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Having been on the web since the beginning, I really wonder how much of this data really needs to be saved. Humans have survived until now without the need to keep a permanent journal of every little detail of every persons life. We do have historical luminaries whose works we save, but the harsh fact is that most people just aren’t special enough where we need to keep everything they generate.

We are now seeing that having old stuff resurface is largely detrimental. Back when it was just some photos in a shoebox, or a paper journal, the worst that could happen to your silly teenage ramblings was some embarrassment that you could quickly move on from. Now you face potentially losing your whole career and family because of some stupid thing you said one time when you were in a bad mood.

One of the most important functions of the brain is forgetting. If you were forced to remember everything, especially all the dumb stuff you did, your mind would be perpetually cluttered and you could never progress and grow. You only remember the significant stuff, and let everything else go.

The slow degradation of old sites is the Internet’s form of cleanup and forgetting, and it’s a natural part of the lifecycle.

From the perspective of a historian or archaeologist, it is a shame that things are forgotten. If the data that is being saved is not tied to your personal name then I would prefer that it is archived forever. Not only for the purposes of analysis when you are long dead and forgotten, but even within our lifetime.

Sometimes when I am in a nostalgic mood, I will revisit forums that I once frequented almost 20 years ago (surprisingly, the owner has kept it alive all these years). I love looking at those old posts, reflecting back on how things were at that point in my life. Reflecting back on the community members and my long lost virtual friends, wondering where they are now. They could be dead for all I know. I am glad that it has been archived.

In contrast, I have a side project that I work on occasionally. It is a plugin for a legacy game. The hacking community of this game has long since moved on. All of the golden knowledge of the game, the technical details, have vanished. All the forum posts, all the contributions, are forever gone. The hours upon hours of reverse-engineering efforts are down the drain. Not to mention all the social interactions within the community; the drama, the humour, the conversations. That is sad. I sure wish it was archived.

I'm not sure how you can bear looking back at things you said 20 years ago, let alone enjoy it. My past self makes me shutter and cringe

Maybe you interpreting your past self is not the greatest value it provides.

P.S. "shudder"

Oh god another thing to cringe about in the future! Make it stop!

Those efforts were useful back when they were needed. Just because something is no longer useful today doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing.

You are absolutely right. My mistake, poor choice of words. I was speaking to the loss of public information that came from hard work from many individuals. It's like the loss of many academic papers and studies. Gotta start back from square one.

> We do have historical luminaries whose works we save, but the harsh fact is that most people just aren’t special enough where we need to keep everything they generate.

Historians want stuff from ordinary people, because that stuff, though sometimes lame and embarrassing, gives a glimpse into daily life that the papers of more prominent people might not reveal.

History has long since ceased to be merely the study of important kings, queens, writers, etc. Historians want documentation of what life was like for everyone else, and that is why they study old random finds like people’s diaries and correspondence. Now that humanity has moved into the digital era, obviously people’s old websites will become an object of study.

Brings to mind Samuel Pepys, who would be a somewhat obscure historical figure, except that he happened to keep a detailed diary for a long time. For this, he is almost a household name, simply because he wrote down the things that were happening around him.

You might appreciate this illustration of the results of what you suggest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z2vU8M6CYI

Ah, but the Rosetta Stone would be much less interesting if we'd already had a (more) complete record. Think of the careers that would have been rendered unnecessary!

Not only a natural part of the lifecycle, but in the mid-90's the common wisdom was that the web succeeded where others had failed because previous hypertext systems had attempted persistence, but Sir (as he is now) TimBL bravely 404'd instead.

"... near the Tannhäuser Gateway. All those hrefs will be 404, like tears in rain"

There has been so many times I have used archive.org to find some old information that I needed, or checked to see how a page had changed (sometimes because of a legal issue). It's been invaluable. Sometimes archive.org doesn't work for it, and it's a real shame.

"We do have historical luminaries whose works we save, but the harsh fact is that most people just aren’t special enough where we need to keep everything they generate."

I think that hybris is what slows us down.

If we got the storage for the history of the everyday person and the compute to analyze it in masses, why not doing it?

Maybe, conservatives would finally keep their mouths shut about how everything was better yesterday and we can finally work with a clear view on what's really wrong with the world...

What if all the stored information occasionally proved a historical 'conservative' right on some issue? Maybe there really were some aspects of life that were better way back when. We might want to figure out what the tradeoffs are. Is everyone being obese a necessary consequence of modernity?

Things are more complicated than you think, and the conservatives are people too. It seems profoundly illiberal to discount their suffering (their lived experience) just because they seem wrong-headed.

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