One of the big responses out of people when they visit my historical sites are the incredulity that the data still exists at all. Certainly, that was my own response when Google Groups started pulling in data from 1982, and when I first stumbled upon the ever-fluctuating Asimov Archive of Apple II disk images. (I’ll save a debate about the legitimacy of such an archive for a later time.)
But the cool part about digital data is, all it takes is one person, saving their copy, and putting it aside somewhere safe, and then yanking it out 10 or 20 years hence. Unlike, say, antiques, they really don’t take up a lot of space and assuming it can be brought back, the copies (now imbused with the artificial values of rarity and time) spread like wildfire. Especially now in a time of the Bittorrent archives, which I call the master method of “you didn’t know you needed it until you glanced upon the title”.
Recently, a group of researchers did some work with weblogs where they happened to pull about an enormous amount of entries from them, creating some sort of multi-gigabyte monster of a MYSQL database. Naturally, I grabbed a copy; I haven’t even glanced at it, I’m just going to shove it onto a DLT tape and forget about it. Say what you want about weblogs, pro or con; I consider them as close to BBSes as we tend to get on the Internet, what with their day-to-day subject matter and reactions to current events in a distinct, flavorful manner. By saving them, they end up being a great time capsule for a given time. People a century from now will appreciate them quite a bit.
Along that line, I am a very big proponent of saving archival copies of one’s livejournal. Livejournal makes it very easy to archive off a copy, which can then be stored away. People drop hours a day writing into these things and then they don’t care in the least if the stuff is teetering on the edge of disaster if the livejournal servers have a problem. A small amount of effort now and all your work is that much safer.
Sprinkle a little rsync into your life and keep copies of your most precious data in at least two locations. Blow stuff into a tar or zip (or ace or rar) archive and throw it onto a CDR. Nothing’s worse than losing your stuff, and you never know what it’ll be worth to history at large a decade or two down the line. The best way to ensure history knows a fuller story is to keep around the data that formed the story in the first place.
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