- Laziness: I will do anything to work less.
- Impatience: The waiting, it makes me crazy.
- Hubris: I can make this computer do anything.
I can buy into those… Whilst also knowing (from experience) that any of the above can lead to a lot of, erm, learning.
For example, whilst you might think that something is definitely worth automating:
the practical reality may turn out rather differently:
The reference has (currently) disappeared from the Wikipedia page, but we can find it in the Wikipedia page history:
The date of the NiemanLab article was
So here’s one example of a linked reference to a web resource that we know is subject to change and that has a mechanism for linking to a particular instance of the page.
Academic citation guides tend to suggest that URLs are referenced along with the date that the reference was (last?) accessed by the person citing the reference, but I’m not sure that guidance is given that relates to securing the retrievability of that resource, as it was accessed, at a later date. (I used to bait librarians a lot for not getting digital in general and the web in particular. I think they still don’t…;-)
This is an issue that also hits us with course materials, when links are made to third party references by URI, rather than more indirectly via a DOI.
I’m not sure to what extent the VLE has tools for detecting link rot (certainly, they used to; now it’s more likely that we get broken link reports from students failing to access a particular resource…) or mitigating against broken links.
Bots help preserve link availability in several ways:
- if a link is part of a page, that link can be submitted to an archiving site such as the Wayback machine (or if it’s a UK resource, the UK National Web Archive);
- if a link is spotted to be broken (header / error code 404), it can be redirected to the archived link.
One of the things I think we could do in the OU is add an attribute to the OU-XML template that points to an “archive-URL”, and tie this in with service that automatically makes sure that linked pages are archived somewhere.
If a course link rots in presentation, students could be redirected to the archived link, perhaps via a splash screen (“The original resource appears to have disappeared – using the archived link”) as well as informing the course team that the original link is down.
Having access to the original copy can be really helpful when it comes to trying to find out:
- whether a simple update to the original URL is required (for example, the page still exists in its original form, just at a new location, perhaps because of a site redesign); or,
- whether a replacement resource needs to be found, in which case, being able to see the content of the original resource can help identify what sort of replacement resource is required.
Does that count as “digital first”, I wonder???