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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


Preserving the Past

Chris Campbell

As we share more of ourselves online on various sites, it's important to think about preserving it. Unless you have things backed up on your own, it's not permanent. These things become significant when a site closes down. The good ones will let you export your data, but sometimes sites just go away. With the upcoming closing of 43 Things it made me look back through what I had written and some of those entries started me looking back at other sites and finding things that I had forgotten.

Luckily with the blogging systems I've used, moving from one to another has kept most of my writing. I started with Blosxom, then moved to Typo), then Wordpress, and then to Squarespace. The earlier versions were self-hosted and now I'm happy to concentrate on the writing. While I have all the entries (and I think that I have a backup of the static version of the site somewhere), not all the links in the entries work and the images don't show up. While the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has the entries, the images are not saved. Someday I've got to get that fixed up a bit.

With the disappearance of Textdrive where I had my sites hosted for years, it made me lose the Bad Metaphor site that hosted the podcast that my son and I had produced a few years ago. The podcasts are all thankfully preserved in the Internet Archive and I have the original files too. But it's scary when things disappear. I'd moved this blog over to Squarespace earlier, but kept the archive there and didn't get a warning of the site going away until my son noticed that the site was down. My plan now is to set up the archive of the podcast in a section on this site.

The possibility of losing things makes you think about the value of them and it made me start to look through other things that I had written in the past. I love trying out new things and sites, so every now and then that is where my online energy will go. When the Vox blogging service) was introduced by Six Apart I liked it and started blogging there with shorter and more frequent things (like an early version of Tumblr now that I think about it). When I was writing about past Sappyfests, I realized that I didn't have blog entries here, but there were some scattered on other sites. Now with those sites gone, the question is how to share what was there. I'm thinking of retroactively posting them here with the original dates from the post. They'll become part of the archive.

The good thing is that it should be relatively easy to do this, but it makes me want to make sure that it is all backed up. If a site doesn't let you export your content, you should be careful. We rely on the kindness of others when we don't take responsibility for what we create. Most of the time it is ok, but when that breaks down we're left with nothing. So now I've got a routine where I'll export my content from sites where I can (Pinboard, Squarespace, Twitter, Medium) and think about whether I should post to sites where I can't get my archive or set up things like IFTTT to archive stuff somewhere.

So every now and then I'll check to make sure that things get backed up. Then maybe do a bit of curating and highlighting of things from the past. This blog has been around since May of 2002, so there is a lot here and looking through what I've written also gives a glimpse into the sites and services that have changed or disappeared over the past decade. We can learn from the past and it's good to save it and look back every now and then.