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T42: archiving

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  1. By .

    I’ve seen a few people talking about Thunderbird recently, and the idea of email in general. I like email, for private communication — meaning pretty much only one-to-one. For public or group stuff it’s pretty dreadful.

    Desktop email, and from Alpine to Thunderbird by Ruben Schade, 20 January 2023:

    Shocking nobody who’s dismissed me as a contrarian before, I still use desktop email clients. Even worse, I only made the switch to IMAP from POP for personal email a few years ago, in part owing to the principle of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. […] They let me archive email locally, which reduces my footprint on a remote third party server somewhere. It’s better for privacy, and potentially cost. […] HTML email though, that’s something I still refuse to budge on… because I’m a gentleman.

    The matter of how email is stored, where, and for how long is interesting I think. I’ve been reading (and in some cases scanning and putting online) some old letters from long-dead relatives of mine. It’s an amazing way to hear someone’s voice, and I’m glad that various people in my family have had stable homes (for many decades at a time) and the inclination to not throw things away. It makes me wonder (and I know this is a cliché) how emails and other personal communication will survive the coming decades. It’s just so much easier to lose access, not care, or not even notice when things get deleted.

    I used to maintain an email archiving and sending tool for myself. It was plain text, didn’t allow attachments, and produced annual PDF dumps of conversations (unthreaded, purely chronological, and only between two parties). Utterly limited, but I found it not only terrific to use, but it encouraged me to write longer and more detailed emails. The explosion of chat systems came along though, and most of my friends moved to other platforms and didn’t want to email any more, so I’ve let the thing stagnate. Maybe I’ll make it live again some day.

  2. By .

    There’s a discussion on hacker news about how to make a website live for a very long time:

    It’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure about 500 years, but I do think it’s worth figuring out for about 30 or 40 years. Maybe 50. I base that on the fact that I seem to often come across things that people wrote in the 1970s and 1980s that reference other things from that time that are now very hard to find (or even really determine if they’re at all findable).

    It’s basically the timeframe between when someone is old and produces a work, and when their grandchildren’s generation is old enough to appreciate that work. Their children’s generation often don’t care enough or see it as too recently made and so not worth looking after.

    My approach is still to make printable versions of things (on archival paper with pigment-based inks, stored in polypropylene folders). The hosting is fragile and shouldn’t be expected to last more than one’s own life, mostly for bureaucratic reasons rather than technical.

  3. By .

    I’ve been reading a bit today about the new Flickr Foundation, and it does seem interesting. Ultimately, I think I’m still happier hosting my own stuff and copying when appropriate to Wikimedia Commons or the Internet Archive. Sometimes also to Flickr, but not with a sense that the photos will be safe there permanently. Self hosting means not only that I have control and can modify the software as required, but also that I can archive in the ways I see fit (e.g. some stuff is optimised for printing to paper, annually).

  4. By Paul Daley.

    This week’s partial culling of the personal archive is no small challenge. What to keep? Why?

    My life’s paper trail was longer than I’d imagined.

    It had sat, a perpetual fire hazard I’m sure, in seven or eight boxes in our roof for the past four years during each of which it grew incrementally. Before that it had been in the cellar of our last house for 15 years and for a few more in storage while we lived overseas.

    It was time for “the purge”.

  5. By .

    Geocities was an online collection of metropolises, each with their own neighborhoods built around shared interests. The city metaphor helped make a whole new group of users understand the world wide web for the first time. At its peak, it was the third most popular destination on the internet, but it quickly fell out of fashion as the web became more commodified and professional. Before it shuttered, a few digital archivists scooped up as much data as possible before all that early internet experimentation could be deleted.