For a year or so the Invisible Adjunct weblog
has provided a forum for academics to (mostly) discuss issues relating to campus politics and working conditions in academia. Last March the anonymous author decided to leave the profession and sign off from her weblog
. The only problem is that over time a real community has gathered around that weblog, and those people clearly want to continue talking - as the 200-odd comments on the sign-off post attest.
I figured some of them would rather switch boats than go down with the sinking ship, so I created an Invisible Adjunct channel on the Internet Topic Exchange
to aggregate relevant posts from members of the community. Much to my pleasure the channel has been put to good use by interested parties: about a hundred posts have appeared on the channel so far.
But another threat is looming on the horizon - the IA is planning to take down the site a week from now
. This means all the content will vanish. The site hasn't been indexed by the Internet Archive
since June of last year. (Ironically, the last post that shows on the Wayback machine
is precisely about the loss of archives!) And the IA hasn't allowed mirroring.
Of course many participants wish to preserve the memory, but it is unclear who's calling the shots at this point. Who wrote the site? Granted, the IA wrote all the front page material by herself, hundreds of posts. But there are also thousands of comments in there that have been contributed by readers. A commenter raises the issue in those terms:
I believe the comments form the bulk of the site overall (correct me if I'm wrong), and that much of the value comes from the conversations that took place under IA's supervision. In some sense she's not the "author" of the site, but rather the caretaker of an online community.
I have no idea what's going to happen to that content, but I guess the moral here is "use caution before you invest significantly in a site that you don't control". A lot of commenters might now find themselves wishing they had commented on their own site so that their words wouldn't go down with the rest.