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Internet Archive's San Francisco Home Badly Damaged By Fire

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  • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:46PM (#45357383)

    the modern day Library of Alexandra burning

  • Somebody wants their shit to disappear for good.

    • This sounds more likely to me. Fire doesn't spread quickly in a building built specifically to protect property from fire damage (the most immediate threat to any library).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Every machine room I've been in has some kind of gas extinguisher system. Bad to breath in, but addresses fires very well apparently. I'd like to see what actually burned down, the building perhaps? Because there's no way any non-trivial machine room from the 80s onwards would let fire ruin equipment.

      • The building wasn't built specifically for the internet archive...it was a Christian science reading room (and church if memory serves)

    • by darrellg1 (969068)
      Like the government whistleblower protection website?
  • NSA? (Score:4, Funny)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @12:53PM (#45357455)
    I bet it was a jealous neighbor. ;-)
  • Aside from the chuckle I get from visiting geocities pages once a decade, what reasons are there for helping to preserve it? Is the preservation of old internet sites anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums? Is it useful to the human race in some way?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fustakrakich (1673220)

      Because.
      Yes.
      Yes.

    • by ibwolf (126465) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:15PM (#45357697)

      Aside from the chuckle I get from visiting geocities pages once a decade, what reasons are there for helping to preserve it?

      Is the preservation of old internet sites anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums? Is it useful to the human race in some way?

      Is the preservation of old manuscripts anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums?

      Is the preservation of old books anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums?

      Is the preservation of old newspapers anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums?

      Is the preservation of old films anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums?

      The internet is just the latest evolution of information sharing. We've found (often the hard way) that information is generally worth preserving. While a lot of what is on the Internet today will never be of interest to anyone, it is impossible to guess very accurately at what will be of interest. Often the things no one thought had any long term value at the time of their creation, wind up being the most valuable to future generations of researchers.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        They're already guessing as it is. They don't store everything. They also un-store things if you change your robots.txt.

      • by gronofer (838299)
        Actually the main thing I use archive.org for is their archive of scanned books. It's incredibly useful. The only caveat is that I find searching their site using site:archive.org on Google tends to work better than the search feature on archive.org itself.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:31PM (#45357913)

      Is the preservation of old internet sites anything more than a curiousity that will end up in museums? Is it useful to the human race in some way?

      Most of its not. Someone's blog or twitter feed today will be the future's Diary of Anne Frank. Its hard to know now what is or will be important 50, 100, or 1000 years from now.

      Its also useful in the shorter term for everything from investigating crime ( a new lead in a cold case brings to light a new suspect, and suddenly some chatter on geocities or other long defunct page is relevant evidence), to fighting bogus patents (groklaw used to reference the archive to cite prior art), to looking at documentation for older things... where the manufacturer has removed the documentation pages / gone of out business, the support forums removed, end user hosted fansites/discussion etc have gone dormant, abandoned and eventually disappears. Much of it still searchable & recoverable in the archive.

      • by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:48PM (#45358145)

        Somewhat off topic, but unfortunately the fact that a current domain owner can use robots.txt to prevent the display of information from previous owners of the domain is a frustrating hindrance to it's use by fan/community sites.

        The classic go to example is jumptheshark.com. TV guide bought it, destroyed it, and put up a robots.txt that prevents using archive.org to view the old (and interesting) community provided content.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:36PM (#45357987) Journal

      Are you fucking kidding me? Archaeologists get excited digging through ancient garbage. How can there be any doubt that relics from the birth of the internet won't be incredibly informative to future civilizations?

      It's attitudes like yours that caused so many silent films or early episodes of Doctor Who to be lost to time.

      • It's attitudes like yours that caused so many silent films or early episodes of Doctor Who to be lost to time.

        My attitude of asking a question? I didn't say the answer was "nothing," I just wasn't sure what it was. Thankfully ibwolf gave a pretty good answer.

      • by odie5533 (989896)
        A lot of great documents have been found at the ancient Oxyrhynchus garbage dump [wikipedia.org].
      • Mind you, archeologists aren't really /excited/ about ancient garbage. It's just that is often the only record of day-to-day life that exists for many civilizations. Not only is trash preserved thanks to it being buried by the constructions of more modern civilizations but it tends to present a less biased and broader view of the culture than do surviving manuscripts or art (which tend to ignore the less-popular beliefs and usually focus only on the rich and powerful).

        But for all of the usefulness of garbag

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      I find personally useful info on IA about once a year. Two days ago I confirmed what software a group was using a few years ago (the project lead didn't remember, and the website has changed many times since that software list was displayed. Knowing that software 'a name was important for work.
    • by pr0t0 (216378) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:43PM (#45358079)

      It helps to prevent history from being rewritten by the history writers, the liars, and the pretenders. I'd say its utility is beyond measure.

    • by fritsd (924429)
      Google "wayback archive SCO" for a joke. Also, we have always been at war with East-Asia. All the up-to-date websites say so.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @02:40PM (#45358833)

      Talk to the average archaeologist. And then let him lament for a moment or two on how little we know of the life of the "common man" of old. We know everything of the life of kings and emperors, and even of them we often only hear the important parts of their life. The everyday life of most of human history is in the dark, simply because nobody bothered to record it. What for, it's so common, so ordinary, why should we note down how we live our life?

      Today we're often puzzled how certain things were done. We found games in the tombs of pharaohs and have no idea how to play them because nobody bothered to write down the rules to it, simply because they were so common knowledge that nobody bothered to write them down. And the same applies to a lot of other ancient knowledge that is lost simply because we do not have any records of it, either because nobody bothered to note it down, considering the information not important and so common knowledge that it's moot to write it down, or because the records were few and all of them lost in time.

      Yes, that's not going to teach us any new and exciting technology. But it would teach us how our ancestors lived and we would learn about the past. It would be interesting. You may disagree, you may think it is not, but then again, who are we to say what people find interesting?

      Personally, I think learning about our past is interesting. How people lived. How they thought. What they feared. What they hoped for. I'd consider the life of the average person in old times interesting. How much would you know of the US of today if you only knew about the life of presidents and some celebrities? How much of its culture, its problems and its aspirations would you understand if that's the only information you had?

    • A very good use is digging up old articles/binaries from microsoft.com. Those assholes love to just delete whole eras and technology from existence. While that may be fine for most moving forward, when you need to support, say, a CNC machine that runs on a Windows 95 controller, using MS Agent 1.0 via J++ 1.1, the only way to access any resources anymore is the wayback machine
    • MIT OpenCourseWare (https://archive.org/details/mit_ocw [archive.org]) stores a copy of all the videos on its site on the Internet Archive. Currently that is 75 full video lecture courses and 17 full audio lectures courses, plus a ton of smaller one-offs and mini-series video and audio files. Over a thousand hours of teaching. I would like to think that would be something of use to the human race.

    • Why do you feel that the artifacts in museums aren't useful? That's a strange attitude, reminiscent of 7th graders on a field trip.

    • by mendax (114116)

      Why? Three words: history, History, HISTORY. Without a record of the past, there is no real history, only folklore.

    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes because in the year 9999 just before the global banking nexus is due to run out of digits for date fields, and the only way they can fix it is by deciphering an ancient language known as "COBOL" they'll have need for this archive and various things will come to light from it ranging from useful COBOL tutorials to "Why the fuck haven't we moved our banking systems off COBOL yet?" written by an ultra-intelligent ancient known as "Anonymous Coward" circa 2000 AD.

      A mantra that will be taken as gospel and re

  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:05PM (#45357591) Homepage Journal
    Realizing just how much some of us geeks use this service, whether to search for lost content, or via using places like Wikipedia that link to original/unmodified versions of a web page, I figured I should do my part to help out - and I did. Hope others step up to the plate too. It would be a shame to have their operations hobbled because of this fire.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Realizing just how much some of us geeks use this service, whether to search for lost content

      I've done exactly that. I kept my old Quake site on CDs and lost a few in a move. Unfortunately, there are still data lost because IA didn't save everything.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...during my morning walk yesterday. BTW, the street window of the building that burned down had a very interesting 9/11 timeline display, with video captures from the various TV channels as the events unfolded. Too bad it's probably lost for good, it was one of the few notable things you'd run into while walking down Clement Street.

  • Fire insurance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sanjosanjo (804469) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `ojnasojnas'> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:17PM (#45357719)
    Not that they don't deserve donations, but why do they need to solicit for funds for this purpose? Wouldn't fire insurance cover the losses?
    • Re:Fire insurance (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:30PM (#45357903)

      Fire insurance might cover the physical materials that were damaged, but they probably won't cover the time and associated costs of rebuilding the information, not to mention lost time.

    • by terbeaux (2579575)
      The San Francisco hackerspace NoiseBridge apparently just waived terrorism insurance, "until we're absolutely sure we want to hire a terrorist full-time." https://www.noisebridge.net/pipermail/noisebridge-discuss/2013-November/040296.html [noisebridge.net] HAH!
    • Re:Fire insurance (Score:4, Informative)

      by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:53PM (#45358215) Journal
      Fire insurance is usually inadequate to cover the total losses. It'll cover the value of the building as-is, and the loss of the hardware and physical items things were stored on. If they want to rebuild on the same site, it will often cost a lot more depending on the condition of the building.

      In Athens, GA, the Georgia Theater burned down a few years back. They opted to rebuild on-site and use as much of the shell of the old building as possible, but fire insurance covered maybe half of the final cost because the old building was about fifty years out of code and needed major work anyway. They're still accepting donations to help out with the cost of the rebuild, and probably will owe on the new mortgage for a long, long time.
      • by Skapare (16644)

        Sounds like someone didn't get the correct insurance.

        • I wouldn't be surprised. They also had a lot of logistical challenges due to the location (intersection of two busy one way streets, ew) and the age of the building itself (well over a hundred years old, probably approaching 150 years.) They also decided to do improvements to the sound components and stage lighting - if you have to rebuild, why not go better at the same time? The final bill was over a million dollars, but the result was a better venue with great sound and about double the people capacity
  • they were likely worried that the archive had scraped ISOHunt the way ArchiveTeam did [torrentfreak.com].
  • Did the fire also damage the grammar capabilities as well?

    • Did the fire also damage the grammar capabilities as well?

      This message brought to you by the National Socialist Grammar Nazis and the Department of Redundancy Dept.

  • Did these guys not have insurance? Why do they need donations?

    Serious question.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      I'm donating either way. Even though I don't use the service very often, I like that it's there and think it provides an important service.

      That said I do agree this is a question that should be answered if they are asking for money. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I'm assuming insurance would be expensive due to the nature of their work (storing lots of old books) or payout would be low (technology depreciates really fast..) or hard to insure custom built equipment.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Insurance doesn't cover the man time to get everything working again, as well as other ancillary costs.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:53PM (#45358221) Homepage Journal

    If you want to archive and preserve data long term, wouldn't you want a stable location, someplace that doesn't suffer from 9+ magnitude earthquakes every century or so? And btw SF is overdue for one of these big ones.

    I'd pick a small city in the Rocky mountains, far from earthquakes, floods and riots.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday November 07, 2013 @01:59PM (#45358289) Homepage Journal

      overdue as in, past the statistical average point.
      It's not like a clock.

      And they back up out of state.

      The Rocky Mountains have storms, floods, and a lack of talent.

      • by fishybell (516991)

        The Rocky Mountains have storms, floods, and a lack of talent.

        <sarcasm>...and that's exactly why the NSA built their archive there...</sarcasm>

    • by melikamp (631205)

      An earthquake can hardly damage permanent data storage, as long as the building is structurally sound.

      What concerns me more is that they are paying SF rent, when they could probably save a boatload of money by locating the archive pretty much anywhere else. But then again, may be they are saving on Internet that way...

      • Not so. Their rent was extremely low due to the clever use of their Wayback Machine which permitted them to sign a 1000-year lease in 1906 when nobody else wanted to rent there anymore. You should check the Archive.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      If you want to archive and preserve data long term, wouldn't you want a stable location, someplace that doesn't suffer from 9+ magnitude earthquakes every century or so?

      Every part of the US has some sort of horrible risk of natural disasters. Flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, land slides, forest fires, ice storms, etc. Nowhere you can pick would be entirely safe.

      Besides, this is DIGITAL, not physical archiving, and your "small city" in a "stable location" may not even have decent internet access, which is

  • Donations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @02:15PM (#45358519)

    FYI, they also accept donations in Bitcoins.

  • of the materials they were going to Archive? Perhaps getting a lot of people to dig into their personal libraries might help fill in the gaps.

  • No problem, we can just restore it from the Wayback Machine.

    Um.

  • I just dropped $25 on a reprinted card game from 20 years ago.

    Yeah, I think I can spare another $25 for this site that I've used way, way more than once.
  • They take Bitcoin donations. I'm in.

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