Earlier this year, I read (and raved about) Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore. One of the obvious realizations when reading this book is that today we have little first-source material of the average person’s life from this era — and especially little of it from women. It’s only because of Jane’s famous brother that her writing has survived — and through that correspondence, we can learn so much.
That seems to be a theme for me, this year: I’ve been thinking a lot about how we document and preserve information — stories, photos, videos, etc. — online, whether for ourselves (ooh, the cloud), to share with family and friends (social media), or for posterity. I was first drawn to the web, 20 years ago, as cheaper means of communication… but like so many others, have realized the wealth of history we’re documenting as well. It’s important to me that we preserve that history… because, even though we think the Internet never forgets, it does.
So, when the good folks at BlogHer approached me about participating in this year’s 10th anniversary conference, I thought this would be the perfect subject to talk about. Except I’m not talking… I’m running a Geek Bar instead! This means that I’ll be helping bloggers who are interested in hands-on learning and help on how to preserve their online content. This post is a short summary of some of the material I expect we’ll review and resources we’ll need to reference, mostly for WordPress users (non-developers). Whether you’re at my session or not, you may find this information useful and you’re welcome to contribute your own! (I’ll update this post later with anything else we cover.)
Backing up your blog
If you’re blogging on a free or paid service, learn about what backups they’re creating and whether or not you can get access to them. If you’re paying for hosting and running your own blog, add a backup subscription service or set up your own backup solution.
- For WordPress: VaultPress, Backup Buddy, and loads of other plugins.
- If you’re looking for something that will (likely) outlive you, submit your site to the Internet Archive for archiving (via the “save page now” form). Make sure your web page templates or robots.txt do not include NOARCHIVE.
Better broken links
Nobody likes getting a 404 (page not found)… and they’re not good for search engines or archiving tools, if you want them to get your content! Help ‘em out:
- Run a link checker service to find broken links.
- Install a link checker plugin for WordPress.
- Add the Internet Archive’s 404 handler to your 404 pages to help folks find archived content.
Moving and taking down content
If services go offline, you choose to switch providers or domains, or you simply choose to take content offline, you’re going to want folks (and search engines) to know.
- Familiarize yourself with the HTTP status codes. Here’s a quick review of the most relevant ones:
- 200 OK – this is what you want folks to get, in addition to your content
- 301 Moved Permanently – if you’re moving between services/URLs, you want this to be the redirect type
- 302 Found or 307 Temporary Redirect – if you’re having momentary issues and want to send readers somewhere else for a short time
- 404 Page Not Found – the one we don’t want people to get
- 410 Gone – what you want to send when you’ve taken something down and don’t ever intend for it to come back
- If your site runs on Apache, learn about Redirect and Alias directives which you can set in your .htaccess file.
- Yes, there are WordPress redirect manager plugins, too.
Solutions for all of your online content
What about your Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram pics, and other content on third-party sites? You can save those, too!
- There are IFTTT recipes for backing up almost anything.
- Join the IndieWeb POSSE! (Publish (on your) own site, syndicate elsewhere.)
- FYI, the US Library of Congress is archiving your public tweets.