My Soliloquy


I read recently that a blog is often like a soliloquy.

so·lil·o·quy n., 1.a. A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character reveals his or her thoughts when alone or unaware of the presence of other characters. b. A specific speech or piece of writing in this form of discourse. 2. The act of speaking to oneself.

That fits the description of this blog :-). I’m essentially talking to myself, and sometimes I go back into the archives and see what I was thinking about at some point in time. I have virtually no subscribers on Bloglines or Newsgator and no links on Technorati, yet my RSS feed for this blog is one of my most frequently accessed files according to my web access logs. It’s hard to explain. I can generally find the topic I’ve blogged about on Google just a few days after I’ve made the entry, so I guess search engines like RSS feeds, and people who read this blog are finding it through searching on topics.

Today I checked out the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a website founded by Brewster Kahle to archive the whole Internet. I was stunned to find my very first attempt to create web pages unmercifully stored in the archive for the rest of the world to see (from AOL, no less!).

The Internet has always struck me as an ephemeral medium, with stories that age off systems, websites that go away completely, broken links, and people who come and go. The fact that someone is trying to take periodic snapshots of it and store it away for posterity is absolutely mind boggling to me. I’d heard about this service many times, but never thought to go out and see if any of my stuff was on it. I figured, quite incorrectly as it turns out, that only important websites would be archived but I found that there were even a few of my @home pages tucked away in its archive. I found blog posts from many years ago sitting out there by people whose blogs never even had archives. I knew from previous experience with Usenet that it’s generally not a good idea to post anything on the Internet that you didn’t want to haunt you for the rest of you life, but I didn’t think that what I put on my own website would fall into that category. After all, I’m the webmaster of my domain and I can make things disappear. But not with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine! It can store every embarrassing thing you’ve ever written and serve it out to anyone with enough curiosity to sift through its data banks.

It doesn’t appear to be complete, but there’s enough information on there to be used to piece together what a site looked like as many as 10 years ago. It’s hard to imagine what it would cost to host and maintain a server farm that is basically trying to back up the entire web. According to Wikipedia, it takes on petabyte of storage and is growing at about 20 terabytes per month!

So go ahead, write what you want on the Internet, but know that there is a veritable Akashic Record being stored of it somewhere…and it’s beyond your control to erase any of it.

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