What happens when a blog gets old?

As this blog is approaching its thirteenth birthday , I thought that it was about time that I purged some of the fluffy, ephemeral posts that really don’t need to travel with me any longer. The problem with much online media is that a post or comment, that possibly took ten seconds to write, may follow you for many years, perhaps preserved through an historian’s anxiety to not let anything go just in case it may become significant some time in the future.

So I went through the 1350 posts feeling quite dismal because most of them weren’t significant at all! There were lots of pre-Twitted aggregation posts, lots of Conference Calls for eye-watering dull gatherings, that have since been forgotten, and too many rants about politics or Web 2 or the digital humanities that possibly don’t need to be aired for eternity. Painstakingly flipping through all the posts, with an historian’s paint brush and surgeon’s scalpel, I deleted 500, or more than a third, wondering why that particular post had seen the light of day in the first place.

But whilst hitting the delete button I stumbled upon a disturbing theme.  The particular robust deletion policy that I employed was if the resource I linked to was no longer available, and the post was chiefly about that resource, I would delete the post. The problem was that many of the posts weren’t simply about ephemeral matters such as a new ‘Web 2’ company (that has since gone broke) or a new tool or ill-conceived project within the digital humanities or eResearch. Many of the posts were links (broken) to significant reports, tools or services or even complete centres whose very mission it was to preserve digital data, but had long disappeared.

Where did they go?

I checked many of the links, but couldn’t find where the particular digital-preservation resource, centre, tool or report had gone to. It has simply vanished, forgotten, perhaps only existing as a line in a Resume or argument in a new funding application. So not only are we forgetting the significant projects and people that helped build the ‘digital humanities’ and the broader digital culture and economy, but we are also forgetting the very institutions, tools, and services that were actually tasked with preserving them, but failed.  The problem is one of institutional failure, not of technical failure.  It is funding models that don’t work, it is ineptitude, and it is a lack of historical vision to keep what is significant and ditch what is fluffy. The digital archive is the bread and butter of much future research and without it, emerging digital research will be replaced by an emerging digital alchemy.


10 years of blogging…

I am crossing a small milestone this month; it has been 10 years since I first started blogging! I (sort-of) had a blog before this, way-back in the late 90s, but this was primarily to publish lists of things (one of the first uses of blogs). And then I started a history blog (history.net.au), but historical knowledge doesn’t really lend itself to blogging, partly because the slowness (or dare I say significance) of historical debates and insights, and blogs are quick and informal (I just couldn’t think of what to say).  Not that there is a strict prescription to blogging, but I would like to think that blogs are personal things, and historical narratives are anything but personal at times.

From the 10 do’s and don’ts of the personal blog

And the first blogging platform I used was the hosted version of Blogger. But it was limited in functionality, so I installed Movabletype; it had more functionality than Blogger but was difficult and clumsy to use.  It took way too long to post anything, so I gave up. Then I discovered WordPress and haven’t looked back. What a wonderful piece of software it is and it has traveled very well through major web-based innovations over recent years (and I like all the new cloud functionality that comes with the Jetpack plugin).

And it still surprises me that a lot of the academic population still think a blog is a ‘Homepage’ or  a static formal document; suited-up for a firm-handshake with a resume under then arm.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, live and let live I say, but there are better contexts for this sort of stuff (…I am happy that you are doing well,  but jeez over and over and over again!)

And strange, the most influential post I event posted (almost 8 years ago) is titled ‘what is privacy and why it is important?”  It has consistently received the most traffic every day for the past 6 years or so.  Maybe I should just blog about ‘privacy’, but I am sure that blogging about one thing would get a bit dull (…serendipity is much more fun)

So get out there in the electronic heard; learn through doing!

A short history of blogging (Part 1)

I first started blogging sometime around the 2001. And I just logged onto one of the original blogging systems, blogger, and discovered that all my posts were still there. The first post that I ever made was in a (private) blog imaginatively called ‘production diary’. And ironically the very first task that I set for my blog was to diarise the laborious task of building a large ‘web 1.0’ site milkbar.au.au. There were 500 static pages on milkbar.com.au and in my very first blog entry I was complaining that Dreamweaver was stripping the blogger tags out of the HTML (I wonder what I was doing?).  Blogger used to have a nifty FTP system where you would write a post on the hosted blogger site, and it would FTP the contents to a ‘web 1.0’ site giving the illusion of dynamic content.

Sometime around 2003 I discovered MovableType, partly because a few ‘A List’ bloggers had started to hit the scene and I wanted to emulate their fame and fortune. One was Jill Walker, an academic from Norway, and the other was Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing.  In my wisdom I registered the domain name history.net.at and installed MovableType on my server. Both were a bad idea.  Historical knowledge doesn’t really lend itself to blogging (Dan Cohen may disagree) and I couldn’t think of much to say in the oppressive day-to-day grind of the diary format. And the first MovableType software was a nightmare and the post categories, hierarchies and HTML updating were frustrating and Byzantine (and at times, even life threatening). So I didn’t blog for a while. I just watched other bloggers become rich and famous; go on the lecture circuit, get advertising revenue, turn their blogs into best selling books and tell us  they were at the fore-front of an enhanced democratic system where everyone now had an equal voice. Except for me because no one was reading history.net.au. I wrote about the history of the 8 hour day, then the Fringe Festival, then the Moomba Festival. But it didn’t seem to work.  The medium demanded something different from me; it was as though I was ordering slow cooked Peking Duck in a fast food restaurant. It just didn’t seem to work.

Then sometime around 2005 I discovered that some bloggers were vainly blogging in their own name. They were registering their own names as domain names and using this as the sites identity. So, I registered craigbellamy.net and installed WordPress on my server. (TBC)

Scientists dispute climate sceptic’s claim that US weather data is useless

An interesting twist on the Climate Change debate. When data is made public, so too is the basis in which this data was collected. Data is part of a scientific argument; it isn’t ‘absolute truth’.

It appeared to have shaken the credibility of one of the most important global warming data sets in the world. A blog-inspired campaign by amateur climate sceptics seemed to show that numerous weather stations across the US were so poorly located they could not be relied upon (link).

State of the Blogosphere

Here is the annual Technorati State of the Blogosphere (2008) report:

Welcome to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, which will be released in five consecutive daily segments. Since 2004, our annual study has unearthed and analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, we resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. For the first time, we surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially. Our bloggers were generous with their thoughts and insights. Thanks to all of the bloggers who took the time to respond to our survey (link).

Lords of the Blog: Life and Work in the House of Lords

Lords of the Blog is a collaborative blog written by Members of the House of Lords for the purposes of public engagement. The aim of the blog is to help educate, raise awareness and engage with the public on a range of issues relating to the role and business of the House of Lords. The blog is authored by a group of Members from across the House. Each Member has their own profile and personal section of the blog. A ‘homepage’ provides an at-a-glance digest of the latest post from each Member

(An initiative from the House of Lords and the Hansard Society).