Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dear Diary

Dear Diary, this is but another piece in BRT that, hopefully, will live on long after I'm gone with the intent of "educating" people on the vagaries of tech, reality and the human condition. ;)

In actuality, this little passage is true as, we, as a species, are generating digital diaries at exponential rates, a  fact really well explained in a series of insightful articles from New Scientist titled Forever online: Your Digital Legacy.

"Today, historians have to piece together the details of their subjects' lives from tiny scraps of evidence. Their successors are more likely to be overwhelmed: the problem will be making sense of our vast digital legacies. What techniques will they use to make sense of this deluge?

Many of us now generate more data than we can manage – think of all those holiday pictures you'll never get round to organising into an album. The contents of our hard drives are jumbled messes; the web's lack of structure, coupled with anonymity and the use of aliases, will make the online world an equally formidable challenge for future historians."

Other questions NS posits includes this really important one.

"How much does it cost to keep a nation's heritage online? "The price of a cup of Starbucks coffee," claimed the civic-minded hacker who in January copied and archived 172 websites that the BBC had earmarked for deletion.

People like this anonymous hacker argue that we're not doing enough to preserve such digital records. These "preservationists" argue that even redundant or outdated websites have historical value – and that it's not very expensive to preserve them for posterity.

The BBC, which is funded by the British public, attracted opprobrium for its decision. Those who had donated personal stories and images to sites like The People's War felt betrayed. Surely a titan like the BBC could have afforded the cup-of-coffee cost of keeping the sites online?

Perhaps, but a cheap afterlife is a precarious one. Jason Scott, who in 2009 led an effort to rescue Geocities after Yahoo shuttered it, struggled to muster the bandwidth needed to publish the archive. And Geocities was tiny compared to today's vast social sites, which are spending not-so-small fortunes keeping their server farms running as efficiently as possible."

We live in strange times.

Addendum: Deathwatch is the connect to seeing what sites are going down. No doubt, much of the content contained within should not be lost.

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