The Temporality of Digital Knowledge
by Pam Ashlund
The nonprofit community has a wealth of information online. Advice from Fundraising to Finance. Whitepapers, ToolKits, Articles. A collective knowledge that could never be found in one book (or ten books for that matter). What worries me is that the owners of each piece of this databank have no commitment, responsibility nor mandate to leave this information on line.
When a website closes, the data goes with it. When a newspaper archives its free material, it is either gone or pay-to-play from that point forward. At the moment this information is all available at a click, but it is not centralized and its very existence is oh so tenuous.
As anyone who has bookmarked or tagged a reference URL has discovered, upon returning to the link, the site is no longer there, the article has been moved, or resides behinds a closed door. These broken links are a fact of the electronic age.
The ethical dilemma: make sure this data doesn't dissapear by saving this material--knowing so much of it maybe protected by copyright, or permission to use only, or...just not owned by the public period.
But the fact remains, they are there now, and I for one, don't want to lose them!
Yes, the search engines may have cached the page; and http://www.archive.org/ might take you back to an older version of a website. But I now have thousand's of pages bookmarked, favorited, or tagged...and I depend upon that information. It is now my encyclopedia, my file cabinet, my everyday work resource.
I'm not proposing new legislation here, but rather the quest for a solution. Maybe a volunteer effort to archive this fantastic, but vulnerable virtual library. It would be a shame to have to continually re-create the wheel everytime a user gets tired of administering a website.
This is my battlecry - save our on-line nonprofit resources! Otherwise all the social bookmarking in the world won't matter.