Over the past couple of days I’ve cleared through my Pinboard bookmarks, getting my “unread” count down from a ludicrous 1,000 or so to just six as of right now, and tagging or deleting the 200-odd untagged bookmarks.
I ran the “find dead bookmarks” command in Spillo this morning and got about 100. Some of those are entire sites going offline, including ones active fairly recently, one deleted despite posting a searing set of essays last May. One is a site that I knew had stopped publishing, after several years of great articles and interviews, but has now vanished from the web. (Thankfully I still have a cached copy; Pinboard’s archiving feature is absolutely worth paying for.)
One site, of an economics thinktank, fairly recently redesigned its site and its URL structure. It would have been a simple job to redirect the URLS, as the page portion of the URL remained the same, but instead they were left broken.
It was an interesting experience, rediscovering some interesting links from my 10 years of bookmarking (of varying intensity over that period). It was interesting also to see who was still around and who had gone, and who had decided to delete parts of their output.
When I moved this site off Tumblr in autumn 2015, and made it static, I redirected the URLs of the 50 posts I wanted to keep (since I don’t write much, this is about 50% of the current total; I didn’t republish some that I was particularly embarrassed by or were at that point entirely out of date and irrelevant). This couldn’t be done algorithmically, as I had to map an opaque number to a more traditional date-title URL, rather than just chopping out or rewriting part of the URL. It surprises me that people who otherwise take care over their website don’t do this. (After all, Cool URIs don’t change.)
And for those that have gone away, they’d put real time and effort into that writing, and now it’s entirely gone, except for wherever it’s cached online. Obviously people have reasons for pulling articles from the web, beyond simply not caring anymore. But for those that have simply stopped… does that work need to come down? I switched this site over to Hugo recently, which wasn’t a huge job (sorry if you saw items repeat in the RSS feed). Still a technical task, true, but we’re at a point now where creating a static version of a site that you can just throw up somewhere like S3 or GitHub is well within the capabilities of someone who’s already bought a domain and set up Wordpress with a custom theme.
It’s just sad to see people’s hard work vanish like this.