UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Blog Preservation and Plugins

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Jul 2011

Best Practices for Blog Preservation

A paper entitled “Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web” described best practices for exploiting services such as blogs which were hosted in the Cloud. The paper further developed guidelines initially outlined in  a paper on “Approaches To Archiving Professional Blogs Hosted In The Cloud” including advice on managing the closure of a blog:

Monitoring of technologies used: Information on the technologies used to provide the blog including blog plugins, configuration options, themes, etc. can be useful if a blog environment has to be recreated.

It should be noted that advice on managing blog hosted in the Cloud might also need to be applied to blogs hosted within the institution.  As an example we implemented the above recommendation for the IWMW 2010 blog. The final post on the blog was entitled Closing the 2010 blog. In this post we documented how the blog was used (numbers of posts; numbers of contributors; etc.) and the technologies used (the them used and details of WordPress plugins which had been installed). A year later we discovered how useful it was to have provided documentation on the plugins used in the blog.

The blog environment we used to host the IWMW 2010 blog a year ago had to be upgraded. We used this as an opportunity to provide a more robust environment for additional blogs to support IWMW events, including the IWMW 2011 event.

However after the upgrade we discovered that the WordPress plugins had reverted to the defaults, with additional content which had been embedded in the blog, including the video interviews which had been published on the blog, missing from the posts. I now recall that this isn’t the first time this has happened – following a WordPress upgrade on the JISC Inform platform the plugins and the theme used on the JISC PoWR were lost and the environment had to be recreated from memory.

However the final post published last year provided the following record of the plugins which had been installed:

Details of plugins used: Akismet, Buddy Press, BP Disable Activation, Google Analyticator, Lifestream, Lux Vimeo

We subsequently re-installed the Lux Vimeo plugin – but found that the videos failed to re-appear. It seems that loss of the plugin also resulted in losing the embed code, which included the address of the videos.

Fortunately each of the posts also included a direct link to the resource on Vimeo (as illustrated in the screen shot which shows a blog post for which the video has been embedded and one for which it is still missing).  We were therefore able to re-establish the embedded video – although we decided to do this using the Embed Object plugin since this seems to provide richer functionality (and we updated the final post so that we have documented these changes).

The need to include links to remote content in addition to embedding such content was described in a post which advised Don’t Just Embed Objects; Add Links To Source Too! In this case the advice was provided in order to enhance access to content on m0bile devices, in cases in which Flash-based embedding technologies was not supported.   We have now discovered another reasons for providing such links – embedding addressing into plugins way result in the address being lost if the plugin becomes unavailable.

Best Practices for Live Blogs

The advice we had developed for those who make use of blogs stated that when archiving a blog:

Monitoring of technologies used: Information on the technologies used to provide the blog, including blog plugins, configuration options, themes, etc. can be useful if a blog environment has to be recreated.

It seems that such advice should be followed for cases when blogs which will continue to be provided are hosted on a blog platform which may be upgraded.  And since all blog platforms are liable to be upgraded the advice provided for blog preservation purposes would appear to be applicable more generally.  We are therefore applying this advice for the IWMW 2011 blog and the About page for this blog has also been updated accordingly.

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