The preservation of web resources is something that’s been of interest to me for some time. It presents some interesting technical challenges in terms of capture and access, and many interesting organisational and resource-oriented problems, some of which are shared with other aspects of digital preservation and some of which are unique to web resources. How does one select material ? When are we trying to preserve information and when is it the experience, behaviour or appearance that is paramount ? How straightforward is it to move web resources between curatorial environments? (something that the ReStore project is looking at.) Most everyone knows that information persistence on the web is a fragile thing. And, as Chris Rusbridge has observed, even those who care about information persistence don’t necessarily do a good job of it on their websites. This, despite the fact that good advice about URI persistence has been available for some time. But URI persistence is just one small (albeit important) part of the problem.

Not everything on the web needs to be kept. And there’s more than one way to go about keeping it – often it’s just the information that needs to survive, and the particular way it is presented on a web site today is not, of itself, worthy of long-term preservation. Yet there’s a lack of knowledge about *how* to preserve web resources, and even when people know how to do it, for some reason it just doesn’t happen. That’s not a situation I feel comfortable with.

Thus, we’re pleased to be cooperating with UKOLN who are leading a short JISC project to produce guidelines on the preservation of web resources in UK academic institutions. We have a memorable acronym (POWR) and a project-specific blog at JISC Involve, a relatively new service which allows for the creation of JISC project blogs. We’ll be doing most of the project blogging there rather than here on DABlog. In using services like JISC Involve, we’ll (hopefully) go some way towards understanding whether such services create or solve problems in the area of resource persistence.

Through workshops and through the blog, we’re keen to gain input from everyone with an interest in this problem, particularly from the web managers who are most likely to be affected by the guidelines we’re charged with producing. Do contribute your thoughts.

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2 Comments

  1. Chris Rusbridge

    The enthusiastic way in which web-site owners “re-brand” or “re-launch” their web-sites suggests that they are not particularly interested, long-term, in the details of the experience; continuous improvement means continuous discarding. One hopes that they are more interested in the information content, in some more abstract sense. Maybe we could measure this by tracking older pages across re-launches?

    Perhaps a measure of commitment to the “look and feel” might be the lifetime since last reorganised?

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  2. Isn’t this usually the time-in-post of the last web or marketing manager?

    I think it’s a shame that so much obviously important, official information – publication-like stuff – tends not to be trusted to the Web proper: a website itself is treated as an ever-changing shop window, an ephemeral frame of improbably complex HTML and Javascript, flung together by Content Management Systems, while “important” things get added as ready-to-print PDFs. This attachment to the good old A4 page suggests to me that hypertext is still outside most organisations’ (and individuals’) comfort zone.

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