Earlier this week, I was at a public lecture given by Carolyn Hank, an information professor at McGill University, on archiving considerations for blogs. Archiving isn't a topic that stirs many people's interest (no offense to my archivist friends), let alone those in the notoriously now-oriented world of digital media.
But upon hearing Hank speak, I realized there are preservation and copyright issues that apply to all bloggers (not those, however, who blog about what they just ate or the club they're at).
Here are useful considerations for all bloggers:
1) Does your blog have historical value?
Probably. But many bloggers prune or delete without thinking that there could be historic value to their posts. I admit, I delete as I please without any thought to any greater implications. As blogs are one of the main discursive forms of our era, they are definitely worth preserving.
Also studies, and certainly my blog's stats, show that there is tremendous value in the long tail of blogs, so it is worthwhile to keep old posts around.
2) Who owns the copyright for your blog?
This may seem a rather basic issue. But there are factors that can make things more complicated. This can particularly become an issue if you decide to publish your blog in some other format (e.g. as a book) or port to another provider.
Comments are a thorny issue as it doesn't seem there are clear laws or norms on who owns them. I tend to see blog comments as similar to callers of a radio show, audience members on a tv talk show, or someone interviewed by the media. Once you say it to them, you don't own it anymore. So I am not clear why bloggers wouldn't own their audience's comments?
3) Do you clearly state your ownership of your blog and its components?
Hank found that many blogs don't have any statement as to copyright of the blog or the rights of commenters. Considering how easy and free Creative Commons makes it to declare copyright and usage permissions, I was surprised that some bloggers don't have any sort of statement about this. I recently updated my Creative Commons licence after Hank's presentation. Clearly, I also need to state something about my commenting policy.
4) Is your blog already archived?
Hank pointed out that there are organizations already archiving blogs such as Internet Archive and others. I never thought of this, but I assumed this blog would not be archived. I checked with Internet Archive and a portion of it is. I never directed it to crawl my site, so this was a surprise.
This is important for bloggers to think about. I have posted items that I later regretted and wanted to edit or delete (and I did). But if your blog is archived without your awareness, one can loose control of what lingers around. It is, however, great to have my blog preserved with no effort on my part, but as a result I have lost a bit of control. Internet Archives does offer instructions on how to add or remove your blog.
5) How does one archive a blog?
It's not as easy it seems. It's not simply a case of just backing-up past posts. First, if one is using a hosted solution, there could be technical or commercial limits to what can be saved - so one may be able to archive the text of the blog posts but not the wrapper or other elements.
6) What are the elements of a blog that should be archived?
Considering the dyanmic, contextual, and hyperlinked nature of blogs, it's impossible to perserve all the dimensions of a blog. So what are the essential elements that should be archived?
Certainly the main post is essential, but what about comments (and back to the issue of who owns these), the profile links, embedded content, hyperlinked context, and sidebar elements? Once one has determined the essential elements the next issue is how to technically preserve all this.
7) Whose responsibility is it to archive blogs?
It seems rather safe to me to say that some blogs should definitely be archived. It also seems safe to say that most bloggers and blog owners operate in the moment and often haven't considered this issue.
Should blog archiving fall to individual bloggers or is this something that should be handled by a government, academic, or non-profit organization?
Although the concerns addressed above are applicable to most bloggers, the latter issue concerns everyone. Blogs are history. And we should protect our history.