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Personal Digital Archiving Conference
24-25 February 2011, Internet Archive

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Attacking the general perception that both personal data is eternal on the web while the same time disposable and worthless, Jason Scott reveals what drives him, his twitter cat and the movement that stands behind him. Once and for all, Jason answers the eternal question of what to do with your own data warehouse. We think this is one small way that we can avoid falling into the Digital Dark Ages.

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Jason Scott talks

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Give me a moment. I always record my own speeches. I trust nobody. It's always good to maintain a web of distrust.
 

We have never met Jason Scott in person, however we find his uploads on the Internet Archive to be the most interesting. Jason's black hat is his trade mark and wears it with pride. Jason Scott talks about the need for protecting your personal data from data loss and avoiding your own digital dark ages.

There is nothing more boring than an activist. They are boring in conversation. They are hard to have even within ear shot. There is a sense that when you come back to them that nothing has changed. The same one dimensional person is saying the same one dimensional thing. It's just tiring. My name is Jason Scott. I'm an activist.
 

I'm going to talk about Digital Heritage. My cat has 1.5 million followers on twitter. But maybe Jason is best well known for supporting the Internet Archive. It is the Internet Archive that is hosting the Personal Digital Archiving Conference.

Jason is a collector. And he was a collector before he knew he was a collector. But it isn't enough to collect print outs and floppies. There is the need to share everything that has been collected. Share with everybody. Jason started textfiles.com

Jason receives old stuff "in danger" of data loss. Usually home computers. I'm not really pretty about it but I will save it. The danger of deletion, the danger of losing data. What has happened in the last decade or so is that a lot of data is in danger of being lost. A lot of data has been deleted in epidemic proportions. People assume that the loss of data is the price of using computers. Data loss has become no big thing except for the occasional headline received by a shrug.

Jason's ah-ha moment came with the shutdown of a site called AOL hometown. It was in operation for ten years and then with 2 months' notice it was shut down and gone forever. Gone, real gone, as in gone gone. This was incredible data loss. This is how archive team started. Much of this data has been preserved on the Internet Archive.

This seemed to going well until it was announced that Geocities was going down.

In April 2009, approximately ten years after Yahoo! bought GeoCities, the company announced that it would shut down the United States GeoCities service on October 26, 2009. There were at least 38 million user-built pages on GeoCities before it was shut down.

From Wikipedia

Geocities, wow! But what was lost was a personal data gem that started around 1995. For hundreds of thousands of people it was their first experience with owning a full color, bells and whistles, web page.

For some people, the potential audience for them was greater than the entire history of their entire genetic line. This was their chance to reach an audience unforeseen for their family. It was breathtaking for them. These are real people doing real things. With this arbitrary and viscous move, Yahoo shutdown Geocities.
 

All this information can fit on basically a pack of cards to save, but there was no desire to save.

A year went by since Geocities went down. Jason actually put geocities on pirate bay using Bit Torrent. It turns out to be 640GB. Amazing for something pre-2000. This is to be one of the top-3 seedings on the Pirate Bay. Attitudes change. However, this is just one example of personal data that is being lost to the digital dark ages. Another example of many more includes Shoebox shutting down, holding personal data, pictures, videos. And do not forget the user generated metadata that goes with it.

Personal data loss

If you have every experienced embrace, extend, extinguish; Our current process is disenfranchise, demean, delete. If your Twitter goes down, who do you call? Demean, if a site falls out of favor then act like it is a getto - like it is not worth consideration. The you give a random amount of warning. Sometimes one gets 48 hours to download all of their podcasts. Boom data loss and the preventable fall into the digital dark ages.

And to think that Jason is archiving every URL shortener, because he believes that URL shorteners are a bad idea. These are probably the worst idea "we" have had in the last decade. And the Internet Archive is looking to preserve as much data as possible to avoid the period falling into the digital dark ages.

Article tags: computers digital dark ages > Next article

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How much data do we create?

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five exabytes of data.

Quote by Eric Schmidt (2010), from The Tech Crunch (wayback).

Is everything on the Internet and will it last forever?

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