Damn Those Hyperlinks That Rot In Cyberspace !
Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard, has written a fascinating article in the January 26, 2015 edition of the The New Yorker. Her subject, which interests and plagues every blogger, is archiving the Internet before the information vanishes into cyberspace.
If you have been reading this blog, or the other blog to which I contribute with my colleague Mike Hensley, California Attorney’s Fees, or any other blog, you are familiar with the problem. All the hyperlinks degrade over time and become useless. You click on a hyperlink, and you get an annoying message: “Page Not Found” (“link rot”). Or the page has been overwritten. Or the page has moved, and something else appears in its place (“content shift”). These are examples of “reference rot.”
This problem should be of particular concern to attorneys, because an astounding number of legal footnotes relying on web addresses now rely on invalid addresses, a problem that includes footnote references in SCOTUS opinions.
The sheer petabyte volume of Internet information makes the archiving problem a Sisyphean task. There are, however, some constructive efforts to ameliorate the problem.
There is, of course, the famous internet archive “Wayback Machine,” a valuable Internet resource for people searching for old information on the Internet. “Wayback Machine” alludes to Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s fictional “WABAC Machine”, allowing time travel through Peabody’s Improbable History, a feature of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
There is also a nifty patch, currently in Beta development phase, for the legal footnote problem. Perma.cc has been developed by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab as a way to create a permanent link (“permalink”) for legal footnotes. Perma.cc is powered by various libraries, and now used by the Michigan Supreme Court, as well as the Harvard Law Review. A Perma.cc account allows you to “create links to archived versions of web pages cited in your work.” Cool!
Even Perma.cc won’t guarantee that the permalink it creates to reference a source will last as long as a diamond. However, Perma.cc does claim that a permalink will last for two years, with the possibility of renewal, and that it may last longer for a person, such as a legal librarian, who is given “vesting rights.”
I note that most of the links on my blog are to newly filed California appellate opinions. Those links become stale after a few months. However, if the case is of lasting interest, you should be able to find it on LexisNexis, on Westlaw, or on Google Scholar with the case information provided in my post.
HAT TIP to Deborah Tint, librarian, artist, and Wonder Woman fan, who pointed me to Jill Lepore’s article. Professor Lepore is also the author of the wonderful new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
QUERY: How long will the links on this page last?