April 15, 2014

Blog Today, Gone Tomorrow

Tonight my one of my 15-year-old daughters told me her favorite blog had shut down — http://brownfemipower.com/. No — more than this, it had been wiped clean off the Internet. There was nothing left. No archives, nothing. This was a blog that my daughter had as her homepage, that was how important it was to her. She read it every day. And now it’s not even history, it’s as if it hadn’t ever existed.

Sure, I checked the Internet Archive. But it was a nearly a joke. The last time it had been crawled was over eight months ago, and poorly at that. Click on any links and you mostly get a "Not in archive" message — even for comments on posts. So much for relying on that.

Yeah, I know, the ephemerality of the Internet should not come as any surprise. But somehow it still does. Projects like the Internet Archive and special library-based web presservation programs have lulled a number of us into complacency. We think that all of these voices will be there over the long haul. We believe that even if the voice is silenced, that it won’t go away completely. Or even if it does, that it won’t go away instantly. We believe we will have a chance to save it. So I am here to tell you that we won’t. Not in every instance, not even in many. Save what has meaning to you or get ready to kiss it goodbye.

I suppose this is partly what led me to grab all ten years worth of my Library Journal columns and put them on my own web site. Although I had no reason to distrust Reed Elsevier (who am I kidding?), I felt like it was a good idea. Why put the fate of something important to you in the hands of others who would not be as likely to feel the same way about it?

My daughter is not the only one mourning this loss. I mourn it too. The loss of any voice that clearly speaks to people who appreciate it about doing good in this world is not a good thing. This blogger had her personal reasons for what she did. But it would be nice to know that we have societal reasons for keeping a record. Apparently we don’t.

My daughter is sad not to have her blog to check in with every day. As a librarian I’m sad that I can’t even give her a record of what she read in the past. I know there are many tough questions about the role of libraries and how we can possibly address this issue. But I also know that tonight I will go to bed wondering what I could have done, and knowing that for all of our talk about archiving the web, we — I — libraries — others — have all failed her and the many others who increasingly look to the Internet for the information and viewpoints that are important to them.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

Comments

  1. Alain Pierrot says:

    I guess this raises serious questions about the ‘cloud computing’ and ‘SAAS’ fashion.
    It would be a good idea to reconsider how much the web owes to the distributed capacity of UNIX computers, both servers and clients, able to make available copies and services in case hosts fail.
    Distributing the archiving responsibility to any connected PC, through the operating systems could perhaps be a feature of ’2.0 culture’?

  2. Looks like Brownfemipower shut down her site due to suspicions that another blogger was plagiarizing her content – check out the 4/11 posting at the BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS blog.

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