Selling History —
I haven’t quite been able to get my head around why my first reaction to this auction is anger.
One of the big mistakes a historian or archivist can make is that the stuff they’re collecting is “theirs” or somehow, because they have a particularly large pile of stuff, other smaller piles should naturally go out of their way to join the large pile. This just isn’t the case. You do what you can, and based, sometimes, on personality, whim or other factors, people choose or don’t choose to contribute items.
Of course, part of this is different because the artifact is digital; you can make an exacting duplicate of it with no less of the item in your possession after you’re done. Except, of course, exclusitivity, which is basically what’s being sold here.
All told, it’s 20mb of textfiles. He wants $8 for a copy of it. Were I to get a copy of it, I would immediately put them in the textfiles.com BBS message collection, because that’s what I do with this stuff; immediately distribute it far and wide. He’s chosen not to do that, but to instead make money from it.
I know of a number of BBS packages that were sold by the authors to people who immediately turned around and opened them to the public domain. Just to do it. I don’t know what sort of funds were involved, but I would assume it was a lot more than $8.
For the record, I have basically expanded my mission to take pretty much ANYTHING from the era of BBSes, including printouts, boxes, disks, CD-ROMs, old machine parts… you name it. Never hesitate to contact me before you consider throwing anything out.
It’s an interesting reaction I have. Maybe I’ll understand it at some point.
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I understand your reaction. I’m not sure if I could put it in words either.
It’s like.. information is *alive*, & information that’s kept secret is in *jail*. It’s like, information is all we *have*. Some of the people who wrote those messages are *dead* (& all of them have changed). As long as we have a record, they can *speak out* from that time that’s gone. When the record is lost or forgotten or hidden away, that’s when they finally fall silent.
I believe more & more each day that these early records of the information age (even continuing to today, which is still very early compared to the things that will probably happen next) are tremendously important. I suspect that– like how we sift through old soldier’s letters for hints they didn’t realize they were giving about the courses of battles– historians of the future will be able to easily manipulate the tiny amount of data we’re making now, finding hidden coincidences & patterns.
The future will be more & more brightly lit, but any light that can be shed down the dark tunnel that brought us there is sure to be invaluable.