Thursday 10 February 2011

Deleting websites.

The BBC have said they’re getting rid of hundreds of websites as a cost-cutting measure, and it’s predictably produced reactions of horror, and accusations of vandalism.

Ben Goldacre discussed it here, and I added this comment:
Delete! What is it with this need to keep everything? OK, keep stuff there's a reason to keep, but why the compulsion to photograph everything, record everything, backup everything. A primal fear of the finite, of death, I guess. 
It was a bit flippant – coming from tendency to be contrary when everyone seems to be in agreement – but there was a serious point behind it, and I probably ought to (try to) explain myself.

Here’s a few bullet points:
  • If we have too much we have nothing. We only know anything by abstraction. This is the bigger issue behind ‘information overload’. If we are overwhelmed by information it ceases to be information at all.
  • The map is not the territory. We know through maps, we live in territories. Once we have passed through the territory, it is gone.
  • The past forms who we are today. We can’t change that, and it seems to me that part of the desire to keep the past stems from regrets. “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, but we learn from history through the abstractions, the maps, the stories about history.
There are counter-arguments, of course. Here's a couple:
  • Maybe many of the websites are maps, rather than the territory. 
  • Keeping the websites is keeping an archive so that people can, in future, create new maps.
But I still maintain that we shouldn't automatically assume that deleting anything is bad. We need to think it through.

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