Today’s lectures gave me a lot to think about. Jason’s talk was inspiring about the loss of web content. An overwhelming majority of netizens don’t think about it when they put content up to sites. Currently there is the imminent darkening of the mobile me website. I had put content up there so I’ve been seeing the warning emails even though I pulled all my content off. I did a spring cleaning of my Internet presence a few months back. I found it ridiculous that I had accounts scattered over the Internet with all the perils of password duplication.
I am becoming more sensitized to the data footprint I am leaving on the Internet. It’s not that there are footprints there but that I’m losing control of my data content. How many Internet sites do people belong to? Some are “content passive” in the sense that they don’t add content to them. One might have an account on a news site, but that is only for access. A lot of people participate in the comment forums as well. This is “throw away” content. People don’t care if this content disappears of the face of the Internet. What about uploaded content? How would you feel if all your images that you uploaded just disappeared because some corporate management just decided to pull the plug? Jason’s archive team may save you from losing that data with their efforts. I don’t know about you, but I want control over that.
Another technology idea that has been swirling around my mind has been that of recording (and keeping perpetually!) the content that I create. It’s an easy enough concept, but what is the best way to do it? There are so many different data types and different applications that we use to generate data, store data, retrieve data. Sure, jpg images are ubiquitous now but who knows what the future will bring. I believe the answer lies in three parts.
One, as much as possible, use open standards. These standards aren’t limited by copyright, patent or some dubious corporate entity.
Two, use as simple a representation model as possible. We all love shiny, fancy things but these tend to be more toward the proprietary, complicated side of the continuum. Fact, ASCII will be readable FOREVER!
Three, given the above two, one has to let go the concern about file types. Some trust has to be given to future programmers writing a conversion utility to whatever future, better file version.
I’ve waffled back and forth about how to pass my content on to my kids and the future. Sometimes I feel luddite and write in an actual paper journal. This captures my handwriting and lends some feeling to what I’m writing. At the same time it is a harder medium for me to communicate in (no backspace key!) and requires the reader to physically possess the document (which has its own intimacy about it). Keeping things electronic allows increasingly better search, analysis, portability and storage.
Joining these two ideas, I’d like to find ways to both keep data on my own servers on the Internet and keep versioning/backup in perpetuity for those to come.