March 9, 2014

1.2 Keeping it all safe

We are living in an era when people expect ready access to information and other media on the web.

Interesting information from Carl Heine (from

What’s the deepest you’ve ever gone into the search results? How deep can you go? You may be surprised to learn that although Google says it found millions or billions of results for a query, you can retrieve–at most–only 800 to 900 of them. The list ends around page 85 (give or take a few) when 10 results are displayed per page. With 100 results per page the list stops at page 9. I imagine this helps speed up the retrieval process; besides, who ever looks that far down the list anyway?

Jakob Nielsen’s research on SEARCHING found:

In other words, if users don’t find the result with their first query, they are progressively less and less likely to succeed with additional searches. Many users don’t even bother: In our study, almost half the users whose first search failed gave up immediately.

There is no question that we need to develop methods to help users hone their searches. Probably the only long-term solution is for the school systems to teach kids strategies for query reformulation. In the short term, search interfaces could show users easy ways to extend queries.

DIGITISATION of physical objects helps to preserve them for the long term, but this is only helpful to us if we can still ACCESS them in a digital form in the future.


  • We are still able to marvel at medieval illuminated manuscripts but what will remain of our digital heritage in 1000 years?
  • While the amount of information we are creating and storing has never been so large, it has also never been so vulnerable to loss and destruction. What is your ‘take’ on the digital dark age?

Digitising physical objects such as illuminated manuscripts will help to preserve them for future generations, in addition to allowing access to them by many more of us in the here and now.  It also provides the opportunity for them to become part of the LINKED DATA that is developing as the “new www”, allowing relationships and new connections and questions to stem from these pieces.

But keeping track of that now DIGITAL object, and ensuring that it will still be able to be accessed in 1000 years provides us with a whole new set of challenges, and requires forward thinking and predicting on our part.  Did anyone else note the irony and/or warning in the fact that the first telegram ever transmitted survives to this day, whereas the first email ever sent has been lost?  What digital content will and should we keep and what should we throw away?  Who and how will we make these decisions?

Freedom of speech, rights to information – there are some BIG issues here.  Will there be MORE Julian Assanges in the years to come?  Will he become part of our digital heritage, or will he become part of our digital heritage that is lost?

We are living in a time of exponential change.  Even the “founder” of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee said that the WWW has evolved into something well beyond his original dreams.  We live in a throw away society – Telstra’s latest mobile phone ad encourages Telstra customers to replace their mobile phone every 12 months.  Even some of our communication tools encourage this – such as SNAPCHAT which “throws away” images after 10 seconds.  We are creating our digital heritage at a phenomenal rate, but how much of this do we actually WANT to preserve for the future?  Is what we are creating digitally of equal value to the illuminated manuscripts of medieval times?

I have done some research into my family tree, and have an “ancestral wall” of original and scanned images of 6 generations proudly displayed.  I have recorded much of my children’s early life onto VHS tapes.  We no longer own a VHS player, so have had to convert those tapes to other digital formats.  I wonder what future “ancestral walls” in my family a few generations on will look like?

Bollacker’s tips about learning from nature, and storing content throughout generations (much like DNA is passed on generation through generation) in a variety of formats is something that we are all familiar with, and are actively being encouraged to do throughout this course via twitter, facebook, flipboard, Diigo, blogs and forums.  I must admit that I only think of these storage tools as being of use to me in the short term, and I’m OK with that.  I can see myself  “throwing them away” when something better comes along, because that’s what I’ve done in the past.  But people used to do that (and still do) with Women’s Weeklys too, and yet look how much they can tell us about the culture of a particular time (thank the Lord I am not a 1940s housewife!!!), so thank goodness for a resource like Trove that has archived that content for us to access now.

I too have experienced the horror of losing the equivalent of hours and hours of work when my computer succumbed to a virus.  Noooooo!!  I hadn’t backed it up anywhere – a mistake that I only made the once.  My workplace communicates and stores virtually everything electronically – we receive weekly memos from our principal via email; our teaching programs are stored in our school’s network.  Hard to access a lesson plan when the network is down.  The digital content is of NO use to us at all if we can’t access it.

So I can see that we are in a bit of a digital dark age.  We are very caught up with the advances in technology that we see on a daily basis, and the possibilities of that technology.  We are very caught up with replacing our current gadgets with the latest and greatest gadgets.  Cloud computing is opening up a whole new world of possibility for us in terms of sharing and storing our digital content, but I must admit that I currently have very little understanding of HOW that actually works.  I do question how much of our digital heritage in the early 21st century will survive into the future.  Its like we’re not quite sure WHAT we have on our hands here – its great at this point in time, but is it great enough to save forever?