On of the biggest issues we still have with ds106 is actually archiving all the work, comments, posts, images, videos, etc. Some of this is taken care of my pushing folks to use Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, blip.tv, etc. However, blog posts and comments are a bit more difficult. Reason being is that many students were required to get hosting and manage their own blog and domain as part of the class, but ultimately choose not to renew them as things wrap up. I’m fine with that, this is not about making them get their own domain, but about illustrating how to do it, what it entails, and to reinforce that they can do it themselves if and when they want to in the future. And if they keep it, well that’s just a bonus. This semester 23 of the 45 students in sections 3 and 4 chose to keep their web hosting and/or their URL, which is unprecedented for me in ds106. And while this may be the case now, over time most of those URLs and web hosts accounts will either lapse or change, so archiving remains an issue for the permalinks and posts themselves. Then, on top of that, add the over 7000 comments we had on all the distributed ds106 blogs, and you have a major archiving nightmare.
What’s nice this year is that there is an easy option on FeedWordPress that I discovered that will allow me to revert all syndicated posts from forwarding to the external permalink to pointing to the post on the ds106 blog. (FeedWordPress just continues to impress me more and more with every new version—fine work Charles Johnson!)
This allows us to archive all posts locally on the ds106.us site if we needed to. This is convenient for those students who don’t archive anything. It might even be a better solution over time given the kipple that is the web and URLs more generally. The only problem with this—and it’s a big one—is that it won’t preserve any of the comments on the original posts. So, we can save all the posts ever made for ds106 to the ds106 site, but as of now we can’t also archive the comments on the ds106 site and map them to the appropriate posts. Now Martha Burtis has aggregated all the comments across all the sites through their respective RSS feeds in stuff them in a series of Simile Exhibits (January, February, March, April), which I think represents something of an archive, though the links still point back to an original post that in many instances won’t be there. I guess this pushes the need for pulling the comments into the aggregating WordPress blog as well so that little bit of the holy grail remains.
So, that is one problem, another issue is that a number of students are archiving their work on a wordpress.com blog, blogger, umwblogs, or some other free blogging service. I asked them to add their archive dblog URL to their ds106 profile so I can delete their original posts and pull in the new archived blog. This is actually surprisingly easy and effective, and I did this for many of the blog from pervious semesters. The only hitch is they need to to change the Settings–>Reading option in WordPress for syndicated posts from 10 posts to something like 50 or 100 posts so I am sure to get everything pulled in.
A quick tip, if you do a course like this, be sure to impress how important it is for students to use external image hosting and video hosting, it saves them so much trouble at the end of the site when they are archiving to a new service, and more generally it is good practice if they don’t plan on hosting their own stuff and maintaining a consistent domain over time.
And then there is all the Twitter activity which I think we have to leave left for dead. When Twitter changed their API, and Twapper Keeper went South with the new authorization requirements we lost the archive of the #ds106 hashtag, which is a shame. I don’t even remember who started the archive and if we saved it before the API changed up. If I was smarter I would have created a ThinkUp archive for Twitter and the ds106 hashtag—can ThinkUp just archive a hashtag? Need to look into this for this Summer.
Also, the ds106 radio twitterbot was a godsend not only for following ds106 radio, but for archiving the activity in that space—which is mint. See this post for some of the stats we are trying to glean from that data. A for the actual programming on ds106radio, chances are that archive is spread out on various users machines, because most of that archive is either non existent, or a recorded stream through Nicecast. Funny enough, I am archiving a live stream of Mike Watt in concert in Sacramento from my den in Virginia as I write this posts thanks to Noise Professor‘s ability and willingness to stream it out. we are gonna have to come to grips with the ds106radio archive, right now that is all over the place, but at least some of it is archived.
What’s interesting is that thanks to justin.tv, perhaps the easiest and surest archive we have (at least for now) are the videos on ds106.tv. Everything automatically archives and is saved, and what’s more, Timmmmyboy puts another version up on YouTube—which is awesome.
So here that concludes a list of some of the issues and challenges of archiving a distributed course setup like this. i still think we are much closer to having a way at this then ever before, but the bottom line is something will be lost—and frankly that’s OK. We save what we can, and hopefully figure out how to preserve as much as we can going forward, the archive is important, but not sure it is more important then the actual experience, which is something that cannot be archived in the same way, things are always lost over time.