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The Longest Now


Blogs.harvard, wrapped: an ecosystem snapshot as the lights go out
Friday June 30th 2023, 1:37 pm
Filed under: citation needed,fly-by-wire,indescribable,meta,Not so popular,null

¡Blogs.harvard is closing its doors for good!

Today is nominally the last day it will be editable, though it will stay up for archiving and export for another month. The WordPress dashboard lately has hadan expandable bar in the corner titled ‘Recent Updates’, but I’d never expanded it to see that it was local news about the platform, so this came as a surprise.

 

Checklist:

1)  ping people who still need to migrate
2)  draft final blog post, honoring the network

In the early days of blogging, Dave Winer was an energetic advocate of the form, as something important for writing and communication and not just another modern pastime.  He set up the first version of Blogs@Harvard while he was a Berkman fellow (a Manila instance hosted by the Berkman Center, at blogs.law.harvard.edu), and started blogging there as well as at Scripting News. It moved to WordPress in 2007. The community revisited it in 2011 to reaffirm the value in keeping it online. (JP, as the head of the center, warmly summarized the project history to date at that point)

Over the next decade, new blogs were only created by Harvard affiliates. In 2014, technical maintenance of the blogs moved to the Harvard Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication, and the domain changed to blogs.harvard.edu.  In 2018 its maintenance shifted to Harvard University Information Technology, and any old blogs run by authors who were not affiliates were closed [and taken offline, if they had not set up an archive]. This also affected a number of past affiliates who no longer had university or alum email addresses, including the pathbreaking info/law and j’s scratchpad, blog of the founding organizer of the Blogging Group.

Now the rest are being shut down.  While bloggers still at Harvard can migrate to the existing sites.harvard.edu, with a bit of effort, they are not being migrated by default, and most have not migrated.  Those without new posts in the past year were not notified of the change.  This also affects people like Doc Searls, a long-time pillar of free software and the open web who we’ve been lucky to have in the local eddy, whose active projects live on nearby.

There are plans for a full archive to be preserved; let’s make it one befitting this decentralized community, which has hosted many students and practitioners of digital creation and archiving.  Going through the archiving process myself reminds me of the [extraordinary, wonderful]  service of the Wayback Machine, which may also let us restore former blogs currently hidden behind its veil.

 

Checklist:

3)  Salvage old drafts
4)  Make a proper export

It is a curious sensation to revisit my old tempo of posting by seeing the proportionate tempo of unpublished drafts; some quite good and close to completion, but written in a week or month when many other works were going out.  These days I would publish a good three-section post without hesitation.  Most drafts removed or published; new “unfinished draft” category added.

I am also reminded that fully half of the links from over 5 years ago are no longer online; other websites having a much shorter time-to-linkrot than this blog family.  Again, Wayback is not only a default salvation but one of the only options; if it disappeared, readers, researchers, and historians would be entirely out of luck (short of bring up one of the Wayback mirrors).  If you are in a position to host a full mirror (currently around 100PB), please get in touch with the archiveteam or the Internet Archive.

Exports should be easy, though mine is not small.  Preserving the directory structure on import requires a target style that uses the same schema for dated posts.  Alternately, I could scrape the entire site into a .wacz file and restore its public appearance exactly as it stands today, then move to a different format for a future blog.  I’d like something more collaborative by nature; easy to have a cohort working together.  I have hopes that Tana could be turned towards this end, as shared writing is naturally a more social activity than just linking to one another’s blogs (and even here some of the best outlier blogs here have been multi-author, during times when many were active together)

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