February 18, 2006

Last night I decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress. Why, coming from a Google devotee? Blogger seemed kind of clunky. No expert on blogging or the software (although I know what I like when I see it, for example, Typepad ), but the subscription programs are out of reach for this recent MLIS school graduate (currently under-employed). Although Blogger seemed fine in most ways, WordPress has more appeal. Maybe I’ll blog about that when I have more experience. One nice thing that WordPress offers is the option of importing one’s post from another blog. Nice.

So, this has a nice feel. One of my cats has a Xanga account. That is nice for him, he can put all of his current reads and popular media selections in his blog. But Xanga really is limited as to posting. One has to be a member to post to other sites and it does seemed aimed at a certain age demographic (which, my cat, BTW, falls under).

Cat with blog

So, WordPress it is.

One thing I think about, having worked in special collections and archives, is the permanance of all of this social networking. I believe much of it should not be preserved, my cat’s, for instance….

However, there are some valid reasons for those of us in the preservation/library/archival community to question this issue and look for answers. Blogs seem similar to me to the broadsides and ephemera published since the 16th century. Many or most did not survive but the ones that have display a snapshot of an age. Invaluable for understanding the social context of that particular generation and time. I’ve heard this comparison many times, that the advent of the printing press has ushered in a “shift” in learning, perception and, indeed, in our lives that is quite similar to our own. We are confronting, adjusting, making profit, from a new type of technology. The printing press 500 years ago and the Web 15 years ago.

I look at the amount of traffic myspace.com has, the various blogs that are being produced by people in the information technology field and the library field, not to mention education, politics, entertainment. Some of these are worth saving. Where does WordPress, Xanga, Typepad stand on backups? Is it incumbent upon us to save our postings to our own, albeit not always stable, operating systems, hard drives, etc? Or do we print them out (as a noted research scientist at UAB told me how he preserved his papers and email correspondence, he printed them out and it would be up to the archives to copy those onto acid-free paper for his eventual collection). At least he was thinking of the permanence factor and preservation.

The phrase “born digital” bothers me, for some reason. Maybe because I just don’t know that all of the avenues of saving these born digital documents will be available 100 years from now, or hell, even 25 years from now. Maybe because I wonder who is going to determine what is “worthy” born digital material to be saved? Will the Millennials know? Are we educating librarians, information professionals, anybody, in terms of how important it is to preserve information in a permanent form? Perhaps. If those of use us in the information fields provide enough information, convincing information, that not everything will always be accessible on the World Wide Web, will that be enough to make those making decisions to stop and think before they compose a ground breaking manuscript in WordPerfect and then crash their computer leaving a “born digital” copy on a server somewhere? I find it hard to convince my students of this. How to teach them the importance of preservation, of history, of the rich legacy manuscripts, books and incunabula hold for them and their future?

Just some random thoughts of things I’m thinking (and blogging) about on a Saturday night after a day of writing cover letters and essays for job applications (between helping my genius feline update his Xanga site).

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