The agony of the blog archives

When I set out to choose some of the best IT-related blog posts ever written, I didn’t realize the scope creep that awaited me.

Although I knew from the get-go that I would be subjective, I thought the more obvious candidates would somehow jump out at me. They didn’t. It was easier to pick some of the best technology bloggers than it was to pick among their posts. Part of it was the sheer quantity – there are bloggers who spit out an enormous amount of stuff, and some of it is just knee-jerk commentary dressed up in an interesting personality. Nothing wrong with that, but when you know they have some gems in there it’s hard to weed through the rest.

A bigger problem were the archives themselves – although most blogs have them I found major variations in how they were organized. Many just linked blue links with months of the year. I literally sat and scrolled through the period of about 2005-2010 on several of the bloggers whose posts I chose (yes, it was painful). Some were organized by tags or categories, which could be helpful in zeroing in on the posts directly addressing IT management issues. A few were just really messed up – it was either impossible to find the archives or they were limited by posts that would fit per page. I couldn’t imagine many people actually going through them as I did.

This isn’t as trivial an issue as it sounds. Although I don’t forsee historians publishing the collected tweets or e-mails of the famous and notorious, I do think blog posts are probably as close as we’ll get to the kind of epistolary record of an individual’s thoughts and reflections. This may be especially true for those directly involved IT, given that blogging was something born of the Internet. I would not, however, want to be one of the archivists tasked with making sense of these often giant, almost always completely siloed, opinion repositories. (And by the way, I include our own blogs as being just as problematic).

I tried to make the work easier for myself by contacting many of the bloggers who ended up on my list and asking them to choose their best blog post themselves. Only one got back to me, and even he was confounded by the notion of selecting something out of four year’s worth of blogging. In some cases you can scan the post popular or commented-upon posts, but these aren’t always an indication of quality so much as what touched a nerve.

We are living in an age where everyone is talking about “curating the Internet,” not least the media, but that curation is seldom considered with the long-term view of a gallery owner or museum staff. Instead, much like the bloggers, posts are put up for today and often forgotten tomorrow. We need to think harder about how to sort and organize such content. The old adage is that those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it. In the IT industry’s case, unless we can do something about these archives we’re probably also doomed to one day drown in it.


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