Wednesday, July 19, 2006

That’s not a cache... that’s an archive!

This morning I stumbled across a March 2006 blog posting by Danny Sullivan entitled “25 Things I Hate About Google”. Sullivan’s opinions carry a lot of weight in the search engine world, and so I started to sweat when I saw number 9 on his list:

9. Stop caching pages: I was all for opt-out with cached pages until a court gave you far more right to reprint anything than anyone could have expected. Now you've got to make it opt-in. You helped create the caching mess by just assuming it was legal to reprint web pages online without asking, using opt-out as your cover. Now you've had that backed up legally, but that doesn't make it less evil.

Sullivan doesn’t agree with the January 2006 Nevada federal court ruling that declared Google’s cached pages did not constitute copyright infringement, thereby okaying the opt-out policy used by search engines using the noarchive meta-tag. Sullivan and others make some good points in the forum discussing the ruling, showing where the ruling may have some flaws.

One the arguments opponents of the ruling make is that a search engine cache is hardly a cache in the traditional sense because pages are cached long after they are changed or deleted from a web server. One of the posts by mcanerin gives an example of a web page that had been cached for almost 2 years (the example is no longer accessible). In mcanerin’s words: “That's not a cache, it's an archive.”

The fact that the cache is more like an archive is exactly what makes it beneficial to most Web users, and that’s why I think the court’s judgment was fair. Search engine caches are a huge public good. Caching is not evil. Yes, there may be a few scenarios where caching may not work to everyone’s benefit, but in most cases the good far outweighs the bad. As long as search engines provide a mechanism to keep crawled content from being cached and to remove cached content immediately if needed, then there is no really compelling reason to force search engines to use an opt-in policy. (Yes, I know it can be a real pain to manually remove entries from many search engines, but how often does anyone really need to do that?)

My research on digital preservation of websites relies heavily on the wide-spread use of search engine caching, and if caching turns from an opt-out to opt-in, I am going to be in serious trouble, and so are users of Warrick. I’ll be keeping my eye on this…

Immediate action required now

I was just reminded this week of the dangers of pornography when a friend of mine shared his personal struggles with it. It is ripping his life apart. There’s no doubt about it… this stuff is poison. It will poison your relationship with your spouse, your friendships with members of the opposite sex, and your soul. Don’t mess with it.

There’s a really good article about Steve Holladay and his struggles with pornography addiction in the Christian Chronicle (April 2006). Steve talked to our church one night about struggles with pornography and his ministry to reach out to youth who struggle with pornography addiction. (Steve was finishing his Ph.D. here in town at Regent University.)

One point the article made that I will share here is that pornography today is a much more dangerous beast than it was just fifteen years ago, and for that reason, it deserves your attention now. The three A’s - accessibility, affordability, and anonymity – illustrate this change. Fifteen years ago you had to physically visit a store selling pornography, pay for it, and reveal your identity. Today you can access pornography for free in your home or office and remain totally anonymous. And even if you don’t have any intentions on viewing pornography, it is emailed to you daily and appears in search engine results. You just can’t get away from it.

If you are concerned about your spiritual health and know that pornography is a strong temptation for you, there is absolutely no reason why you should not be using a filtering service like the American Family Filter. Of course filtering software isn’t going to block everything, and I’d recommend you go one step further and use accountability software like Covenant Eyes.

We owe it to ourselves and to our spouses to keep our conscience and minds clear of sexual immorality. God doesn’t ask anything less of us, and He has promised to give us strength to overcome it.
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
- Isaiah 40:29

"And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
- I Corinthians 10:13

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thinking Differently...

This past Thursday, Michael, Joan, and I gave a talk entitled “Thinking Differently about Web Page Preservation” at the National Digital Library Center (NDIIP briefing at Library of Congress in D.C.). Butch Lazorchak was our liaison. It was a great experience to give a talk in D.C. about my research. It also gave me an excuse to visit my sister, see some of the sites, and watch a Nationals game.

Update on 7/20/06:

The webcast is available from the Library of Congress Webcast page. My part runs from 16:50 - 47:15.