For the last week, I’ve been working on my presentation on Curation for Learning for LearnTech Asia and had a panic attack.
I hyperventilated slightly that had me reaching for my ventalin.
While I was away last week, I had been thinking how I could plan and prepare for this presentation so that it was relevant for an audience of learning and development professionals who lived and worked across the Asian region.
(You can see what I’m planning in this short LinkedIn video where I worked out loud through my presentation process).
Can’t Be Bothered Reading Further Anymore? Watch the Video Instead…
Are you still with me? Okay then, let’s continue…
As someone who irks on talking from a position of authority and expertise, I didn’t want my presentation to come across from the perspective that my way is the best or the only way to curate.
Let’s face it, long ago it hit me that indeed, like Game of Thrones character character John Snow, “I Know Nothing” when it comes to curation. I simply do it in a way that makes sense to me based on many years of trial and error.
It’s because curation for me has been an immersive learning experience.
It has taught me to search, find, filter, select, evaluate and make sense of topics that are near and dear to my heart. If anything, curation has opened up a whole new world of wonderful learning opportunities but at the same time, it’s a double edged sword because you realise you can never – nor will you ever – truly know a subject inside out.
This irks me.
In a way, this is wonderful because you can always find something to be inspired with and constantly return to the subject over time, but in another way, you always feel “incomplete”, “unfinished” or “in transit” – never reaching your destination.
Indeed, you end up craving more of it only to realise how little you do know – and that you will never, really ever truly be an expert.
It reminds me of the way I travel. I go to places to immerse myself into the location and won’t leave until I’ve exhausted every opportunity to have visited every gallery, museum, historical site; only to return if I feel that I haven’t explored the area in depth enough. It always leaves me inspired but just that little bit annoyingly unsatisfied.
Take for instance my forays (ok call it obsessions) with social learning, social networks, Twitter, Blab, learning music, reading books, creating video, film-making, Snapchat, William Bligh, learning how to read music, MOOCs, playing the ukulele, history of Vikings….to name a few.
This blog has captured my entire learning experiences since 2006. Before then, I kept copious amounts of notes in hard backed journals spanning years since 1984.
This blog has been my sense making space and at times, has been integrated into my life that even now, I can’t even bear the thought of something happening and losing it all.
It would be like losing a limb.
But this week, I came across this concept of Link Rot and to be honest, it freaked me out a tad.
It was the first time I had heard of a definition of this but it’s not the first time I’ve experienced it. In fact, I’ve mentioned it a couple of times with regards to the volume of notes I have stored in Evernote over the years which have simply disappeared and replaced with….
Internet 404 Error
That’s when I realised that if you’re just storing and collecting links then you’re missing the entire piece of the curation puzzle.
And the risk with that?
You write yourself out of existence.
Wikipedia defines Link rot as “the process by which hyperlinks on individual websites or the Internet in general point to web pages, servers or other resources that have become permanently unavailable. The phrase also describes the effects of failing to update out-of-date web pages that clutter search engine results.”
You’re more likely to know of link rot as the dreaded Internet 404 errors on some web pages.
Well, my Evernote folders are filled with link rot and that’s when I realised that lots of sites I have collected over the years are now redundant. The only shred of evidence left of them is a cursory note or some scribbled notes that I scanned into the notebooks explaining how these links were relevant and where they could be used.
However, the actual website had just disappeared into thin air.
So all I had was remnants of my random thoughts and even then, they were just MY thoughts. They weren’t the original source documents. That’s when I started to realise the sheer enormity of this problem.
After all, I’m a history buff. In the past, all knowledge was recorded, stored, archived, collected. Nowadays all this is online in websites and online repositories.
What would happen if this recent modern knowledge simply disappeared overnight?
Would we have records of it elsewhere?
How would future generations know about our life, our society, our achievements?
Can you see where I’m going with this?
Now where’s that brown paper bag? I need to blow in it.
So you may be thinking, so what?
A website goes down and it doesn’t affect you because by then, things would have changed and we would have new knowledge, applications and contexts that render previous knowledge outdated. However, what we will miss out on understanding the progress – the process or the evolution – of our thinking over time.
We may see the beginning and know the end but the middle bit would be missing in its entirety. It would be an unknown.
Think about it this way.
Imagine if all information about tobacco and its dangers simply went missing one day.
We would know that in the past, people thought that smoking was good for you and doctors recommended it for health reasons.
But today, you see that smoking has been banned in most public places and it is considered dangerous for your health.
But what happened in between? Where is the medical evidence, the legal cases, the research, the studies, the doctor testimonials, the studies, the personal experiences, the stories that would have allowed us to see the progression and evolution of A to B?
How did people make that jump from tobacco being good for you to being dangerous for your health?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
This is what I started to panic about.
So with that, I started to explore on how this can be overcome and I came across some sites that allow archiving to happen. These sites like Perma.cc or Archive.is allow organisations to save sites from link rot which provides some consolation.
However, I started to think about all my content online. Years of blog posts, blog comments, videos and vlogs, bits of me scattered around the internet, much of it unsaved or not backed up on my own servers or hard drives.
Luckily, my social media posts are backed up by a site called Digi.Me however, even with that, you can never be secure in the knowledge that sites like these may also disappear. Companies go bankrupt, wind down or close every day. Any way you look at it, content is (and will) disappear over time and it’s scary to think that just as the internet has “allowed us to write ourselves into existence” (thanks to Euan Semple for introducing me to this quote, it can just as quickly wipe us out from it too.
I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think? Am I being overly sensitive to this issue?
Robin Good, Cultural Alzheimer 404 and the Unstoppable Link Rot, August 2, 2016, Medium article: https://medium.com/content-curation-official-guide/7-linkrot-the-very-short-lifespan-of-online-content-and-resources-26d6a2b9e376
Stopping Link Rot: Aiming to End a Virtual Epidemic, 26 April 2014 http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/04/26/307041846/stopping-link-rot-aiming-to-end-a-virtual-epidemic
Jay Jackson, December 2013, Link Rot is Degrading Legal Research and Case Cites http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/link_rot_is_degrading_legal_research_and_case_cites/
Archiving URLs, 10 March 2011, https://www.gwern.net/Archiving-URLs