Here’s the problem with All Things Digital: they’re even more transient than most human creations. Sic, we might say, transit gloria digiti. Just about anything we commit to little glowing letters — or to code in the guts of some computer system — is going to disappear. And it’s going to disappear sooner than later.
This, as a side note, is why I prefer my books between paper covers, thank you. Especially ever since we learned that Amazon can reach into your device and delete any Kindle document it pleases. Yes, paper burns. Paper mildews. Moths eat it, crickets eat it, the dog eats it, the baby eats it. But whatever you commit to hard-copy writing at least has a chance to survive for posterity to view it. A medical treatise written on papyrus, for example, survives from 2000 B.C. Carve your golden words into stone, and they’ll last as long as the pyramids stand.
Well, so… We’re told that come the end of this month, WordPress will force us all to use a new program called, bloviatingly enough, Gutenberg. It will, we’re assured, “impact” (God help us! If you can’t use English, why would you think we expect your software to be any better?) “the entire publishing experience” and yada yada.
Any good at reading between the lines? I’ve become fairly practiced at it. Here’s what I glean from this joyous announcement:
- New aggravating hassles
- More brain clutter for us to have to cope with
- Websites or at least important parts of sites will break.
- Data will be lost.
Especially “data will be lost.” Funny about Money has been around since 2007 — that’s 11 years, the equivalent of 11 centuries in Digital Land — and I’ve seen a lot of innovations. Scarcely a one of them has happened without some fiasco. That would be why the first several years’ worth of posts at this site have no images: all my carefully uploaded and formatted pictures were taken down without my knowledge and without my permission.
Funny’s Web guru says he likes Gutenberg — that it’s easy to use and it won’t create problems. I hope he’s right.
But… Yeah. Eleven years of data. Just sitting there waiting to be disappeared. Mm hmmm…
Yesterday evening I spend three hours on the phone with a high-powered Apple tech trying to fix the mess created when another tech decided nothing would do but what I had to re-install the Sierra OS on the MacBook, even though I tried to tell him it would create a mess. And indeed…what a mess it did create!
Most of the problems are finally resolved…except for the fact that the big iMac no longer will sync DropBox. I do not know how to fix that. When I inquired of DropBox’s help folks, I got an e-mailed set of instructions that are just flat-out incomprehensible. Literally: there is no way I can figure that mess out. Sooo… I guess I no longer have DropBox on both computers and will never get that service back.
My plan in that department is to buy a large external hard drive and manually back up DropBox to it about once a week. In the meantime, it also gets backed up occasionally to Time Machine along with everything else on each machine. And DropBox itself keeps a kind of back-up — difficult to navigate, but at least something is there.
The point here is…silicon-based data goes away. It goes away at the slightest change in the breeze’s direction. So yes, I do expect this shift to Gutenberg is going to erase a lot of Funny’s content. It may even knock the site off the air, temporarily or permanently.
And anyhow, one way or another, when I’m gone, everything of mine on the Web will go away. And you know…as a writer, I kinda don’t like that.
Backing up the content to disk doesn’t resolve the problem. The outcome is still digitized, unintelligible to the average human, and still vulnerable to disappearance. Nor is the task very easy to accomplish. When I used BackupBuddy to create a copy of FaM, it loaded the whole 11 years’ worth of duplicated data to the host’s server! This quickly maxed their server and shut down the site.
Yeah. See what I mean?
So I decided to take a little project in hand:
Copy the site’s entire contents, dating back to December 2007, into Word. Store to DropBox. Copy to the MacBook’s Documents folder. Format it in “Styles.” And then print it all out on three-hole punched paper and store it in binders.
Though this is not at all hard to do, it disgorges one hell of a lot of copy. In fact, it looks like more copy than it is, because when you just slam content into Wyrd it picks up all sorts of space-gobbling formatting from WordPress. When formatted properly, many thousands of points will be reduced to normal font size, photos will be sized to fit pages, air will be pulled up, and a lot less space will be consumed. Still: a year’s worth will probably fill 800 pages or so.
But…once it’s on paper, it will be on paper. I can leave it to my son. He can throw it in the backyard firepit if he so pleases. But at least he’ll have the option to do so, which he will not have if all this content resides on the Web and only on the Web or inside a computer when I croak over.
This all sounds rather silly, not to say hubristic. But y’know… I wish I had kept my mother’s letters. In my freshman year at the University of Arizona, she sent me a series of handwritten letters, They were pretty Polonian, full of advice she had already delivered during the previous 16 years of my life and stuff I did not want to rehearse in my dorm room. Annoyed, I tossed them out.
Some lady found one that had blown out of the back of a garbage truck and landed in a street. She mailed it back to me (!) with a note saying she expected it was something I might want to keep.
Didn’t then. But do now.
So if he doesn’t throw all this junk out, maybe someday he’ll have something he’ll enjoy looking at. If nothing else, he can give it to a local museum as a record of what life was like in the dystopic 21st century here in lovely uptown Phoenix.
One never knows.