Digital Dark Age [...]

Humanity’s first steps into the digital world could be lost to future historians, Vint Cerf told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Jose, California, warning that we faced a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” through what he called “bit rot”, where old computer files become useless junk.

“When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, and all of the world wide web, it’s clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history,” he said.

“We don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them, we need to make sure that the digital objects we create today can still be rendered far into the future,” he added.

The warning highlights an irony at the heart of modern technology, where music, photos, letters and other documents are digitised in the hope of ensuring their long-term survival. But while researchers are making progress in storing digital files for centuries, the programs and hardware needed to make sense of the files are continually falling out of use.

“We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it. We digitise things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artefacts that we digitised,” Cerf told the Guardian. “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”

Ancient civilisations suffered no such problems, because histories written in cuneiform on baked clay tablets, or rolled papyrus scrolls, needed only eyes to read them. To study today’s culture, future scholars would be faced with PDFs, Word documents, and hundreds of other file types that can only be interpreted with dedicated software and sometimes hardware too.

The problem is already here. In the 1980s, it was routine to save documents on floppy disks, upload Jet Set Willy from cassette to the ZX spectrum, slaughter aliens with a Quickfire II joystick, and have Atari games cartridges in the attic. Even if the disks and cassettes are in good condition, the equipment needed to run them is mostly found only in museums.

The rise of gaming has its own place in the story of digital culture, but Cerf warns that important political and historical documents will also be lost to bit rot. In 2005, American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, describing how Lincoln hired those who ran against him for presidency. She went to libraries around the US, found the physical letters of the people involved, and reconstructed their conversations. “In today’s world those letters would be emails and the chances of finding them will be vanishingly small 100 years from now,” said Cerf. (Source)

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Settings:: Publishing [...]

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Please note that putting “Open” to “No” is an experimental feature, providing “good enough” privacy but not great privacy.

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Help:: Getting Started / Day One [...]

Most people find that using Wikity to bookmark is a good place to start. The following video shows how you can bookmark with Wikity.

Note that in the video the bookmark says ‘Bkmrk’ but in recent versions says ‘Wik-it’. The editor has also been upgraded

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Old Weather [...]

Old Weather is a crowd-sourcing effort to transcribe ship’s logs from the 19th and early 20th centuries. This task can’t be performed by computers because of the diverse and idiosyncratic handwriting.

Data about past weather and sea-ice conditions are vital for climate scientists, while historians value knowing about the course of a voyage and the events that transpired. Since many of these logs haven’t been examined since they were originally filled in by a mariner long ago you might even discover something surprising.

Millions of weather, ocean, and sea-ice observations recorded by mariners and scientists over the past 150 years are being recovered by Old Weather. These data are made freely available in digital formats suitable for climate model assimilation, retrospective analysis (reanalysis), and other kinds of research. The performance of data-assimilating modeling and extended reanalysis systems is greatly improved, the uncertainty of results (especially in sparsely observed regions like the Arctic) is reduced, and new long-period calibration and validation data sets are being created. As the historical data resource is extended farther back in time it will be possible to study a wider range of weather and climate phenomena and to better understand their impact on the Arctic and global environment, now and in the future. (Source)

Interplanetary File System [...]

 

Interplanetary File System, or IPFS, is an open source project that taps into ideas pioneered by the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin and the peer-to-peer file sharing system BitTorrent. Sites opt in to IPFS, and the protocol distributes files among participating users. If the original web server goes down, the site will live on thanks to the backups running on other people’s computers. What’s more, these distributed archives will let people browse previous versions of the site, much the way you can browse old edits in Wikipedia or old versions of websites in the Wayback Machine.

“We are giving digital information print-like quality,” says IPFS founder Juan Benet. “If I print a piece of paper and physically hand it to you, you have it, you can physically archive it and use it in the future.” And you can share that copy with someone else.

Right now IPFS is still just a tool the most committed: you need to have IPFS’s software installed on your computer to take part. But Benet says the team has already built a version of the software in JavaScript that can run in your browser without the need to install any new software at all. If it winds up on everyone’s browsers, the idea goes, then everyone can help back up the web. (Source)


The IPFS white paper provides a deeper view into peer-to-peer systems from which it takes its inspiration. pdf

 

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Settings:: Publishing [...]

These settings are used by Wikity to determine privacy and publishing schedule.
Please note that putting “Open” to “No” is an experimental feature, providing “good enough” privacy but not great privacy.


OPEN: Yes
RSS DELAY: 5 days

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