The Transient Web

More thoughts and discussions seem to be rising to the surface daily as a result of Gardner Campbell's "No More Digital Facelifts" video. Brad Kozlek and D'Arcy Norman take issue with the requirement of ds106 that you self-host your blog and the idea that a "Personal Cyberinfrastructure" requires becoming your own sysadmin.

In Gutenberg’s day, did leading thinkers and professors talk about the need for students to craft their own printing presses? Did they take metalsmithing classes, so they could forge their own movable type and the machinery to press paper to ink? Were there paper- and ink-making classes? How far down into the infrastructure stacks do we really need to delve, in order to create and sustain meaningful educational experiences? - D'Arcy Norman

Leigh Blackall further expounds on the possibility that self-hosting creates a dangerous environment where everyone's great works is on the chopping block of how long they are willing to continue paying the upkeep fees. > If even 50% of those then decide to let that site's fees slip and the content go into the extinct URLs, not only will Jim's record of DS106 be compromised, but the longer term asynchronous learning will be impacted. We might as well give it all over to Blackboard and leave the deletion to the institution. The business model, that deletes content because hosting fees aren't being met, is a irresponsible model. - Leigh Blackall

To be honest I find the discussions completely fascinating and there are bits and pieces of every viewpoint that I agree with, as well as many points I disagree with. On a sidenote my employer would greatly appreciate everyone stopping all the wonderful discussion surrounding this topic right now so I can get back to work. Leigh's point is interesting and an idea I've struggled with myself, ironically from a separate viewpoint. I've seen severe downtime on free services like Tumblr, and seen whole communities and gems of the web shuttered by large corporations that couldn't turn a profit on what they acquired. Not to pick on Yahoo, but the recent spat over the possibility of Delicious closing down continues to firm my stance that "When you use free services, you get what you pay for." Realistically though, even companies with solid business models aren't immune to these issues. Google Wave was supposed to be the answer to the "problem" of e-mail, and with a company like Google building it you knew we were in for greatness. Gone. Didn't even last 2 years. Sure you can export your data, plenty of time to get what you need out, great for those that are paying attention. But the lesson is there, this web that we build each day is ultimately, as Brad so eloquently phrased in Leigh's post, "ephemeral". Users that have used any social bookmarking service for more than 3 years can easily test this. Go back to your first bookmarks and see how many of them still open. I'd wager Libyan government decides to shutter, the default URL shortener on Twitter for years? Leigh ponders on the possibility of an open and non-profit organization similar to working to backup everyone's data, perhaps at a small cost. I'm starting to wonder if it's simply the nature of the internet as we know it today. A transient web, fleeting, meant for production and consumption of today, possibly tomorrow, but no guarantees for the future. I'm not saying this is an ideal situation, but it's happening right now and we have to accept that for today if we want to fix it tomorrow. I'm taking the optimistic stance that as storage becomes cheaper and technology improves we will eventually have the capability of storing every page the internet produces for eternity. We're certainly not their yet without a lot of manual labor, but we'll get there. For now, I trust only what I can administer myself. I'm in control of how long my host keeps my site live, and if my hosting decides they can't make their business model work, I can move to another host while keeping my domain name intact. The flexibility I get from self-hosting and the control I have over it is the best of all possible worlds for myself in a world that is riddled with choice. Ultimately I'll accept that what I create today may not be around tomorrow. I'm living for the moment and doing what I can to enhance the world of those around me. Later generations will do the same with the groundwork we create today, even if all the bricks won't necessarily still fit together in 20 years.