Free Culture Libraries, Based on Discrete Blobs

I have been reading Lessig’s Free Culture, specifically about the four different types of content-sharing that he identifies on p2p networks: sharing content that the user would otherwise buy (bad); sharing content as a precursor to buying it (good); sharing unavailable content (good); and sharing freely-available content (good; and the preceeding three were all about closed copyrighted material). Simple analysis, I know, but useful; it’s the third of these that I’m interested in.

[openbook booknumber=”/b/OL3691799M”]

If content is otherwise not available — old music, books, newspapers, whatever — then what harm is done in making it available? But that’s not the point. My interest is in the making it available, and not the legalality: Building these great, free, open, public libraries of content — the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Foundation projects, etc. — is a Good Thing. Doing so in a collaborative, communal, progressive way is good too. I find it satisfying to work on (building and organising) these sorts of libraries, and that I think it is a very worthwhile pastime. That’s all.

(Hardly worth writing here, I guess, but then I had to have something to say today, didn’t I? And sitting in Tropicana on High Street (as I was when I wrote the above) is probably likely to make one ramble on about nothing. They don’t seem to ‘have the internet’ here (as the phrase goes), so I’m wondering about the usefullness of blogging, and interacting on the net, given that one must be online to do these things…)

I am attracted to the ‘document’ model (I don’t mean the DOM, obviously), in which the basic unit of content transfer is a single, complete, file — generally a PDF. This contrasts with web-based content, in which there are many files involved, they are interdependent, and they usually deal with navigation and content all in one. For example, my blog is not a document, it is a complicated piece of software that presents the posts and the navigation (etc.) to the user, from one place (the server). It cannot be copied, not wholly and easily, and passed around. I don’t really like this.

The other way, the document-based way, would be to do something like the Australia Institute and other places do with their press-releases: make each post a PDF, self-contained and simple, easily downloadable and keepable — in fact, making it necessary to download a local copy to view it. This approach loses a lot in terms of the flexibility and creativity (and speed in access and navigation) of hypertext, but that may be an advantage. It’s an old-fashioned approach, to think about content in book- or document-form, things that can be passed around and duplicated. It’s good for preservation: most blogs exist in one place only, and although they might be backed-up regularly, if the maintainer takes the blog down, it is gone and no one can access it anymore.

Duplication of content is good. It is good for access, for preservation, and even for reading (in that one can take a blog post and read it later, offline and maybe on a different device).

(Hmm… I appologise for this post; it is not very well thought-out. But I have to go to work, and this will have to do for today. I’d rather have written something about my ideas for Addressbook and importing from hcards and microformats… ho hum.)