31 March 2014 · 5 minute read
After TextDrive’s disorderly death and the ensuing mess I’ve been thinking about the following question:
It is obvious that we should use standard formats such as plain text and HTML, free and open source software such as SSH and SFTP and Git, and, ideally, though I’m no luddite, open source hardware (the one closest to this description I can think of is a Raspberry Pi). It is also probably a good idea not to use an unpaid third-party to keep your content online for you (see TextDrive link above).
So what is the simplest workflow to publish something that will last on the web?
And what is the easiest way to make a copy of things regularly so you can easily move them to a different publishing space if needed or restore them if they disappear? Cron job running wget or
git clone to backup a website to another server once a week?
…Which stays online provided you, or someone, continues to pay the domain name and hosting space fees.
Additional Things Which Would Be Nice To Have
git clone. Local copy of items preserved in a folder structure which mirrors the one online. Editable documents using local system tools.
You may want to consider writing a note and giving it to trusted friends with instructions on what to do with your documents should you perish.
I don’t think that any format could ever be The Format Of The Long Now but HTML is the closest we’ve come thus far in the history of computing to having a somewhat stable, human- and machine-readable data format with a decent chance of real longevity.
Anyway, this is something that has been on my mind a lot lately: evaluating technologies and services in terms of their long-term benefit instead of just their short-term hit. It’s something that we need to think about more as developers, and it’s certainly something that we need to think about more as users.
“But one thing would be clear about us: No one sends a message on such a journey, to other worlds and beings, without a positive passion for the future. For all the possible vagaries of the message, they could be sure that we were a species endowed with hope and perseverance, at least a little intelligence, substantial generosity and a palpable zest to make contact with the cosmos.” —Carl Sagan in Murmurs from Earth
In 1963 NASA launched the first communications satellite “Syncom 2” into a geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, humans have slowly and methodically added to this space-based communications infrastructure. Currently, more than 800 spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit form a man-made ring of satellites around Earth at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. Most of these spacecraft powered down long ago, yet continue to float aimlessly around the planet. Geostationary satellites are so far from Earth that their orbits never decay. The dead spacecraft in orbit have become a permanent fixture around Earth, not unlike the rings of Saturn. They will be the longest-lasting artifacts of human civilization, quietly floating through space long after every trace of humanity has disappeared from the planet’s surface.
Presented by public art organization Creative Time, The Last Pictures is a project to acknowledge these spacecraft as the monuments of our historical era. They are our Pyramids, our Stonehenge, and our Nazca lines. For nearly five years, artist Trevor Paglen interviewed scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to consider what such a cultural mark should be. As an artist in residence at MIT, he worked with materials scientists to develop an ultra-archival disc of images, capable of lasting in space for billions of years.
In September 2012, the television satellite EchoStar XVI will lift off from Kazakhstan with the archival disc attached to its anti-Earth deck, enter a geostationary orbit, and proceed to broadcast over ten trillion images over its fifteen-year lifetime. When it nears the end of its useful life, EchoStar XVI will use the last of its fuel to enter a slightly higher “graveyard orbit,” where it will power down and die. While EchoStar XVI’s broadcast images are destined to be as fleeting as the light-speed radio waves they travel on, The Last Pictures will continue to slowly circle Earth until the Earth itself is no more.
If you start a website you’re only at the very beginning, and most of the work is ahead of you. Celebrating a launch is only the celebration of a birth; the bigger achievement is to have a successful life.