Preserving the Personal Landing Page

In going through my CV on this very landing page this year I came across the same problem that so many of us digital preservationists deal with in our day-to-day professional lives: linked content was starting to get wonky. The Blog Posts section of my CV has a series of posts I put together for a former employer that had undergone a website redesign since I departed the organization. My posts were still up, not having succumb to bonified link rot, but the new styling of the website made the posts look a bit off and some images were already starting to break

Luckily I had an excellent resource at my disposal to help address the problem: Archive-It. The organization I worked for had been a member of the Archive-It sponsored Community Webs program and as a result I had spent a fair bit of time selecting and crawling websites related to the geographic region of the organization, including the website of the organization itself. As a result I had access to fully crawled, monthly snapshots of the organization website.

Instead of my blog posts looking more and more janky by the month (and almost certainly eventually breaking outright), I could instead share those posts as they were meant to be seen, with images still extant and formatted to look attractive in the CSS as it looked when I wrote them.

Recently while continuing to tweak my CV page, I realized that a number of other areas could benefit from a similar treatment, this time just using the standard Wayback Machine. Pretty much anything that was linked to could benefit by being converted into a link to a specific entry in the Wayback Machine rather than as a link to a live site, such as:

  • Landing pages that described my involvement in mentoring programs
  • Pages on organization websites listing awards or grants received
  • Conference websites that put my presentation or poster in the context of the larger event
  • Digital projects developed as part of professional service work

One of the big advantages here is being able to pick a moment in time to link to. Linking to an organizational website that lists all of the recipients for a given award is fine, and the content I want folks to see is in that page somewhere, but instead being able to link back to the 2020 version of that site where the award listing relevant to me is at the top of the list because it’s the most recent one is a far better situation.

This strategy even worked in some surprising ways. I was part of a statewide community of practice related to digitization whose WordPress website kept all the past meeting information on one big, long list. Not necessarily ideal if I’m trying to prevent folks from having to hunt for the data relevant to me. Instead I was able to pull up the org’s listserv archives which are all shared as basic HTML files. Using the Wayback Machine Chrome extension, you can do one-time crawls for any site you are currently viewing. It was incredibly easy to do a quick crawl on the listserv email related to the meeting that I was presenting at, and it was even lightning fast because all that was being crawled was a short page of un-styled HTML (example). The web archived listserv email then acts essentially as a conference landing page, providing context about when the event occurred and who else was presenting.

This strategy isn’t without downsides of course. Web archives via the Wayback Machine take a hot minute to load, and web crawls can be imperfect tools that may fail to grab an image for instance. Also, no organization or strategy is a perfect digital preservation solution and there are no guarantees that the Internet Archive will be able to preserve and share these web archives forever.

These cons I think are vastly outweighed by the fact that your landing page becomes far more durable and accurate to the moment in time to which you are referencing and gets closer to that “set it and forget it” vibe. This has been particularly handy as I’ve started to see changes occur in projects that I started but no longer have any control of; I don’t want to link people out to a version of a digital project that may have been totally overhauled by a different person, I want folks to see my own work as I intended it to be seen.

In the future I’m looking forward to factoring this work directly into updates as they occur on my CV and have a sneaking suspicion there are even more links to hunt down and swap out with web archives around this landing page.