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Author Topic: Are websites fleeting and unpreservable?  (Read 993 times)
Memory
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« on: December 10, 2022 @766.60 »

Hey there!

I am currently at a point where my website project (libre.town) has so many technical and design issues that I feel like I need to start over from scratch with it.

Now, I have been hesitant to rework the site, because I feel like it's throwing away a part of my history and substituting something new for it. In forms of art, writing or painting for example, people always stress that it is important to never scrap anything, for it might be worth something to you or someone else in the future, if only to look back at how far you've come. Websites do not have the luxury of being stashed away somewhere to read on demand; it's either online or not, and if they are online, there is still some expectation of the information on there being current or part of the author's view; for websites are information distributors first and foremost.

Are websites an inherently fleeting form of art because updating them is part of the idea? Should I start over, or preserve this in some way?
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bingus_baby
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2022 @804.61 »

I'm not sure what platform you use, but it should be pretty easy to download a .zip of the whole site! It's what I do, I keep .zip files of each version of my site and stash it away on my hard drive. A while back I'd just download it every month or so, but now I roll out my updates in big updates (v1, v2, etc.) so that makes it pretty easy to save each version. Plus, my site is rather small, so I don't worry about file sizes, since it rarely breaks 100 MB. On top of that, the Wayback Machine can help preserve versions of your site. I think there's a way to summon it to scan your site!

In short, yes! I believe websites are preservable, but only if the owner or a weird fan chooses to. Abandoned sites exist and fall into the void, but it's not hard to prevent that.
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Memory
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2022 @904.14 »

It's really up to you since you're in control of whether you leave it up or change it. You could leave your existing site as it is and start a new one if you don't want to trash it completely. I also remember some old sites would have an archive section of old designs and content that people could check out. If you can use templates instead of static HTML files with your host, you could even slot new content into those old designs as long as the content model doesn't change along with your template.

But you could also look at websites as dynamic, evolving forms of art instead of either static or fleeting. I still have copies of all my old website designs stored on a backup drive and like to go back and look at them, both to satisfy my nostalgia and also to see how different designs for the same site evolved over time.
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2022 @923.74 »

My approach to webdesign has always been - change 10 things, then in 6 months change back 9 :omg:k: - Its a process of slow evolution, but it is destructive and without the wayback machine I would have no record of how my site has changed over the years.

There's an analogy I use a lot which no one seems to like, but I'll use it here anyway :grin: I think of a website like a Bonsai tree; its always being worked on and tended, its not in its nature to stay still; its always changing, every season and every year. Even a tree thats very old and hardly seems to grow at all will look completely different today than it did years ago. Like a tree, if a website stops changing its because its dead.

So I agree with the idea that they are fleeting artworks, but I don't think thats diminishes them; and as others have pointed out, you can save snapshots of them in time for reference, and I do recommend that.

On a more practical note - be careful not to catastrophise! Do you really need to start from scracth? Or can you vastly chnage things with a day or two of reworking? Don't be afraid to make radical changes to an old design  :4u:
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Memory
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2022 @38.87 »

I'm not sure what platform you use, but it should be pretty easy to download a .zip of the whole site! It's what I do, I keep .zip files of each version of my site and stash it away on my hard drive. A while back I'd just download it every month or so, but now I roll out my updates in big updates (v1, v2, etc.) so that makes it pretty easy to save each version. Plus, my site is rather small, so I don't worry about file sizes, since it rarely breaks 100 MB. On top of that, the Wayback Machine can help preserve versions of your site. I think there's a way to summon it to scan your site!

In short, yes! I believe websites are preservable, but only if the owner or a weird fan chooses to. Abandoned sites exist and fall into the void, but it's not hard to prevent that.

I like this idea! I might try that with my own site as it may change over time. It's like preserving your old artwork and going back to see how your style and skill has changed over the years.
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nymphaeaphoo
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2022 @608.55 »

Track your website with git.

Host it on a public repo and then every version of your website is saved and recorded.
If I, or anyone for that matter, wanted to see the first ever version of my site its a simple git clone <repo> and git checkout <commit> away, then just open the html file on a web browser. Furthermore, anyone with your repo can then git pull all future updates. Although the older versions aren't directly live they are still accessible by anyone at any time, which is good enough for me.
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Memory
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« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2022 @655.10 »

Thank y'all for the recommendations.

I personally went with simply keeping a backup on my local machine now.
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Memory
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2022 @244.12 »

I've been exploring a few (a lot) of websites lately. It's crazy how powerful the internet is, and yet how delicate. I've compiled my feelings on this but it's really just an assortment of stuff I found online. I think I also relate it back to the fleetingness of our own lives a bit too heavily. But to me, they're pretty tied together. Anyway, in my recent digital travels I came across Wesley Aptekar-Cassels and their website I link to a specific page there that I L-O-V-E, but they also has a post called How Websites Die which is very good as well. I'm a bit of a curator and what I've found is you can't trust jack! If something is important to you, put energy into preservation. Just don't let that consume you cause: Nothing Lasts Forever
« Last Edit: January 05, 2023 @997.63 by orcuslightningearth » Logged
brisray
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2023 @400.67 »

What interesting thoughts in this thread, and I enjoyed reading https://wesleyac.com/stability.html and https://notebook.wesleyac.com/how-websites-die/.

I like looking at older versions of other people's pages, my own, not so much. I'd be tempted to keep everything, including the styling and put into some sort of "archive" or "old" section on whatever you make next.

https://www.httrack.com/ is pretty good at ripping entire sites if you ever lose the original files. The Wayback Machine does its best, but cannot capture everything. It's a lot of work remaking sites that it keeps. I've done it twice now, with the original owner's permissions.

The best way of preserving web pages is probably get a sharp chisel and a good hammer and put everything on concrete slabs! I've got CDs that are barely readable they're so old, I have better luck with my pile of old floppies.

When I was 18, I thought I was going to live forever, almost a half century later I'm not so sure. I still plan on living longer than Methuselah though. The problem are my websites. Luckily, most of my friends are quite a bit younger than me, some by a couple of decades, and some of those are tech savvy and like me, run their own servers. We've had conversations about this, and it looks like my sites are going to outlast me. Yay!
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