It’s become a regular internet FOL (Fact of Life) that web sites, both information ones and web tools, seem to have a shorter and shorter shelf life.

There was some good go arounds recently on those things that people wrote their own thoughts on before just tossing threads into twitter… I think they were called “blogs” (??) about the closing down of blogs.harvard.edu (see Dave Winer’s take and Mike Caulfield’s A Provocation for the Open Pedagogy Community. Jim Groom and Tim Owens batted it around on a Reclaim Today episode. Others mused about it on Inside Higher Ed

Why care about old web sites when there is so much of today’s stream of social media to sip?

Run by the Berkman Center starting in 2003, Blogs at Harvard contains a long rich history of the internet that, for some, seems disposable. It’s might be in the next version of Another Web Bites the Dust.

Do you know what you were doing in 2003? What do you rely on? I know, I have My Blog, My Outboard Brain. On May 5, 2003, maybe at the time Harvard Blogs was just starting, I was messing around with this way to have a service that would make RSS Feed content be something mere mortals could include in their web pages. The first one was called RSStoJS and used a bit of PHP code found elsewhere (on a site that is gone now) to parse a feed, take a few options, and return a set of JavaScript write statements to put that content on another page.

The Internet Archive has a snapshot of that early site from October 2003.

Here’s the thing. The updated version not only still lives in a domain I own (but is thankfully hosted by a nice guy named Brian Teller, thats another long story) but the thing still works at http://feed2js.org and has source code openly available at https://github.com/cogdog/feed2js

I was recently cleaning out some old items in my Tasks list in Gmail, and found an issue reported on my repo from last December. This person had some RSS feeds that lacked a link data value, so my site was trying to make a link when it did not need to.

It took me about 30 minutes to code some conditional statements to handle that case, test locally, and push the changes to GitHub (still waiting Brian to roll that onto the site, ok?).

I cannot seem to find his tweet, but Bryan Alexander lamented a bit before the Harvard announcement about how many of the sites he built in previous positions had been unplugged. I riffed off of this in a comment on Mike Caulfield’s post (which seems lost in moderations, so I will publish here). Mike seemed to argue that Google was “good” because they still have old blogger blogs up, while several of his previously built WordPress sites have been dismantled by previous employers.

I too have seen 14 year of web sites at the Maricopa Community Colleges disappear (some needed to, very problematic old perl scripts writing to open permission text files, old Wiki platform stuff but a lot of durable stand alone HTML) as well as 5 years of WordPress work at NMC.

I’m with Bryan, I don’t expect my old work to stand, and I took as much archives as I could from those years, much I have reposted on my own archive http://mcli.cogdogblog.com/

But there are some expectations to be checked that sites running off of databases and code bases, or in specific platforms/formats (like the old UseMod wikis I ran, quicktime video, real audio) and WordPress itself, which needs care to be kept running (not much, but some).

For durability, I bet in the individual effort over the organization http://cogdogblog.com/2016/04/digital-durability/ because it takes a bit of work (ask an archivist).

And to last, stuff ought to be archived in web native HTML format and media forms. My 25 year old HTML sites still work. There are ways to do this for not only WordPress, but almost many other platforms (SiteSucker app for Mc OS, which is front end for unix wget). See what the Archive Team is able to preserve.

The presence of old Blogger sites is more likely an oversight from Google (who has a long track record of nuking their own platforms) or it takes no effort for them to leave the lights on– I have one still up from 2005 http://cat-diaries.blogspot.com/ But they have hardly changed the Blogger platform; the evolution of WordPress in terms of features on capabilities to do things beyond blogs is staggering. Blogger is still pretty much the same functionality as it was in 2005.

If you want something to last, you gotta do some work, not expect someone else to do it for you.

And also, do not expect content in not standard HTML format to hold up, stuff that depends on databases, codebases, or media formats (that means wiki platforms, Flash, WordPress, etc).

Here’s to the individual efforts to care for content (and the Internet Archive, bless them, support them), no other entity likely will keep the history alive.

Oh, also in 2003– an individual blog that is not only still present, but active.


Featured Image: Photoshopped in (yay knowing how to mask) a screenshot of Feed2JS onto Telex machine TTY flickr photo by ajmexico shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license:

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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