diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One of the greatest fears for any blogger must be logging into your computer one morning only to discover that your entire blog has been deleted. Every last photograph, every last link and every last word, suddenly wholly and irrevocably lost. It's an unlikely occurrence, that's for sure, but who's to say that your hosting company won't throw a hissy fit one day, or some crucial hard drive corrupt beyond the point of retrieval. That's why I make a copy of my front page once a week, as a precautionary measure, and why I've got a five year archive burnt onto CD somewhere, just in case. I take risk assessment more seriously now.

But what of my online legacy, should I drop dead one day without warning. Blogger might well carry on hosting my site for a few more years, but my Flickr subscription is finite, and any images hosted on my own personal domain will surely vanish shortly after my executors cancel all my standing orders. Cheering stuff, I know. But how much of my blog can I expect to remain visible after 20, 50 or even 100 years? HTML and the internet will no doubt go the way of cassette tapes, floppy discs and videotape, becoming increasingly obsolete as the century passes. These words I'm writing are of only fleeting importance, accessible for a brief period and then snuffed out as technology moves on. I don't know why any of us bother, really.

So I was more than a little excited, and indeed humbled, to receive an emailed invite from the British Library asking if I'd agree to have my website preserved in a new national "collection of blogs". Blimey. They'd like diamond geezer to be added to a publicly accessible website archive - part of the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC) initiative - and stashed away for the benefit of future internet research. Cor. Their plan is for 150 blogs of all shapes and sizes to be archived during the summer, and then again at regular intervals into the future. I'll be in prestigious online company, by the looks of the existing archive, filed away amongst such eclectic websites as Classic Cafes, Cheltenham Ladies College and the Campaign for Real Ale. Cor blimey.

But there's a catch. This being an official British Library collection, it's essential that I first sign a copyright licence - specifically for third party content. There's no problem with my own writing, which comprises 99% of the blog. But every now and again I, in common with millions of other bloggers, like to quote a bit of somebody else's work. A cut-and-pasted blogpost snippet, for example, or a chunk of a press release, or a couple of lines from a poem, that sort of thing. I don't ask these people, I just copy a little bit of what they've written, in the same way that you probably do. But the UKAWC can't officially archive anything without obtaining the author's permission first. Damn. So, er, here goes with an attempted get-out clause...
"I intend having this website archived after the beginning of June in a UK blog collection by the British Library. In the unlikely case that anyone who has been quoted in my blog does not want the quotation there, they should let me know by email immediately."
I'm not expecting a rush. I'd expect most people I've quoted would be as pleased as I am to be part of a web preservation programme. But I shall watch my email with interest, just in case Freddie Mercury, Metronet or William Shakespeare get in touch. And then I can sign up to the official archive programme with a clear conscience, safe in the knowledge that my words are being officially preserved for future generations. Even after I'm dead and gone and the internet is long obsolete, so webarchive.org.uk should evolve to match the digital format of the age. And one distant day, as the entire human race prepares to evacuate our doomed planet in a fleet of well-stocked interstellar spacecraft, maybe this paragraph will go with them. I'd like to hope so.

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