Dan Gillmor has a good post at Salon about archiving the Net, spurred by meetings at the Library of Congress. I’m especially interested in his comments — pointing to a post by Dave Winer — about the role of long-lived institutions, including universities.

Have we all concluded at this point that there is no hope of keeping a full and accurate archive? The Net is too vast, too every-changing, too complexly linked. I can’t even keep a full archive of my own computer; the Mac’s TimeMachine makes hourly backups, but not minutely or secondly, and it only preserves daily backups over the long-ish haul. All records are broken to one degree or another, because records require choices about what’s worth recording and energy to do the recording. “Full record” is an oxymoron.

So the question is, what is the right periodicity and scope of the Internet record we want? Usually, questions about archives and records are relative to some use case. A general record of the Net is like a general record of life. So, we’ll just have to make some choices that inevitably will turn out to be wrong for some unanticipated uses. We’ll have to deal with it.

Personally, I’m heartened to see this discussion occurring at an institution with the gravitas of the Library of Congress, and that it includes people like Dan and Dave.

The Twitter hashtag #FailShare is accumulating instances of failed library projects, so that we can learn from them, and also, I imagine, to take the sting out of failure (on the grounds that sting-y failure makes for stingy ideas).

And, a brand new wiki page has gone up on the same topic.

From an email, for those who are going to be around Boston on October 29:
Boston University Libraries are pleased to announce the 2010 Fall Lecture on
Open Access.

WHO: Kathleen Fitzpatrick
Professor, Department of Media Studies, Pomona College

WHAT: Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the

WHEN: Friday, October 29, 2010, 3-5pm

WHERE: Photonics 206, 8 St. Mary Street, Boston, MA



In addition to her many fellowships, awards, articles and media projects,
Fitzpatrick is Co-coordinating Editor and Press Director of MediaCommons.
She is the author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the
Age of Television (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006).

The book was named an łOutstanding Academic Title˛ by Choice by the
Association of College and Research Libraries, and selected as a łbook of
the month˛ by the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies.

Fitzpatrick is currently working on a book-length project focusing on the
social and institutional changes necessary to developing the digital future
of scholarly publishing, under contract to New York University Press.
Manuscript completed; undergoing second-round review. Available for open
peer review online at

For more information, please see:

Apps are everywhere. E-books are shifting from e-readers to apps as the platform of choice. Google’s Android Market has surpassed 100,000 apps despite a problematic payment structure. And Apple, with its upcoming release of Mac OS X Lion, is moving apps from the device to the desktop.

Here in the lab, we’ve talked app development, but with little traction. Why no squealing tires, no fire? Why does spending even a little of our resources on app development feel so wrong? I don’t know. But, it takes only a mention of HTML5 to uncover bubbling excitement at the possibilities and to discover we’ve already begun expending resources.

Apps are not here. I wonder what we’re missing? Are apps a dead-end? of limited utility to academia? Is HTML the better technology for delivery to devices?


Android Market tops 100,000 applications, CNET, October 25, 2010.
App Makers Take Interest in Android, NY Times, October 24, 2010.
Apple Gives Sneak Peek of Mac OS X Lion, Apple.com, October 20, 2010.
Blurring the Line Between Apps and Books, NY Times, October 24, 2010.

Hacker News

Folks at the Lab have heard me talk about Hacker News.  I love it.  You may already know about it.  If not, it’s a social news bulletin board: news.ycombinator.com

The news is start-up, tech, or internet related (or otherwise compelling).  Good stories get voted up, and over time, gradually fade to the background. The ranking algorithm is explained here: http://amix.dk/blog/post/19574

In practice, what HN is is a large group (thousands) of really smart people, that become your extended curators/editors of all things web.  They crawl all the corners of its corners and post what they think the community would find interesting.  The thing that really sets it apart though is the quality – this is a really smart crowd.  What gets voted up, is worthy.  The comments are very good too.

Simple, information rich presentation

Hacker Monthly

Okay, so one thing that HN spawned/inspired was Hacker Monthly. Their model is super simple:  “Every month, we select the top voted articles from Hacker News and put them in the magazine format.” And printing is handled on-demand by Mag Cloud.

Don’t know if it’s a business or what, but it’s kinda profound:

  1. A compelling magazine
  2. crowd-edited
  3. printed on-demand
  4. designed, “edited”, put together by 1 person, the hatcher of the idea

Hacker Books

Now somebody’s (Daniel B Markham)  just come out with Hacker Books. www.hn-books.com

It’s a list of all the books recommended by hackers to other hackers on Hacker News.  But also with the caveat that those recommended texts had to themselves get voted up by other readers.  So again, it is the community providing the editorial intelligence.  And its a compelling list of books.


Both Hacker Monthly and Hacker Books are pure fallout of the vibrant Hacker News community.  They are also really interesting examples of how communities and publishing (and published) can interact.

Should we start a Hacker News for reference librarians/tech folk/book enthusiasts — start mining library intelligence?