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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mummy I lost my MP3!

Maybe I should have a made a copy but I didn't and now its gone. I gave a talk on mobile development a while back and the hosts recorded it and put it up on an Higher Education institutional website to be shared with the world! Institutional websites are safe... they have persistent URLs, good archiving all that sort of thing! You would have thought so but, I recently referred to the URL in a paper due to be published soon and I was contacted to be told that my reference URL was no longer working. I checked the web site and everything had gone.

Weird I thought, but I soon discovered its not just my MP3 but all the speakers who spoke at this regular event. A real wealth of information on Web 2.0, mobile and multichannel innovation and experimentation in elearning all gone. Without notice to originators of the material everything had been removed by the institution - where to I don't know.

Now I was discussing this with Brian Kelly and he has been blogging a lot about the 'cloud' - the kind of out there web services like Gmail or Yahoo Maps we all increasingly use and the reluctance of institutional life to embrace these services. One of the arguments by institutions for example against allowing students or staff to use Google Mail or Hotmail instead of their official '.ac.uk' address is that there is no guarantee that these services are going to continue existing and they are 'unreliable'. My Google Mail account is one of the most reliable web services I have ever used and that was even when it was still in beta! But my MP3 safe on a publicly funded institutional web server is lost without notice or apology.

Nothing is guaranteed forever and we need to wake up to it. I need to start archiving my own talks in whatever format they come in, sure leave them on the 'official' channels too but be ready to 'plug the gap' when needed.

My MP3 problem shows to me that the argument that the 'cloud' is too unstable doesn't hold water (how's that for pushing a metaphor way too far!! :) because institutional systems are open to the same criticisms. Prove me wrong - anyone reading this never had the 'work' email go down for day or two with no real explanation or the institution shared calendar system stop working?

My solution to my MP3 problem will probably lie in the 'cloud' I'll find a suitable archiving host that I like and also keep a backup offline (like I should have done in the first place) and if that host disappears at least I will know about it.

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