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07.03.13

Preserving Information About GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux at 10:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Loft interior

Summary: Company buys leading news sites just to bury them, rejecting bids to buy those sites to keep them alive (like buying a perfectly inhabitable house just to demolish it)

The weak side (among several) of the Internet/World Wide Web is that all information has a single point of failure, unlike a series of peers or libraries around the world. Put in simple terms, when the host or the domain is pulling the plug, copies of the data are unlikely to be accessible to the public (maybe just to the owner and the NSA). The Web Archive is a remedy only for relatively large sites, but it too becomes a single point of failure. Moreover, a lot of people cannot search it properly or even navigate there for backups (most people know nothing about the Web Archive).

“It’s almost as if the purpose of buying those two sites was to silence them and then delete history.”When we archived Patent Troll Tracker we hoped to preserve information which took a lot of effort to accumulate and make public. A patent lawyer from Cisco ran the site anonymously. We still have the data and it is searchable. But recently we learned about a couple of important sites (news sites that covered Linux and GNU matters very regularly and exceptionally reliably) going dark after some obscure, idiotic company took over. Those sites had over one decade of accurate news and insightful commentary, requiring tens of thousands of hours of research by journalists. Those were not corporate news sites, One of those sites, DesktopLinux, will hopefully be archived by SJVN, its common contributor (who told me he would do this in his own personal site), but search engines might not index the material and the old inbound links will remain broken.

It was always mysterious that a company bought the site just to shut it down. Recently I contacted someone from a sister site, LinuxDevices, which is a lot bigger than the former site, probably accommodating over 10,000 long articles. What he told me was eye-opening. He said that he had offered to buy the site, but the company which owned it chose to kill the site rather than sell it to a regular writer. That is telling. It’s almost as if the purpose of buying those two sites was to silence them and then delete history. Who benefits from this deletionism? Take a wild guess. This deserves further investigation. I suggested to the person who wanted to save these sites that he should ask for the archives to be reposted in his own site. We shall soon find out what the company says, if anything.

A building adjacent to mine is being demolished this month (I can see the process through my windows right now), so the analogy of house demolition seems to apply here. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone want to buy a site just to keep it offline and also reject offers of money from someone who wants to keep it online? This isn’t a closed case as we are searching for answers, still.

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