Sunday night I transferred my Google Reader information to Feedly — with only hours to go, the long list of digital-communications-related sites I’d signed up to follow was safe. But it was clear that the same couldn’t be said of many of the sites themselves.
Feedly imported my list of feeds, you see, but it could only access those feeds that still existed. And, plenty no longer did: perhaps half of the sites I followed had stopped publishing somewhere along the line since I switched to Google Reader ca 2007. But those ghost sites were still archived in my Reader, so for a few more hours, I could track a few of them down.
Not surprisingly, the smaller blogs run by individual enthusiasts were hardest hit, though some publishing companies (National Journal) left quite a few corpses in their trail. Some blogs (like Australian blog Solidariti, last updated on May 20, 2009) stopped publishing because their authors moved on to better things, but other sites (National Journal’s “Under the Influence,” last updated June 5th, 2012, or Tech Daily Dose, which preceded it on October 22, 2010) were killed by higher-ups. A few had a final death announcement, often announcing a publishing “hiatus” (Technology Evangelist, January 1, 2011), while others simply stopped mid-stream (The Next Right, March 21, 2011, and Shake the Pillars || digital campaign innovation, October 24, 2012).
Several sites that looked dead turned out to have moved their RSS addresses or some such, like my friend Steve Urquehart’s blog and Publishing 2.0. But many were gone forever, like Solidariti or my friend Bill Beutler’s old Blog P.I. (in its early incarnations, complete with a mustachio’d Tom Selleck as its logo), whose content doesn’t seem to be archived online in any way. Excepting of course, their old archived posts, long-ago downloaded into my Google Reader list and now set to disappear in a few hours.
Life is fleeting, of course, and blogging is by its nature an in-the-moment practice. Still, it’s sad to see so many sites die unpreserved, their content perhaps stored at Archive.org, perhaps not. But the internet is vast and fickle, and a single decision (the death of Geocities! the pivoting of a publishing company!) can consign many hours of creative work to nothing. For those of us who live by our words and our images, the prospect is frightening…but really, it’s nothing new. Every artist in every age has had to confront the reality that what we create is an ephemeral flicker, our own little howl against the inevitable. That’s what makes it so damn urgent when we do it.