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To read comments to this article, go here
Preservation
Tuesday, January 06 2009 @ 04:23 AM EST

I'm back from vacation, and I feel refreshed. Just before I left, I asked the members to think about what we should do with Groklaw now that Novell won, and SCO has filed an appeal. As I pointed out, Groklaw has achieved everything it set out to do, and since there can normally be no new materials introduced in an appeal, might this be a good time to take a breath and work on perfecting the work we've done? This could drag on literally for years, but it won't be events happening daily as it used to be, and so I had some suggestions on how I thought we could use the lull.

One choice is just to keep going as we were, covering other topics as we were and other cases; another was to stop and fix up any flaws in our historical collection of every important event in the SCO saga; and a third was for me to train others to at least do News Picks and the Timelines and maybe have guest articles while I worked on filling in the gaps.

I've read now what Groklaw members advised me, and I've decided. I think we need to use this time to perfect our work and ensure Groklaw's preservation. It will require shutting down the daily articles and News Picks, at least for the forseeable future, but I'm convinced it's important to do it. One of the core purposes of Groklaw has always been to create a reliable record for historians and law schools to use our materials to teach and inform.

There is a very big problem, though, with digital preservation. Many members raised that issue with me, and so I decided that we do indeed need to address that. A university professor, as it happens, is working on a digital preservation project with his students, and I have been offered an opportunity to pick their brains, and I'm definitely going to do that. Digital preservation is no mean trick, and just as Groklaw has been cutting edge in other areas, I want to make a contribution by doing all I can to make sure our work doesn't fade away. We put our hearts and souls into putting together this library of SCO, UNIX and Linux history, and libraries have their own requirements and standards.

I would truly love to do both, because I love doing Groklaw, but I don't scale, so I had to choose. And I choose to make sure our work as fully reliable, comprehensive and, to the degree humanly possible, permanent. After we get the preservation work in gear, I will definitely begin to explain how to do a site like Groklaw. I have had a number of requests for information on how to create a site where the atmosphere is kept polite, for example. Actually, that's a book in itself. But I'll tell you what I have learned. FOSS's strength is that there's no one throat to choke, and the more people who know how to do a site like Groklaw, the better off FOSS will be. So that's my decision.

Would you like to know how you can help?

Groklaw's collection of materials is really valuable. I'd like to ensure that it survives. I know many of you have mentioned this over the years, and I always meant to get to it eventually, but now seems like the time. We've covered the SCO litigations since May of 2003, and it's the only complete record of this important phase in IT history. Groklaw also made history, if I do say so myself, because it was the first time the Internet was ever used to put geeks together to help with distributed legal research.

Did we have fun or what? I've never had so much creative fun in my life.

While I always meant to do a clean up and preservation work at the end, the end kept stretching out more and more in time, and after almost six years of this, there is still no end in sight. My analysis is that SCO represents no threat to Linux currently. Even if it did, in an appeal you can't present new materials, usually, so it does seem like a good time for us to take a break and do the clean up now. I've already started going through my collection, and I'm having a blast.

Here's what I'd like you to do, if you are in a position to help out:

1. Contribute to the tip jar. If you aren't wiped out by the financial meltdown, please consider helping out with expenses as much as you can. Some of you have already, and I thank you. One reason there are some gaps in our document record is because it's very expensive, so sometimes I'd skip some of the lesser materials. That was fine for a narrative, but it's not acceptable for a library. And filling in those gaps will require money. It's funny, but in the beginning there was just SCO v. IBM, and the court made the documents available for free, if you remember, so we only paid for the ones we had to get from the court or for transcripts. But then there was Red Hat v. SCO, and SCO v. Novell, and then SCO v. AutoZone, and SCO v. DaimlerChrysler, and then the bankuptcy, the most paper-intensive and hence the most expensive of all. To your credit, you've carried that expense burden, and we mostly did it, but there is a bit more to complete.

2. I have in mind a new feature: to add to the end of each major article a collection of the best comments. There have been some wonderful contributions by you guys, and I'd like to make them easier to find. However, I can't do that by myself. I've written or published 3851 articles. That's more than one a day, obviously. Some of them have over a thousand comments, and it was nothing to have a hundred even on a minor article.

I got this idea from looking at some of the early articles' comments and because of the article on software patents and math. I was, frankly, so proud of the wonderful comments you provided, with links to substantive materials to support your points. I'd like to make it quick for people who don't have time to read each and every comment on each and every article to find the cream of the comments. If you would help me do that, I'd be thrilled.

Here is how: Just email me, please, let me know which article you worked on and give me the five or ten best comments you found. More or less. Less if there aren't five and more if there are twenty stupendous comments.

3. We desperately need to fix broken links, particularly on the early articles, and if that isn't possible, we need to collect the original articles/documents that were linked to. Remember how in the first year or so, we'd put up an article and it would suddenly disappear from SCO's site in a day or two? At the time, it made us laugh, but now I realize that we need to be certain we have copies of each and every disappeared document. That's why I've been going through my collection, and I'd like you to do the same. If you find a broken link and you have that article, please send it to me.

That means going through the articles, one by one, checking for broken links, fixing what we can by finding the article on Wayback or instead finding where the article moved to, and then, if that fails, checking our hard drives for any copies of materials no longer available on the Internet. If you see a broken link, can you please let me know? If you can find it on the Internet elsewhere, please tell me where, and if you have it yourself, please send it to me. I won't be able to answer all the emails, so forgive me, but if everyone helps, we'll be successful in this work.

In my experience, the easiest way to find it elsewhere is to copy one distinctive sentence and search for it in quotation marks. That seems to work the best. Titles don't work as well, because sometimes the same article shows up but with a slightly different title.

4. We have some ideas on how to organize our vast collection better. If you have ideas for particular permanent pages on a particular topic, let me know. How might people be trying to find something? Is there a way to make it easier? Ideas are very welcome. 5. We have all the exhibits from the Minnesota antitrust case against Microsoft, but we need volunteers to create a permanent page listing what the exhibits are. There are a lot of them. We also have all the exhibits from the Comes v. Microsoft litigation, and that page needs to be finished. So there is lots to do there. 6. Don't worry. Some tell me that if we don't have daily articles and News Picks, Groklaw will die. First, I don't really care about being popular. Second, I don't believe it. We have so many members, and so much work to do, I think we'll stay together. And we have a team set up to keep the Timeline pages up to date, and they'll be posting the filings from SCO's many adventures, so our collection will be complete. I just won't be writing articles about it. I noticed while I was gone that you guys had no trouble understanding the filings that showed up in my absence. I think my work of explaining the basics is done. And I seem to have developed an allergy to SCO and SCOfolk, I guess you could say. How many times can I write about SCO missing a court deadline because Christmas got in its way? It's the SCO Christmas curse. It's funny, yes, but you don't need me to explain that to you any more. Been there, done that.

Here is why I think this is so important to do. SCO kept changing its story. I never had the time to put up links to all the materials we found, so I'd triage to answer according to whatever the latest story was, but who knows what they'll dream up in the future? So, the best thing is to finish our work, put it all up in one place, and no matter what happens, the truth will stand, for those who are looking for it.

I hope you will help me, because I love working with you. I know from your comments, you feel the same. So. Phase II. Preservation mode.


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