All My Blogs Are Dead
February 2, 2015 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Check the wayback machine?

[[Insert public service announcement about backing up your data.]]
posted by sammyo at 2:02 PM on February 2, 2015

Aww come on guys! I'll get around to updating it eventually. Just as soon as I finish reading my new book, and moving my personal SVN projects to github, and finish unlocking all the challenges in Smash Bros, and rebalance my retirement portfolio.
posted by pwnguin at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

See, this is also an issue I have with "blog" coming to mean "someone else's online pseudo-magazine publication". Back when the term got coined, inherent in the difference between blog and "microportal" was the more personal nature of it.

We even talked a lot about "multi-contributor blogs" (like MeFi) and whether that counted (and my stance on that is part of the reason why people are shocked that my MeFi user number is sooo high).

This dude's just writing about a bunch of failed zines, and back in the day he'd be as hard-pressed to find third party archives of deceased music zines as he is to find the digital equivalent now.
posted by straw at 2:08 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

This dude's just writing about a bunch of failed zines, and back in the day he'd be as hard-pressed to find third party archives of deceased music zines as he is to find the digital equivalent now.

Although there's a higher likelihood he'd have kept copies of the issues in which his stuff appeared; at the very least a folder of clippings.

Not that it would make all that much difference if this stuff still was online. I mean, the answer to the question he is posed at the beginning of the piece (about what he's written) is pretty much "nothing you'd have heard of" no matter whether he can provide a bunch of links or not. The potential employer/funder isn't going to go read the pieces, after all in either case; what they want to know is "have you published with anyone I recognize."
posted by yoink at 2:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jill Lepore’s recent New Yorker story on’s Wayback Machine notes the average lifespan of a website is “about a hundred days.”

When that number was first published on the Internet almost 4100 days ago, it was about web pages, not sites, and the page is indeed gone from the site it was first posted to. The Internet still has a copy, though.

(You'd expect people to make up some new numbers in 12 years, but I guess that's too much work.)
posted by effbot at 2:25 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you're worried about your own online writings disappearing into the aether, visit each article's URL and use your browser's "Save page as" option (be sure to select the "complete" option to also grab images and such) or a browser plugin such as Scrapbook to snag an HTML copy. Then, you can put the files online in a publicly accessible place such as a Dropbox shared folder. This will retain the content and much of the useful context (appearance of the page, etc).
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm really, really glad my old blog has gone and I curse the Wayback Machine for the few scraps of it that it has archived.
posted by Jimbob at 2:32 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Most of the media outlets I’ve written for have folded and then were flat-out deleted.

I can say the same thing about the print magazines I wrote for, too. News articles are disposable. People just want something to amuse and distract them for a few fleeting moments. The Internet is a vast medium of cheap and meaningless filler: bunk, propaganda, sophistry, trivia, tantrums, and anything else to deflect attention away from reality.

Saving articles these days is like saving used bubble gum: you probably don't want anyone to know you wrote something like that, anyway...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:35 PM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

Libraries are providing anti-linkrot services for items that are cited in court opinions and law journals, via It would be cool if public libraries offered a similar archive to their local users who blog, similar to how public libraries tend to make an effort to archive local newspapers and works in print by local authors.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:38 PM on February 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

This is why I write all my blogs on stone tablets.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:45 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think the whole current state of the internet is ephemeral. My secret fear is that we spend so much time online that historical research of humanity at this point in time is going to come up too empty not too far down the road. It's all going to turn into oral tradition again, where people talk about what they remember the internet being like and the things that went on there. It sounds a little bit looney, but I'm genuinely concerned that not enough people are thinking about this and how things change and what it means for the things we aren't holding onto. I would probably feel differently if so much of what we did wasn't online, but so much of what we do now, including historical things, is. It is awesome that we have archival services on the internet frantically trying to catch everything we do online. But boy do we ever need more than one. The Internet Archive is doing an invaluable and necessary service. But who backs them up if it ends up they are ephemeral, as well?
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

Oh yeah I backed up all my old stuff. It's on floppy disk somewhere. And maybe a zip.
posted by zennie at 4:09 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

SpacemanStix, I look back at all the broken links on my blog, and I'm sympathetic to your argument, but I've also had any number of discussions with digital hoarders, keeping every last artifact, migrating it across media, and... there's just too damned much of it.

The thing is, I can go back and re-read Usenet discussions, even BBS discussions before that, and none of it captures the amazing newness and sense of possibility we felt. I guess I'm starting to look back at history, and think "what can I learn from this?", and coming up far flatter than the importance that we put on preserving the artifacts at the time.

I don't remember if I noted it here or elsewhere, but a friend's dad recently died, leaving behind a huge slide collection. Friend said "I wish dad had talked about the stories these told while he was alive, but now these are just so much plastic".

The past will always be largely interpreted in the social context of the present. It always gets filtered through the most conservative lens of intervening generations. Let's worry more about where we're going than where we've been.
posted by straw at 4:15 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

blogs should have term limits
posted by Postroad at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2015

SpacemanStix, I look back at all the broken links on my blog, and I'm sympathetic to your argument, but I've also had any number of discussions with digital hoarders, keeping every last artifact, migrating it across media, and... there's just too damned much of it.

I don't think I'm worried about being able to keep track of all of it, just not enough of it. I'm worried that we aren't recording important parts of our history in ways that have safeguards in place. I think a sense of history is important as we think about where we are going, and to also arrive there in a healthy and retrospective way.

Before the internet, we had tangible copies of things in diverse locations (like libraries) that could be archived and accessed by diligent researchers. Are we recording too much of the important stuff in ways that aren't guaranteed to stand the test of time? That's my primary concern. All of history has stuff that sneaks through the net of historical documentation. I'm just worried that we aren't paying attention to whether we may lose too much.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think what might worry me the most is that the internet has given the illusion of permanency for awhile, and we've bought into it in a way that will make us historically sloppy. Stuff just did stick around for awhile, and we were encouraged by corporations like Google who viewed archiving as being very important. Both of those things are ending up not to be true, with very few people keeping the old guard in a diligent way. It's just taken a decade or two to realize that rather than being a true archive, it's more like a gradual erosion of information over time as new and interesting things take the stage, edging the old stuff out to the fringes, and eventually out the door.

We used to say that "stuff stays on the internet forever" to discourage people from doing something stupid. I don't think I'm as convinced of that as I used to be. The wheel of the internet moves, perhaps slowly, but eventually the cassette tape gets rewritten and then erased.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2015

We assume everything we publish online will be preserved. Who is this "we"? I'm honestly surprised if this is a widely held belief. Preserved by whom? I suppose it's naïve to assume that everyone's published as many random things online as I have, but ... given that it requires resources to keep something online, why assume that someone, somewhere, will keep devoting resources to it? I mean, unless it's naked selfies.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2015

I think there should be an HTTP status code for content that will be removed soon.
posted by michaelh at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

We assume everything we publish online will be preserved.

chesty_a_arthur, I think it's been an interesting jump in people's minds from "anything you put online is out of your control and could live out there forever" to "...and will be out there forever." Not sure to what extent that belief is held by the general public, but it's certainly a shift I've noticed in how people in my social orbits talk about their online presence/privacy.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2015

Admittedly, many of the people in my social orbits have some anxiety-fueled all-or-nothing thinking on this topic.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2015

This is a minor but ongoing theme in the web development classes I teach. Our civilization's general disregard for its own digital history is, quite frankly, terrifying. I feel that we're obsessed with building new shiny bridges while burning down those behind us.

People don't seem to realize that our sense of history - our very sense of continuation as a civilization - is often constructed from recovered ephemera. The preserved papyrus in the tills of Oxyrhynchus, and drawings on birchbark by a medieval child - that's history, in a very different sense from eddas and Bibles.

What makes it especially enraging is that even the basic archival elements built into HTML5 - the stuff that would allow us to see changes made to pages over the short term - are very rarely used by developers.

Some of what Tim Berners-Lee is proposing for future web development - the archiving and sharing of pages in connected devices, not just servers - is promising. But in the meantime, reading Jason Scott's tweets is often desperately sad, as he and the Internet Archive team race to preserve another corner of the web before it is shuttered forever by careless founders, and the communal online history of tens of thousands of people is lost permanently to history.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:00 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think it's been an interesting jump in people's minds from "anything you put online is out of your control and could live out there forever" to "...and will be out there forever."

Back in Ye Olden Days I thought it was a damn miracle if my website would be seen by anyone. I recently discovered an archived copy of one single page from my very first website from 1993, it only survived because I accidentally archived some text files in the same directory. I sure wish I had the rest of that site.

But since then, I have learned through some very hard lessons, never EVER let your online presence be controlled by someone else. Archive everything locally. Make sure you have copyrights clearly posted on every public page and check that your web hosting contracts don't cede any rights, to insure your website can't be hijacked after your web hosting contract is over. Make sure your archives are indisputably authoritative and correct and cannot be altered by you or anyone else.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:28 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've saved some stuff from my 20 years of writing for the web, but it's mostly from the days when I'd type something first in a text file, and re-work it a while ... eventually, I did that in whatever blog platform (MT, Blogger, AOL Blogsmith, Kinja, Forbes, and I can't remember what else). Those text files, lacking the formatting and style of the '90s and early '00s sites and the outgoing links and the alt-text jokes, are just not the same. One entire site I published ( is on a hard drive in box somewhere. Others have been completely removed from the Internet *and* from, because a current domain owner can easily change the robots.txt to cause to dump (or at least not return results for) domains that were once well indexed. And then some sites got deleted by the publisher and replaced with a completely different site using the same name and logo.

This is weird specifically because one promise of the Internet is that all information & knowledge would be available online. Old periodicals are useful in piecing together the past, whether from a decade or two ago, or from hundreds or thousands of years ago. I remember these Internet evangelists saying how future historians would never need to try to piece together a culture from a few scraps of mysterious text ... ha ha ha. (It hardly matters if the culture is garbage or not. Most cultures are garbage. And yet those bits of garbage, like all that "I have a giant cock" graffiti in Pompeii taverns, is incredibly interesting and informative.)

I can still find my old stuff at Gawker and the Awl and Wonkette and such things, along with *some* freelance I did for print mags & papers that are still around. It's good to have a thick old cardboard produce carton full of yellowed clips, even if it's not anything I particularly care about. We want *some* evidence that we existed and did some work, after all ....
posted by kenlayne at 10:10 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

For years I used my blog like I use Twitter today. "Hey look at this interesting thing {link}." Hell, I probably should have thought of Twitter years before Twitter existed. I embarked on a bog clean up / reorg late last year and I'd estimate well over half of those quick hit posts were dead links. I ultimately just decided to delete them all. I've still got a local copy of my blog with 4000 posts. However, the online copy of my blog is down to 300-400 posts, which was everything since 2001 that I thought was worth still being online.

Everything I wrote from launch on 12/31/95 to my first install of Greymatter in 2001 is gone with no apparent archive. I think I'm fine with that. I'm sure it all sucked.
posted by COD at 5:38 AM on February 3, 2015

I used to bookmark several new webpages a day, thinking "I'll never be able to find this article with a search engine." I figured an elaborate tagging system would help. It doesn't. Links go dead alarmingly fast.

Now, if I want to keep a webpage around for some reason, I save the whole thing. I have the space. Will I ever look at them again? Probably, yes. I've saved over a dozen year's worth of funny pictures and I find myself digging through them once every year or two. Now I'm saving pretty much every article I find interesting that I'm linked to by Metafilter, Hacker News, Reddit and Twitter.

As for posterity, I intend to make a list of all my accounts and passwords, one of these days. I'm young and don't have any kids, so I'm not terrifically concerned. Someday even the universe itself will burn out.

Storage is pretty cheap, folks, and webpages, mailing list archives, even pictures are small in comparison. Save promiscuously and make sure your loved ones know you want your digital afterlife to zombie-shuffle it's way toward immortality after you're gone.

There's some things that won't be missed. I won't shed a single tear over Youtube comments being lost. Delete 'em and start over.
posted by wires at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Heh this has happened to me multiple times. We had years of posts wiped out in a redesign at my old work (a blog now owned by Aol in fact) and recent CMS switcheroos at my current workplace have also left thousands of posts and graphics offline despite lengthy 'migration' periods early on.

It's not always easy to preserve stuff when redesigning or changing backends... but it's not so hard that a couple smart devs can't work something out. What I've seen is management just not prioritizing this stuff, instead shortsightedly aiming for a quicker launch ("we have ad buys for march!") rather than looking at the health of the site as a whole. And often when you hurry the big move, you make it impossible to do all the little things you should have done before. Ah well.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:15 PM on February 3, 2015

Wired seems to have done their best to disappear evidence of Hotwired's existence, but luckily somebody's done an archive version of Paul Harrington's The Alchemist column.
posted by Lexica at 3:51 PM on February 3, 2015

"I think there should be an HTTP status code for content that will be removed soon."

I think that's "200 OK". I mean, sure, sometimes it falsely reports content that actually sticks around for a while, but better that it be wrong that way than the other.
posted by straw at 6:55 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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