The Affair of the Vanishing Content Written by Sam Vaknin
http://www.archive.org/ "Digitized information, especially on Internet, has such rapid turnover these days that total loss is norm. Civilization is developing severe amnesia as a result; indeed it may have become too amnesiac already to notice problem properly."
(Stewart Brand, President, The Long Now Foundation )
Thousands of articles and essays posted by hundreds of authors were lost forever when themestream.com surprisingly shut its virtual gates. A sizable portion of 1960 census, recorded on UNIVAC II-A tapes, is now inaccessible. Web hosts crash daily, erasing in process valuable content. Access to web sites is often suspended - or blocked altogether - because of a real (or imagined) violation by webmaster of host's Terms of Service (TOS). Millions of other web sites - results of collective, multi-annual, transcontinental efforts - contain unique stores of information in form of databases, articles, discussion threads, and links to other web sites. Consider "Central Europe Review". Its archives comprise more than 2500 articles and essays about every conceivable aspect of Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan. It is one of countless such collections.
Similar and much larger treasures have perished since dawn of digital age in 1920's. Very few early radio and TV programs have survived, for instance. The current "digital dark age" can be compared only to one which followed torching of Library of Alexandria. The more accessible and abundant information available to us - more devalued and common it becomes and less institutional and cultural memory we seem to possess. In battle between paper and screen, former has won formidably. Newspaper archives, dating back to 1700's are now being digitized - testifying to endurance, resilience, and longevity of paper.
Enter "Internet Libraries", or Digital Archival Repositories (DAR). These are libraries that provide free access to digital materials replicated across multiple servers ("safety in redundancy"). They contain Web pages, television programming, films, e-books, archives of discussion lists, etc. Such materials can help linguists trace development of language, journalists conduct research, scholars compare notes, students learn, and teachers teach. The Internet's evolution mirrors closely social and cultural history of North America at end of 20th century. If not preserved, our understanding of who we are and where we are going will be severely hampered. The clues to our future lie ensconced in our past. It is only guarantee against repeating mistakes of our predecessors. Long gone Web pages cached by likes of Google and Alexa constitute first tier of such archival undertaking.
The Stanford Archival Vault (SAV) in Stanford University assigns a numerical handle to every digital "object" (record) in a repository. The handle is clever numerical result of a mathematical formula whose input is number of information bits in original object being deposited. This allows to track and uniquely identify records across multiple repositories. It also prevents tampering. SAV also offers application layers. These allow programmers to develop digital archive software and permit users to change "view" (the interface) of an archive and thus to mine data. Its "reliability layer" verifies completeness and accuracy of digital repositories.
Revolt of the ScholarsWritten by Sam Vaknin
Scindex's Instant Publishing Service is about empowerment. The price of scholarly, peer-reviewed journals has skyrocketed in last few years, often way out of limited means of libraries, universities, individual scientists and scholars. A "scholarly divide" has opened between haves (academic institutions with rich endowments and well-heeled corporations) and haves not (all others). Paradoxically, access to authoritative and authenticated knowledge has declined as number of professional journals has proliferated. This is not to mention long (and often crucial) delays in publishing research results and shoddy work of many under-paid and over-worked peer reviewers.
The Internet was suppose to change all that. Originally, a computer network for exchange of (restricted and open) research results among scientists and academics in participating institutions - it was supposed to provide instant publishing, instant access and instant gratification. It has delivered only partially. Preprints of academic papers are often placed online by their eager authors and subjected to peer scrutiny. But this haphazard publishing cottage industry did nothing to dethrone print incumbents and their avaricious pricing.
The major missing element is, of course, respectability. But there are others. No agreed upon content or knowledge classification method has emerged. Some web sites (such as Suite101) use Dewey decimal system. Others invented and implemented systems of their making. Additionally, one click publishing technology (such as Webseed's or Blogger's) came to be identified strictly to non-scholarly material: personal reminiscences, correspondence, articles and news.
Enter Scindex and its Academic Resource Channel. Established by academics and software experts from Bulgaria, it epitomizes tearing down of geographical barriers heralded by Internet. But it does much more than that. Scindex is a whole, self-contained, stand-alone, instant self-publishing and self-assembly system. Self-publishing systems do exist (for instance, Purdue University's) - but they incorporate only certain components. Scindex covers whole range.