Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Silliman's backlog of comments lost forever?

[EDIT: when i wrote this post, i was under the impression that Kent's "malfeasance" comment was in regards to individual comments not being retrievable. upon rereading his comment, he was quite clear that he thinks that there's malfeasance because he views all the comments as being an integral interconnected part of Silliman's blog. i very much disagree with the accusation that there is any devious nature to Silliman's actions, but will have to address that more specifically in another blog... which sucks cause i'm pretty sick of talking about this]

first of all, everyone can calm down. few if any of Silliman's comment threads are lost forever. skip below for a list of resources that will help you recover his old comment sections. you do probably want to act quickly though.

Kent Johnson, and a few other people that he's managed to convince, are upset that Ron Silliman might have deleted all the old comment archives from his blog. he writes:
the deletion of that public record [Silliman's blog comment archive], with all its good and bad both, would be nothing short of–from an ethical and literary standpoint–a stunning instance of malfeasance.
someone should probably address this on a more well-read blog, because there is a huge misconception here. really, it's a little scary to think that anyone could possibly have been contributing comments somewhere for years under the assumption that Blogspot (or as Kent seems to think of it "Ron Silliman") would keep them forever.

archiving this amount of information takes a good bit of time and resources. why do people keep thinking that Ron Silliman needs to be putting in all this extra effort and resources into protecting your writing?

don't you keep copies of poems you send in to publishers? don't you keep copies of your side of a correspondence with someone? how could you possibly think that anyone besides you has an obligation to be archiving your own written material? especially when you're writing in a medium that's so famously ephemeral.

it's a little late now for Silliman's blog, but anyone who finds it important to archive comment sections should know that it's their own responsibility, but that it's not difficult to do at all. just subscribe to the "all comments" RSS feed on a person's blog (which you should then be backing up if it's important to you). also, on Blogspot, there's an option to have all comments on any thread you participate in sent to your email address (which you can then also back up somewhere else).

resources for recovering "lost" web content:

you can use the internet archive and the wayback machine to recover old webpages. (here's an example of an old Silliman thread with the comments still viewable using wayback). a little spotty, but you can find many of the comment threads.

also, you can use the google cache function. just press the "cache" link under any google result, or search "cache:example.net" on google. (example of viewable comments using google cache). google's cached pages do expire after 3 months (thanks to Steven Fama for reminding me), so be quick about grabbing stuff using this. you can get a text version of the cached results, which will make it a tiny file for saving purposes.

here is a greasemonkey script that's useful for browsing the internet using google cache (learn how to use greasemonkey here.)

find more resources for recovering old webpages here.

also, there's some likelihood that Silliman has old versions of his blog backed up, which would have all the comments in tact. i'll let everyone know if he gets back to me.


Steven Fama said...

Dear Iain,

I think it a fiction that all web pages are always available forever, if only because nothing is forever. Specifically though, and call me a dummy, but for me The Wayback Machine does not pull up comments from many SillimanBlog posts I access via it, and (double-dummy me?) it indicates that only pages more than about five years old can even be looked for. Google cache, per the definitions as I understand them, wipes clean after three months, so that seems no good for this too.

Just for example, how do I pull up Ron's post on Laura Moriarty on October 18, 2007, that looked at her Air Force chap and her Selected Poems? When I pull it up, via Google cache, I get a whole weeks worth of posts, and the comments to it, and all others, are not accessible. And I can't raise it at all on Wayback, for reasons I know not.

You'd do a valuable service if on your blog you stepped-by-stepped how its done.

Iain said...

you're absolutely right Steven, nothing lasts forever. i was only trying to point out that the content on the internet isn't quite as ephemeral as many people think provided you know how to search (and i feel i only really know the basics).

the comments you're looking for can be found here.

all i did was take the url you wanted the comments for "http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2007/10/laura-moriartys-air-force-just-out-from.html" and did a google search, clicking on the cache link underneath the search result (sorry to explain if you know that already).

unfortunately, you're right, i couldn't find the same url on wayback or on gigablast.

however, as far as google cache goes, yes they only have it for three months back, but that's not for webpages that were created three months back, it's for webpages that existed three months back. so there's still time to archive those comments if people feel the need to.

Steven Fama said...

Thanks Iain, this is very helpful. Yep, there's a three month window for anything to be copied and archived via the Google cache.

My challenge in lining to with Silliman blog posts recently has been getting a specific URL. This since he went to archiving posts on his site in weekly chunks. I can't figure out how to get a URL for a specific date, as you did here for the Moriarty post I asked about.

I hate to ask you to do more than you've already done (since that's a lot), and I wouldn't ask if I didn't think I'd done due diligence in trying to figure it out myself, but I have, and I remain stumped. So if you can (please), I beg of thee.

I don't intend to archive old comments, but I do like to link back in my own blog posts to older posts of Ron, and can not do it now, because I can't figure out how to get a specific URL.

Iain said...

certainly Steven,

i found the link you requested by searching google:

putting "site:ronsilliman.blogspot.com" (no quotes) into google will limit your search results to Silliman's blog (or any url you plug in after "site:"). i also used added "inurl:2007" to my search, which searches only for results that have "2007" in the url, knowing that blogspot puts the date a blog post was published into its url.

i searched: laura moriarty inurl:2007 site:ronsilliman.blogspot.com

there's also a "link" link (sometimes called "permalink") at the bottom of each post which will take you to its unique url.

let me know if i still haven't answered your question.

Steven Fama said...

I owe you a lunch, even a dinner, if you are ever in San Francisco!

In other words, and also, Big Thanks!

Iain said...

no problem, Steven.

Art Durkee said...

I find the complaining rather silly. The expectations that many people have about what Silliman should or should not do are pretty wild. After all, no one pays him to do what he does, he does it out of love for what he does. Just as do most of us. It's amazing to hear people complaining that Silliman didn't live up to their expectations, spoken or otherwise.

Anyone who doesn't save off their writing, even the comments or threads they want to keep from, say, Silliman's blog, has no real grounds for complaint. The Internet, be it blogs or whatever, is the very definition of friable media. Yes, many things are retirevable for some time, and some things linger around a lot longer than others, but the assumption should always be that they won't. Save your work. Back it up. Make it a habit. Every single professional IT person I know says that to every single one of their clients, and yet many folks still seem to think that someone else will do it for them.

I save everything I write, including those comments I made on other peoples' blogs where I want to save the discussion to consult later. I don't expect anyone to do this for me, I take responsibility for doing it for myself. The reason for doing that is that sometimes what you write on the spur of the moment, say, in a comment, might be something you might want to expand on later, on your own turf.

Joseph Hutchison said...

Would this thought experiment make a difference? Let's say we were talking about snail mail letters and postcards instead of blog comments. Would Silliman have any ethical responsibility in that case? Not a legal responsibility, of course--but ethical. I would think so. And I suspect that the evanescent nature of Internet communications make the potential loss of these archives seem less important that it is.