BlogForever hosted a small session yesterday afternoon at re:publica, Germany’s largest blogging and social media conference with more than 4,000 visitors from over 30 countries (http://re-publica.de/12/). Our session was related to the urgency of blog preservation and other relevant themes in digital archiving. As we get closer and closer to our final software, we keep in mind the purpose of taking on such a task: to prevent the loss of social, cultural and historical artifacts contained within the Blogosphere and to preserve them for future generations.
We asked our visitors, what if Anne Frank’s diary had been a blog? What if Leonardo Da Vinci had kept his notes and sketches in blog format? What if Martin Luther had presented his critiques of the church on his blog instead of nailing them to the church doors? Understanding that it is difficult to know what should be preserved, or what will be important for the future, the time is still now to think of solutions and implement them – if we want to to avoid losses. We have enough examples of how failure to act has cost us valuable insights into our past and even our current understanding of the world.
During our session, we heard several stories about “lost blogs”, blogs that are no longer accessible because their authors have passed away, or have moved on from the blogging community. Some blogs were removed because the authors no longer had the rights to the content (as with some government or business blogs upon staff changes). We also shared some examples of blogs that simply disappeared under somewhat dubious circumstances involving third parties (see one example here: http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/23/fukushima-robot-operators-blog-deleted-internet-steps-in/). Our discussion of digital loss was not limited to blogs, but also included some of the early online communities that wound up scattered into the digital wind due to reductions in software support or format changes (see the closing of GeoCities in 2009 http://techcrunch.com/2009/04/23/yahoo-quietly-pulls-the-plug-on-geocities/). All of these stories remind us that our digital heritage, both on a personal or cultural level, is every bit as valuable as the many collections of letters, diaries, first editions, newspapers and other artifacts we preserve in physical form. Blogs, as one of the more complex and multifaceted forms of digital media, require quite a bit more attention to ensure their authentic and robust preservation.
To preserve blogs, one needs a software solution that will be able to respond quickly to dynamic shifts in world politics, science and culture – a solution that will allow us to develop blog archives that are valuable now. The solution must also be able to manage the development of technology and software redundancies – a solution that will ensure the safe preservation of digital artifacts well into the future. Curators, as well, will need certain tools and policy guidelines to help them manage the specific challenges associated with blog preservation.
We presented BlogForever as the software solution that will meet all of those criteria and do so in a way that is efficient, effective and user friendly.
Those individuals that we spoke with are excited about the project and see its value, not only for digital libraries and academic institutions but also for the general public.