and people get up and talk about what they’re up to. The Internet Archive is at 300 Funston Street. I’m here all week and into next.
This ticks all my boxes: a podcast by Eric and Jen about the history of the web. I can’t wait for this to start!
Honor compares next week in Brighton to Austin in March.
This is an important subject (and one very close to my heart) so I’m very glad to see these data protection guidelines nailed to the wall of the web over at Contents Magazine.
- Treat our data like it matters.
- No upload without download.
- If you close a system, support data rescue.
A cautionary tale from Dave Winer of not considering digital preservation from the outside. We must learn the past. We must.
Kellan explains the tech behind Old Tweets …and also the thinking behind it:
I think our history is what makes us human, and the push to ephemerality and disposability “as a feature” is misguided. And a key piece of our personal histories is becoming “the story we want to remember”, aka what we’ve shared.
Like the Web Standards Project but for ePub. I approve of this message.
An introduction to the important work of digital archivists:
Much like the family member that collects, organizes, and identifies old family photos to preserve one’s heritage, digital archivists seek to do the same for all mankind.
Just copy and paste.
Dear soon-to-be-former user…
A love letter to the Internet Archive.
The Long Now blog is featuring the bet between myself and Matt on URL longevity. Just being mentioned on that site gives me a warm glow.
Jason’s rip-roaring presentation from Defcon last year.
Now this is some prioritisation I can admire:
I’m going to build valuable, reliable, sustainable web services that will last forever.
A thoughtful—and beautifully illustrated—piece by Geri on memory and digital preservation, prompted by the shut-down of Gowalla.
The video of my talk from Webstock, all about wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff like networks and memory.
The video of my presentation on digital preservation at last year’s Build conference.
Our communication methods have improved over time, from stone tablets, papyrus, and vellum through to the printing press and the World Wide Web. But while the web has democratised publishing, allowing anyone to share ideas with a global audience, it doesn’t appear to be the best medium for preserving our cultural resources: websites and documents disappear down the digital memory hole every day. This presentation will look at the scale of the problem and propose methods for tackling our collective data loss.
Burying physical copies of dead websites in a Croatian cave.
Colly’s thoughts on digital preservation are written in a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek way but at least he’s thinking about it. That alone gives me comfort.
A beautiful reminder that by publishing on the web, we are all historians.
Every color you choose and line of code you write is a reflection of you; not just as a human being in this world, but as a human being in this time and place in human history. Inside each project is a record of the styles and fashions you value, the technological advancements being made in the industry, the tone of your voice, and even the social and economic trends around you.
This evolution of Tom Taylor’s microprinter looks like it’s going to be absolutely wonderful (and packed full of personality). Watch this space.
In a single post, Russell Davies manages to rehabilitate the term “post digital.” And he paints a vivid picture of where our “Geocities of things” is heading.
Reminiscences of the BBSs of yesteryear that could in time be applied to the social networking sites of today.
I’m going to try to make it along to this event in London next month.
A worrying report on the state of digital preservation and the web, specifically in the UK. Welcome to the memory hole.
A superb post by David that ties together multiple strands of personal digital preservation through homesteading instead of sharecropping.
Stewart Brand wrote this twelve years ago: it’s more relevant than ever in today’s cloud-worshipping climate.
I’d like to think that it’s ironic that I’m linking to The Wayback Machine because the original URL for this essay is dead. But it isn’t ironic, it’s horrific.
Amber documents her attempt to turn physical objects imbued with meaning into digital artefacts.
Here’s one to add to Instapaper or Readability to savour at your leisure: Aaron Straup Cope’s talk at Museums and the Web 2010:
This paper examines the act of association, the art of framing and the participatory nature of robots in creating artifacts and story-telling in projects like Flickr Galleries, the API-based Suggestify project (which provides the ability to suggest locations for other people’s photos) and the increasing number of bespoke (and often paper-based) curatorial productions.
September in Brighton is going to be ker-razy! Here’s a nice responsive holding page listing just some of the events that will be going on …dConstruct, Maker Faire, Flash On The Beach and more.
Digital preservation in the art world.
Luke’s notes from my talk about long-term thinking and online preservation at An Event Apart in Boston.
FamilySearch Shares Plans to Digitize Billions of Records Stored at Granite Mountain Records Vault - LDS Newsroom
How the Mormon Church are storing and preserving genealogical data inside a mountain.
The editor of New Scientist writes about deletionists and preservationists while adding his own personal poignant perspective.
A blog devoted to sifting through the gems in the Geocities torrent. This is digital archeology.
The threat to Google Videos shows businesses are not suitable cultural custodians — they can’t be held accountable to the public.
Magazine creators share their experiences of going digital.
Andy hammers home the benefit of a long-term format like HTML compared to the brittle, fleeting shininess of an ephemeral platform-specific app.
A detailed look at how French archivists go about preserving websites.
If you speak Flemish, you might enjoy this article based on a chat I had with a Belgium journalist.
If you don’t speak Flemish, well, just move along.
Everything is worth preserving and protecting.
I answered a few questions right after giving my talk at the Phare conference in Ghent.
Long Bets - The original URL for this prediction (www.longbets.org/601) will no longer be available in eleven years.
This is my prediction. If you think it’s wrong, challenge it. We shall then partake in a wager.
I wish I had a teacher like David when I was in school.
URLs, permalinks, archives … preservation. It all matters so very much.
This is the stuff James Bond stories are made of. Except in this case, the fortress exists to store data rather than criminal masterminds.
On 18 May 2010, the Planets (Preservation and Long-term Access through Networked Services) Project deposited a time capsule in the vaults of datacenter, Swiss Fort Knox, in Saanen, Switzerland. It contained the decoding information for five digital file formats on media ranging from paper, microfilm and floppy discs to CDs, DVDs and USB sticks.
This consortium of institutions and universities came together “to provide practical solutions and expertise in digital preservation.”
PLANETS stands for Preservation and Long-term Access through Networked Services.
Main Articles: ‘Domesday Redux: The rescue of the BBC Domesday Project videodiscs’, Ariadne Issue 36
The fascinating story of the BBC Domesday Project and its subsequent fate.
The purpose of the CAMiLEON project was to demonstrate the value of emulation in preserving not only the data stored in obsolete systems but the behaviour of the systems themselves - in this case one of the very first interactive multi-media systems. The aim was to reproduce the original user experience as accurately as possible, and the CAMiLEON team argued that the slight faults in images as displayed from the analogue discs were a part of that experience, and should not be cleaned up as Andy proposed to do. Our aim was different - we wanted to preserve the data with the highest quality available consistent with longevity.
Brilliant; just brilliant. Connor O’Brien remains skeptical about the abstract permanence of “the cloud.” The observations are sharp and the tone is spot-on.
If your only photo album is Facebook, ask yourself: since when did a gratis web service ever demonstrate giving a flying fuck about holding onto the past?
The BBC’s decision to actively delete old content (rather than simply allowing it to take up some space on a server) really gets my blood boiling.
The BBC asked the public to contribute their memories of World War Two to a website between June 2003 and January 2006…” and five years later some suit decided to bin them.
Let’s make the Bletchley Park data machine-readable so we can start mining the stories they contain (like Old Weather).
Bletchley Park need help to catalogue and create a proper archive of these decrypts.
I want in!
Aaron Swartz gets technical about online digital preservation.
Jeffrey points out another point of failure in our online storage: the willingness of site owners to sell their product (and your data) to a big company for a quick payout.
Mandy writes about digital preservation:
The technological means to produce an archive are not beyond our skills; sadly, right now at least, the will to do so is insufficient.
Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe — a digital preservation initiative based at Stanford.
An accurately-downbeat look at digital preservation.