The fickle nature of the web

Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0

Spider Web by Daniel Orth CC BY-ND 2.0

The fickle nature of the web is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

I understand that with YouTube videos you can get take down notices and the link no longer works, or you are left with the blank player if you have embedded the video into a blog post

There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

A few years ago I had a Nokia N95 and used the Shozu app to upload photographs to Flickr, it also had another feature of creating a WordPress blog post and embedding an image. This was shut down a few years ago, so now I have lots of posts from conferences back in 2008 or thereabouts that consist of basically a blank post. The post title was left and is merely a filename and then you get the blank square with the red cross. It is for these reasons that I try not to embed content from third party sites if I can help it.

A  good example of this is from 2008 when I posted a video from the mLearn 2008 conference. I used VideoPress rather than a third party site so my copy is still there on the blog. However I also uploaded the video to YouTube and Blip. However the Blip site is now dead and gone….

One aspect that I do find frustrating is when links disappear. A few weeks ago I tweeted (and Google+’d) a link out about #digitalcapability and wanted to use the link again for something else, so looking over my Google+ profile I found the link, clicked it and got a 404, the missing page error. I checked with the author and he kindly pointed out that the URLs had recently changed and there was a new link. No problem, but I did wonder how long before the URLs changed again or the page disappeared!

Sometimes it isn’t as quick and it can be a few years before the site disappears and the link is no longer live.

Sometimes I think, why do people and companies do this? Then I remember I do this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a website and the URL westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site I used the free hosting from the ISP. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site on the ISP, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

Sometimes there are things you can do, so for example when I moved my elearning blog from iBlog, which I was using when I was at the Western Colleges Consortium, I initially moved to wordpress.com, so had the URL elearningstuff.wordpress.com. Due to a variety of reasons I decided to move to my own domain elearningstuff.net and imported all the content. However due to the number of incoming links to the elearningstuff.wordpress.com site I used the domain forwarding service from wordpress.com (and still do) so that any links to elearningstuff.wordpress.com are automatically forwarded to elearningstuff.net. So I do try when possible to ensure that existing content on the web is still accessible years later.

In many ways I wasn’t surprised to read on the BBC News that the BBC are to remove existing web content and in the future only have some web content around for 30 days!

Sounds like BBC iPlayer, no these are recipes from BBC food programmes. This is from the BBC News item (and I expect like other BBC News links this will be around for a long time).

BBC Food news item

The BBC Food website carrying more than 11,000 recipes is to close as part of a plan to cut £15m from the corporation’s online budget, a BBC source has said.

All existing recipes are likely to be archived, though whether some could  move to the commercial BBC Good Food website is still to be decided.

TV show recipes will be posted online but only made available for 30 days.

I can just about understand a future policy doing this, but why on earth are they going to remove the existing web archive of content? What is the point of this exercise? There are, as the report says, thousands of recipes online that can be searched, found and used. I use this a lot myself for finding recipes and inspiration.

For me this is a mistake, sometimes you can’t avoid losing or deleting web content, sometimes you make a mistake, but in this instance I think that it would be mistake to lose the web recipes from the BBC.

Your thoughts? Is this a good idea? Will it help other publishers provide content now? Or do you think it’s a mistake by the BBC to do this and they should keep the food and recipe content online?

2 responses to “The fickle nature of the web

  1. I know what you mean re. disappearing services, I’m currently thinking about Google wave; though I also remember spending a fair bit of time investigating both SpringPad & EverNote before deciding which one I preferred. It was Springpad. Luckily, Evernote was a very close second; and I’m now discovering how much OneNote has progressed since I first tried (and liked) it when it first came out (but wasn’t available on anything other than the Windows Tablet PC it came on)

    But to the BBC, they already archive a lot of material ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1078649.stm is something I used to use to get students to critique the approach) – MyWebMyWay already says it’s archived. Why not move the recipes to a similar state? I use them a lot – they have both a good range of vegetarian recipes & also UK measurements & words!

  2. I reckon they should move the archive but maintain it elsewhere. Maybe even make it a paid service, like 25p per recipe, or per search, or something. Not expensive but, if as many people use it as I think do, it will pay for itself.

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