Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Saving Video from Dying Websites (Open Trackbacks)

One thing that the future historians of the internet will have to deal with is the fact that many small sites die every day. A coworker of mine has found that one of his favorite sites, www.smallrc.com, which dealt with small radio controlled airplanes, is in its death throes. The site was really a business venture, but it hosted free forums. The front page seems to be gone, but there is still some access to the forums. Some of those forums contain video clips of hobbyists having fun with their planes.

I've taken a few of the vids that my coworker thought most worth saving and put them on YouTube. I'm also making a CD-ROM for him with those files. Here's a sample.

Since the internet and the world wide web are still very much in their infancy, it is of course hard to know what parts of its current offerings will be of interest to folks in the future. Smallrc.com is an example of where a commercial website created an online community for a narrow niche of web users, and generated content that will be of value to social historians. But when the sites die, even a few cached pages at Google won't be much help. The Wayback Machine, even with its 55 billion archived pages, concentrates on the larger, more popular sites.

In the days of the supremacy of print media, even publications with small audiences managed to have many of their issues saved. While there are some films missing from the early days of cinema, most of them are available to us now, in some form or other. Magnetic recordings of radio and television programs assure future historians of those media will have several lifetimes' worth of source material to peruse.

But the internet changes quickly. Servers crash. Sites are deleted. Heck, with a click of one button I could delete the entirety of this blog. It's not that I think my blog will be of interest to hordes of historians in the 22nd century, but I do think that historians will want to have access to many examples of websites in order to accurately portray the ways the internet is changing societies around the globe.



This is this week's open trackback post. You may trackback on most any subject, provided you link to this post. Click here and here and here for more info on open trackbacks.

Bernie Planck would like you to go to Planck's Constant and read about what happens After the World Ends. I suspect there'll be a lot of finger-pointing. When you're done with that, read his account of Border Babies, and then help him get his tongue back into his mouth after he tells you all about Devon Aoki.

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