Here’s something worth chewing on.
Justin Fox is steamed:
“powers that be saw fit to delete from existence … all web-only content that had previously resided on fortune.com, including the ‘London Calling’ columns I wrote every week in 2000 and 2001.”
and in turn he notes that International Herald Tribune reporter Thomas Crampton is too:
So, what did the NY Times do to merge these sites?
They killed the IHT and erased the archives.
- Every one of the links ever made to IHT stories now points back to the generic NY Times global front page.
- Even when I go to the NY Times global page, I cannot find my articles. In other words, my entire journalistic career at the IHT – from war zones to SARS wards – has been erased.
This is really a fact of modern life and work done for hire. Thinking about my own my career: there are three pieces of code I was particularly delighted with. My employers owned rights to all three. They have all since been acquired, sometimes multiple times. I suspect some of that code is still running, but I can’t see it nor can I show it off.
These stories are situated in three distinct frames: individual v.s. institutions, the mindless stupidity of institutions, and society’s knowledge archives. Justin and Thomas are principally pissed about the first. And we should all be paying attention, since more of our identity and work is parked in 3rd party sites like Wikipedia, Flickr, Blogger and Facebook. Companies are forever shooting themselves in the foot. And, as Thomas highlights, these media firms are being extremely foolish. They acquire another firm and just discard all the link juice, that’s just lame. And finally the question an archivist would ask, i.e. of who looks after backing up society’s collective knowledge in these scenarios. Remember the Times is if not on it’s death bed at least in intensive care. I think we can confidently predict that the accessibility of all Newspaper archives are going to have a very rough ride over the next few years and the end state isn’t particularly clear.
But, most work disappears like this. If your work product is less concrete (keeping a team on course say) or more concrete (building a boat say) then the disappearing work problem is possibly even more common. Tempering this problem requires work in all three frames.