It’s the first day of June. Some might see today as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, others as just another Monday… Either way, we can only wish for it to be a bit better than yesterday.
The main story we’ll be covering today is a conflict of interest which emerged between preservation communities a week or so ago.
Today I am grieved to be reporting a shutdown for a community of our own, OldGameMags*, a long running website dedicated to the preservation of old game magazines and other retro goodies. The website which was formerly known as Kiwi’s World migrated to their current domain about one year ago.
* Unaffiliated with the Twitter/Tumblr account which go by the same name.
If the previous name was any indicator, the admin and sole proprietor of the website and downloadable magazines goes under the name of “Kiwi”. The website was a collection of whatever Kiwi could manage to get his hands on through his own means.
While initially offering viewing of these collections for free, asking only for donations (monetary and in the form of magazines/digitizations) to keep the website online; increasing costs of procurement, digitization equipment and keeping the hosting going lead to a switch to a payed membership model. Being his own personal project, Kiwi did all in his power to ensure the website would remain self-sufficient.
This stricter policy, however surprising as it may seem, worked to foster a community. While initially membership was a process Kiwi had to undertake manually through emails, the small group of preservation enthusiasts he was able to gather eventually convinced him to switch to a forum. Like a white dwarf, a seemingly collapsing star had become a tightly packed, sincere community.
So where’d it all go wrong? When it became apparent that portions of Kiwi’s collections were being uploaded to the Internet Archive, he was flabbergasted to say the least. Despite making these inaccessible, obscure materials accessible online also being his very own goal, the idea of these being nabbed without his permission was quite aggravating.
The Internet Archive doesn’t have the same constraints when it comes to costs associated with procurement, digitization and hosting; all of which Kiwi had to undertake himself. This is of course beyond the time and effort he had to personally invest into the management of the project. Same goal or not, it wouldn’t be natural if he didn’t take this as some form of offense.
And so, on May 26, he took the decision to activate a time-bomb on his website to go off in 2 weeks. He urged members to download whatever they could, as in his book, these people all had some share in building up that massive collection.
Since the announcement, he’s been in contact with fellow archivists who are members/affiliates of the Internet Archive, in hopes of reaching an alternative settlement.
In one of his latest forum posts he detailed 4 possible outcomes and asked forum members on what they’d prefer:
- Making the site private in some way. Significant members would likely retain access to all content.
- Status quo, just live with the fact that some members will just upload scans elsewhere.
- Migrate, maybe even to archive.org, but close the site for good.
- Add in a second tier of membership, and limit the accessibility for tier one. If all else fails default to solution #1.
Regardless of what option they choose to go with, their story of how they almost (or possibly still might) shutdown is one worth detailing. It’s a tale that really highlights how not all preservationists have access to the same means, something I personally think we don’t keep in mind too much.
As Data Horde, a group who seeks to inspire cooperation among the many archivist groups across the internet, I think we need to keep that in mind. It’s called cooperation for a reason, yes it might be easier for one particular group to host a certain article, but we must never forget the blood, tears and sweat which it might have taken to get a hold of said article in the first place.
For the settlement of this conflict or any of a similar nature, I believe this to be the first step: both sides seeing each other for what they are…
On a more positive albeit related note, u/Ruthalas is working on making a Webcomic Scraper, for quickly collecting webcomic panels off of websites:
This is more of an announcement for programmers who might be interested in joining in, as it’s nowhere near complete. For a more proven solution check out: https://github.com/webcomics/dosage