Monday, March 15, 2004

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Remember, this is for posterity....

In the final month before I handed in my dissertation, I was working in my office at Stanford when the fire alarm went off. I gathered my things to leave the room, including my laptop with the digital version of the dissertation (during grad school, that laptop was rarely more than ten feet away from me). Leaving the building, I was surprised to see that there was an actual fire in the building? My first reaction? "Thank God I got the dissertation out. Even if something had happened to me, at least my work would survive!"

This is how academics think -- will their work live on?

I relate this anecdote because the Library of Congress has a project called MINERVA -- short for Mapping the INternet Electronic Resources Virtual Archive. According to this explanatory page:

An ever-increasing amount of the world’s cultural and intellectual output is presently created in digital formats and does not exist in any physical form. Such materials are colloquially described as "born digital." This born digital realm includes open access materials on the World Wide Web.

The MINERVA Web Preservation Project was established to initiate a broad program to collect and preserve these primary source materials. A multi disciplinary team of Library staff representing cataloging, legal, public services, and technology services is studying methods to evaluate, select, collect, catalog, provide access to, and preserve these materials for future generations of researchers.

Today I received an e-mail stating that: "The Library has selected your site for inclusion in its historic collection of Internet materials."

What does this mean? Practically speaking, it means the following:

[T]he Library of Congress or its agent will engage in the collection of content from your Web site at regular intervals. The Library will make this collection available to researchers onsite at Library facilities. The Library also wishes to make the collection available to offsite researchers by hosting the collection on the Library's public access Web site. The Library hopes that you share its vision of preserving Web materials and permitting researchers from across the world to access them.

Well, I do share that vision, but my reader-commentors may not. So consider this a public service notice -- your comments are being recorded for posterity.

Think about it -- decades or centuries from now, some struggling graduate student may be reading some of this.

That poor, pathetic soul.

posted by Dan on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM


I can see it now the, 22nd century, a grad students dissertation title "An analysis of the Culture Wars in early 21st century America: Daniel W. Drezner's comment threads." Or heres a better one, "David Thompson and Oldman, the great debate"

Anyone who is considering a political career should probably stop posting to the boards here. Imagine 10-20-30 years from now, your running for President or something and some grad student digs up your comments on this blog and sells them to the press. I'm thinking more about the Selma Hayek threads more than the political ones here.

posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

"Remember, this is for posterity...."

Regarding the quest for immortality--intellectual or artistic--Woody Allen said it all: "It's not a Keane. It's a Cugat!"

posted by: Roger L. Simon on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

This is very cool, and congratulations to you, Dan. But how is this different from the Internet Archive, apart from being more rarefied?

posted by: Steve Laniel on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

That should read "Thomson", not "Thompson". Sorry DT.

posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

haha. That's quite amusing.
sam raises a plausible concern...

posted by: chicago-er on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

MEDUSA was taken, then, I gather?

posted by: Art Wellesley on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Its going to happen at some point, probably sooner than most people think. A politician is going to dig up something that their opponent said on a comment post or something and quote it in an attack ad. It wont matter if the opponent was nineteen or something when it was written, it will be used.

There's one poster over at that said he isn't going to start a blog because he might want to go into politics someday. He said he didn't want someone finding a quote of him saying something like "the Reagan Democrats wont be significant for much longer as their getting old and soon they'll be dead" or something like that. I said he should just wait until after they all die before running.

posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

I think there should be more S. Hayek content here precisely because of those future grad students.

(Perhaps I am projecting, a little.)

Anyway, it would only take one constitutional amendment to allow Ms. Hayek herself to become President, if she should so desire.


posted by: Carlos on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]


I dunno as we should conisder things to be any different than they were prior to this (rather nice, congrats!) offer.

Consider, Google/DejaNews. That folks in that medium are being recorded on a permanant online record, doesn't seem to affect things much.

In any event, I'm not sure it should, either here OR there. It's been my experience that when one thinks he's writing for posterity, he ends up instead writing for posterior.

posted by: BitHead on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Sam is right. Comments posted on a board like this would most likely be researched sooner than later, specifically because a poster later went on to a career in public life.

I wonder how useful using a cybernym would be in evading such research. On the one hand use of a cybernym could create ambiguity concerning authorship, which might be particularly useful for posters of intemperate comments. On the other hand the posters most likely to find their way in later life to elective or appointive office might want to have some visible record of their past thinking, and use of a cybernym might raise questions about what they had to hide. Though it isn't that difficult to discover a poster's real identity if one really wants to.

posted by: Zathras on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Quick note to my yet-to-be-conceived grandchild: Granddad says hi! How's school?

posted by: old maltese on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Blogs like this one have become fairly important. My guess is that at least 5,000 people daily visit These folks are likely to be better read than the rest of the citizenry. They are almost certainly the movers and shakers within their immediate social milieu. Some are famous in their own right. The financial cost of hosting a blog is relatively small. A daily newspaper with a similar numbers of readers probably needs to bring in a yearly minimum total of * $912,500 just to keep the doors open.

This is another reason why the age of innocence is rapidly ending. We have so far taken it for granted that most bloggers and posters, however brilliant or goofy that they might be, are sincere people. Now we are sometimes forced to ask: are we being Mobyied? Or, is someone like a George Soros (or a wealthy conservative) discretely spending a few dollars to influence us?

* How did I come up with that total? I figure that each newspaper cost 50 cents each X 365 days a year X 5,000 subscription total.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Since its for posterity:

Commentator Match Game

( ) DT
( ) Kelli
( ) Jesurilac
( ) Tom Holzinger
( ) Appalled Moderate
( ) Zathras
( ) Bithead
( ) Carolina
( ) Oldman
( ) Voice of the Democracies
( ) Reid

1. yes, Judge, I want to be a responsible father and husband but I have NEEDS--were I legally able to have three wives, I would be able to live within the bounds of marriage AND provide for my family.

2. You're not a Heinlein fan, are you?

3. I know more about Spanish wine than Spanish politics, and if it's all the same to the posters fighting their off-topic battles would like to put out some questions to anyone with some knowledge of political currents in that country.

4. We're not in the democracy-building or legitimacy building phases yet. We're still doing threat elimination and revolutionary overthrow.

5. It's not like homosexual behavior is limited to humans.If you saw my brother in law's Boston Terrier try to make a woman of my poor old beagle, you'd know better. I think, for some people, being homosexual is normal.

6. Baloney. This unwillingness to assimilate is entirely due to the silliness of the Democrat Party and its liberal intellectual partners in crime.

7. To me, this whole rhetoric - this willingness to oppose same-sex marriage based on untested hypotheses - is so uncoordinated and based on such frangible logic that it proves to me that the real basis of opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry - a bigotry that the opponents don't want to acknowledge.

8. Just a parting comment. The fetish with paying down debt, what I call Parochial Checkbook Economics (PCE), is what doomed the British Empire. You have to take your eyes off the trees and focus on the forest. And, the forest is made up of GOODS and SERVICES

9. Makes one wonder who would be behind it all. Along that line, the people who won the election had so much to gain from such an attack; Might the socialists be behind this attack, I wonder?

10. The truth on this matter is somewhat in the middle. The (insert self-reference in the third person here) favors the course of action that he just recently discovered that Paul Oneill and Greenspan did, but he came to same conclusion separately.

11. The question then becomes -- what do you do with the losers? You can't just shoot them. Right? They're going to hang around, clogging up the planet. Sure, maybe they should they just crawl off and starve somewhere, but they won't. They're tenacious, they cling like barnacles to the earth.

posted by: TexasToast on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Blogs like this one have become fairly important. My guess is that at least 5,000 people daily visit

Between 3,000 and 10,000, with around a 5500 hpd average.

posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

“Between 3,000 and 10,000, with around a 5500 hpd average.”

I am being very cautious with my figures. The typical newspaper reader spends only around 10% of the total cost of the publication. Advertisers are the ones who really keep a paper in business. I doubt very much that one can publish a daily newspaper for anything less than $2.00 a copy. Does anyone know more about this than I do? If this is so, let’s do some additional 4th grade math:

$2.00 X 5,500 X 365= $4,015,000

posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

well, I'm just going by what Dan's SiteMeter is saying.

posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Sam is right. Comments posted on a board like this would most likely be researched sooner than later, specifically because a poster later went on to a career in public life.

Well, here ya go, for that:

posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Note to self: Remember to turn off the Stove

posted by: Carleton on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

The power feels good, yes?

posted by: Jon Stopa on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

What do you suppose this says about unemployment? or are there too many people with too much time time on thier hands.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

Guys, don't you remember this story?

Legislator May Resign over Anti-Police Comments
N.H. Lawmaker Wrote ‘Nothing Wrong’ with Cop-Killing

(Wow, I'm feeling old; I didn't realize this was 3 years ago already.)

posted by: David Nieporent on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

TexasToast: Heh. ;-)

(To my posterity: I'm 7, by the way - yes, that was a particularly garbled day - and I spelled it Jesurgislac.)

posted by: Jesurgislac on 03.15.04 at 11:59 AM [permalink]

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