Sunday, October 22, 2006

So NLB is archiving Singapore websites...

The day after The Straits Times carried an article on the NLB's web archive project, I received this email from mr brown (quoted here with permission):
And talkingcock.com and mrbrown.com haven't met the "deeply cultural to Singapore" criteria yet? Hahahaha! Do listen to today's mrbrown show! We try to be more deeply cultural to qualify, haha!

It was his tongue-in-cheek response to the ST article (Oct 19, 2006, "Library board to archive local websites"). In particular mr brown and friends were poking fun at the fact that sites like the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Support Group and the Singapore Magicians Network have been included in the archives while, in response to the question about including local satirical websites talkingcock.com and mrbrown.com, the appointed NLB spokesperson was quoted as saying they were "not ruled out" and would be archived "if they are deemed 'deeply cultural' to Singapore".

In their highly entertaining 30minute podcast, mr brown has called for an emergency meeting. He's concerned about not being considered "deeply-cultured" for inclusion to the NLB's Web Archive project. They make the inevitable comparision with the talkingcock.com and mrbrown.com sites with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome support group and the Singapore Magicians Network.

They also asked, "Who archives the Archivers?"; even the email address for the public to recommend websites for archival, 'was@nlb.gov.sg' wasn't spared:
- Hello, may I know what is the email address to recommend a website?
- Was at NLB dot GOV dot SG
- OK, then was what is the email address now?
- I told you -- Was at NLB dot GOV dot SG...

Nothing is safe from these guys -- nothing!

The cast of the show later share some insights into their views about the library service in general. 'mr brown' reveals a "secret confession" about using a particular part of the library premise...

I'm not a regular listener to mr brown's podcast show. I'm sure they are all entertaining but I think this must be one the more hilarious ones. But the wry Singaporean humour aside, I think he and his cast have asked some valid points about the nature of web archival projects.

Basically their questions centred on the archival policy of the service. They asked how a website is considered for archival; what is considered "Cultural" and what is "local". Perhaps this is something the NLB might want to clarify for the public's benefit -- the selection policy and criteria for the Web Archive.

In his show, mr brown also said something like "wanting to be archived so badly" for prosperity's sake. He imagined having his children discover this site in the archives. He has probably articulated what most Singaporeans might want -- and that is for their work (any work) to be deemed as worthy for being preserved and accessed by future generations. That, to me, says alot about the value of the web archival project.

According to the project Copyright/ Disclaimer statement (as of Oct 2006):
National Library Board (NLB) is traditionally known to collect published materials for preservation as the nation's published heritage. This includes online and electronic publications of lasting national, historical, research and cultural value.

Therein lies the challenge -- what is "historical" and of "research/ cultural value" is subjective. And there are finite resources (time being a resource as well). That being said, I would think that websites and blogs are more easily archived than print materials.

Maybe as awareness and the need for the Singapore Web Archive grows, we might see a symbiotic partnership develop between Singaporeans (particularly those active in the Singapore Blogosphere) and the NLB . For instance, in addition to the Web Archive managed by the NLB, we might also see private efforts for another one. The difference for the latter is that it is primarily managed by interested Singaporeans, who will set and execute its own web archival policy (e.g. for sites not included in NLB's archives). NLB's support in the latter could be in terms of partial funding and/ or web hosting.

In other words, there could be a two-pronged approach towards web archival of Singaporean online resources. Maybe a registered society initiated, managed and funded by Singaporeans, working hand-in-hand with the NLB... hmm, something to think about.

OK, in case you missed the link to the podcast episode in question, here's the link (the trackback URL here).

And mr brown wants to let the NLB know that they still love them. In my follow-up correspondence with him, he assured me that they are "deeply cultural and transparent one!" so I'm confident I think he wouldn't mind sharing this part of his reply:
Eh, you must appreciate the fact that I rolled Colin Goh and wife out of bed (they is be now big-time award-winning movie directors leh) to come to the studio to record this little unscheduled podcast, ok?

We read the column in the morning, got Colin on the phone, he came down to record in the evening, and I stayed up to 12 midnight in the office editing that show and yanking a show that was already scheduled to go live, all just for the NLB leh! Hahahahaha!

Well I'm not sure if the NLB would start archiving talkingcock.com or mrbrown.com, but I sure would like to have that particularly podcast episode included, for effort and entertainment value! LOL.


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3 comments:

  1. How is this different from what archive.org does (and has been doing for 10 years now)?

    And 'WAS' looks wonky on both FF and Safari on my machine :(

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  2. Good to see that NLB is moving with the times. I just hope that some of the many S'pore blog-sites get archived also.

    I've blogged something about the State Library of Sarawak today. Have a look if you got 2 seconds: http://blueblueheeler.blogspot.com/

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  3. A late response to Wandie: From what I understand, the intent is no different from what archive.org (or WayBack Machine) has been doing. Perhaps the difference is a narrower focus on Singapore sites and blogs. See this post.

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