PRESERVING THE PAST . . . . FOR THE FUTURE
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR AYRSHIREHISTORY.COM??
There is a question with a thousand answers.
It is JULY 2009 as I write these few lines. Where will we be in another 10 years time with ayrshirehistory.com?
Independent archives such as ayrshirehistory.com simply do not receive any official recognition in this country from the scallywags that make the decisions, so what happens now? We have to come up with some kind of a contingency plan. There is far too much important historical data on line here to just simply forget about it now, some of it is already no longer available due to deaths etc.
It must be realised that this web site is really a one man operation nowadays. There were more people actively involved some years ago, but unfortunately the interest seems to have gone. Maybe the initial idea of a web site seemed exciting and new, when the technology was described as such.
An archive such as this, with only one person left at the helms is on a road to nowhere. This has been demonstrated to me recently with the death of an old school pal, and active "member" of ayrshirehistory.com. I use the term member loosely, because there are as yet no "members". People came and went as they pleased, appearing when they perhaps had something to offer the project. We were simply a group of people striving for the same final goal, which is preservation of old photos and images of Ayrshire from years gone by. That late member had his own projects which unfortunately died with him. He had no contingency plans.
I also have no contingency plan for ayrshirehistory.com. I had hoped by now to have been able to archive the collections on some kind of permanent government server of some kind. Yet here we are in 2009, and I could link to a number of so called official sites that are still showing small thumbnails and poor quality low res images on their web pages, which is a rather futile attempt at producing a real usable archive!! (One particular on line collection is a shining example, where the resolution comes nowhere near that from a 1 mega pixel camera, or even the original 640 by 480 digital cameras!! The sad part is that the collection COULD offer stunning quality). By official I mean in the sense of being funded by government at one level or another. I could bet you that a lot of money would have changed hands for these projects, unlike ayrshirehistory.com which runs on a real shoestring. Sadly that shoestring is more often than not only hanging in there by a few old worn threads!!
My long term plan is to have a link to the full res scan of many of the images on this site. It is the only way forward. But I may need more web capacity to do the job properly.
So where does this project go from here. If there are no official agencies that could guarantee the continuity, I feel the only way forward is by forming some kind of a group of people who are ideally looking forward to a long life!! I thought maybe a group of six to ten, and as one perhaps loses interest, moves away, or dies etc, they can be replaced by another equally passionate person. The idea would be to make sure the web space is paid for every year, and that any service providers that vanish overnight, can be dismissed and the site moved to another hosting company relatively quickly.
This is really not all that difficult, and really not expensive nowadays. Web space can be bought for a fraction of what it first cost in the early days of ayrshirehistory.com. I took the domain "ayrshirehistory.eu" last year, which cost about £10 for the first year for the domain along with 3 gig of web space. I expect the price for the second year to be about £20 - £25. It is that simple now, and inexpensive to keep up.
So this is NOT a request for money at this time. Not at least till I myself take my last breath, and the survival of this archive is up in the air.
REQUIREMENTS: Able bodied individuals who can be trusted, (at my own discretion) to keep sealed envelopes in a safe place so that on my demise, the ftp details and billing details can be taken over. They don't really have to be kept secret from the half dozen or so trusted individuals. I would prefer to be able to see them being able to work the ftp software to be able to at least update the site.
I will also require a few extra hard drives with the complete archives aboard, preferably for each member.
So I would recon 6 - 10 individuals would do the trick, and I will compile a simple constitution. This would be written much in the same way as a traditional "club". The only difference is that I am not signing away my own work, or putting it to the vote, to end up being voted out of the group. No, not that kind of constitution!!! In actual fact no one will really have do do anything till I either die or become unable to continue for unforeseen reasons. I am obviously hoping that day is many many years away, but one never knows the minute!!
I need half a dozen, or maybe even up to a dozen dedicated individuals. It would probably be more successful using volunteers from the immediate area who have some passion for their villages. I would also consider any long term local clubs to be one member, eg a Burns Club, or historical group.
AYRSHIREHISTORY.COM - WHO ARE WE?
FOUNDER - 1998
Kenny Baird, Main Street, Sorn
TIMELINE OF AYRSHIREHISTORY.COM - THE SAGA OF KEEPING ON LINE
My humble apologies if I appear to be somewhat contemptuous with regards to the following long tale. Over the years I have had to put up with all sorts of negativity that you would not expect when trying to create an archive that is a benefit to all. I have had to deal with the people who control the access to their servers, which have been used as a hosting service. They also regularly liked pulling the plug. Then they play their silly little games to pretend to look good, by offering another year of so called support. (Term used very loosely)
In all these years of ayrshirehistory.com I have had to deal with control freaks, weirdo's, ignoramuses, people who would rather see a project fail than succeed, people who would rather drag their heels than assist, and just a whole bunch of people who for different reasons have been so rude and unhelpful it is unbelievable. I have also had to deal with snobbery in the extreme.
On the other hand, while during the donkey work on the content of the site I have also met and dealt with a larger number of warm, genuine friendly people, who appreciate the good work that has gone into this preservation group. Such is the life of a digital archivist!!!
I have produced a time line of what reads almost like a joke of the saga of trying to keep this site on line. It reads something like this. (Shortened version)
Buy my first scanner when they become cheap enough to be affordable. Begin scanning a few old postcards of Sorn that my old pal Chris has. Fall in with a version of Netscape 3 I think it was, which had an editor. Also messing with some clumsy software called HOTDOG, which was also a freebie from a computer magazine. Began the first very basic web pages. Very very poor and amateurish designs, using all the silly colours of that rainbow, simply because I could, and because it was all new technology!! (no www address on the side of every delivery van and corner shop in those days)
Ask the girls at Carnegie Library Cyber Centre if they have a server. Yes was the answer. Would they upload a small archive of old photos of Sorn area. That was cool, and the site remained there for a couple of years. Support was simple. Updates were made on floppies or cds, taken to the library and uploaded.
A similar very basic and early version of the site was also placed on line at East Ayrshire Council. It was all very cloak and dagger trying to keep this updated, and at the end up, I had to stay exclusively with South Ayrshire, who I used to visit at the Carnegie Library, and simply update the files. I don't recall now, the circumstances surrounding the dodgy support from East Ayrshire, but their hosting certainly never lasted long.
I still felt that a local archive should be supported/ hosted on the local authority's servers. Web space was much much more expensive and difficult to set up that the cheap and easy to use fool proof systems of today.
"Charming fellows", I think to myself.
WANT A JOB ARCHIVING?? - Don't come to Scotland. It is strictly jobs for the boys here. I became sick and tired of various people in their own nice little positions telling me from day one that I should be doing archive work for a living.
"Yes", I think to myself, "Give me a job then or hold yer silly tongue".
I followed this route, rather foolishly I might add, on pretence and lies. I was even encouraged to attend silly meetings till I became thoroughly pissed off with time wasting individuals sending me on wild goose chases, at my own expense I hasten to add. I was sent to talk to one character after another, yet I never ever was introduced to anyone with any proper clout.
I even met some joker for lunch to discuss a full time project around this time. He hadn't the grace to even get back in touch with me after this initial meeting. I can't remember his name, but he was something to do with Paisley University. I had been in e mail contact and he claimed to be keen to assist by hosting this ayrshirehistory.com web site on the University servers, which was a great idea in my book. We had been kicked off line by South Ayrshire, and were still off, so I had high hopes of this guy coming up with the goods. But again, he turned out to be only another time waster. At that time, the work I had completed looked very like some of his early written proposals, and it was suggested to me that we had "stolen his thunder". I wasn't sure about this, but I certainly knew I never heard from him again!! I never ever found out any more on this matter either.
CHASING MY TAIL - I didn't just buy the T shirt. I bought the whole damn factory!!
Began to think it was a crime to try and better myself, and to try and get a job that I could really get torn into and create one massive permanent digital archive. I was prepared to put my back into the job, but in the end, I seemed to be torn between those who wanted the jobs for themselves, and those who were in a position to discuss projects, but were completely in over their heads with regards to the technology, and could not grasp even the basic concept and importance of digital archives.
June 2001: The Ayrshire Electronic Community came along. A fair mouthful for a name, unless shortened to AEC. They accepted the site and decided to host it on their servers, arranged proudly by Councilor Smith. I was somewhat suspicious at first because of any connection with EAC (East Ayrshire had also tried and failed miserably to support the web site in the early days), but as it turned out, the AEC were a great bunch, and easy to deal with, technically competent and into the bargain, they were generally nice guys and gals.
I had rather hoped that the guy from Paisley would have been as genuine as his word. I preferred the idea of a permanent .ac.uk address. I almost dragged my heels with the AEC offer, thinking that the Paisley option would have been the way to go. The AEC even had a hyphen (-) in their address. This is a no no, for the simple reason that the public in general do not know what a hyphen is, if for example the web site was being dictated by word of mouth to someone. Should I take one bag of sweets today, or wait and "maybe" be given two tomorrow?? A bird in the hand, and all that. For once I made a correct decision. The AEC were there, and the server or at least a fast access point was only a few miles away, in Cumnock.
The AEC was a great success for a time, but after a couple of years, I had the embarrassing experience of walking in with an update one day as a poor chap I dealt with, was dressed up like a penguin, and had to sit around sweating nervously in another room and wait to be interviewed for his own job, by his own workmate. What a stupid and humiliating charade.
This did not seem to be a very nice place to work by this time. No one seemed to have real full time job prospects or decent contracts. The good folks that had these jobs were always very helpful and efficient as regards support for ayrshirehistory.com though. I felt that for them it was a dead end job, and that the plug somehow seemed to already have been pulled. How they kept up their enthusiasm for the job till the end, I don't know. I couldn't have.
Became involved in the Gala Day celebrations at Mauchline, by assisting with holding Mauchline's first display of old photos held in the village for many years. Such was the success of this, that the doors remained open for an extra week by appointment with "Davie" in the museum. While looking for new material for this project, we were obliged to apply in writing to the Carnegie Library in Ayr (as opposed to a verbal agreement on the phone).
In these paragraphs I refuse to use their claim on the sign above the door - "Public Library".
Assisted by Gordon Cunningham, I had arranged to go to the Carnegie Library to scan some old Mauchline material that they held in South Ayrshire, for whatever reason. Gordon had his laptop, and I had the scanner. We set up, and began scanning, and bothering no one. After a time some kind of a rude obnoxious woman came in, kicking up a stink about scanning material that we shouldn't be. The assistant who handed us the Mauchline folder and let us get on with it had no problems with our presence.
"You are even using our electricity to plug in your scanner", says the brain of Britain, as though the threepence it probably cost to run the scanner and PC for an hour was coming out of her pocket.
"You don't say Sherlock", I thought to myself. "How far off the planet is this one?"
In the end we were not allowed to even scan a photo of Poosie Nansie's from around 1870 incase "it might be copyright". So here was some woman with obvious learning difficulties that was looking after somebody's proverbial grandfather's old photos, loaned or donated in good faith to the libraries. The name PUBLIC LIBRARY above the door caught my eye on the way out, and I recall thinking that old Andrew Carnegie would have spent his money much more wisely than this if he knew how the term PUBLIC LIBRARY was going to be abused to such extremes in future years. I should really have made an official complaint about that serious case of PMT.
With regards to the exhibition at Mauchline, I couldn't believe the success. I still have the guest book as a keep sake of that very successful time. The museum was bursting at the seams on a daily basis at that time. Yet one jumped up university type woman, who incredibly was in charge of the museums at that time had not even the common courtesy to admit this at a meeting of some kind that I was in attendance. She boasted about the increased attendance at the Burns House Museum that summer, as though East Ayrshire Council were exclusively responsible for the crowds. I was pleasantly surprised by unexpected comments from a well respected local Burns Club man about the fact there had been a local exhibition on at the time. This ignorant female still refused to take that into account during her ramblings. Of course she was only a "jobsworth" to use a modern term, and had no real interest in where she worked. She soon moved on, no doubt to create havoc elsewhere in the country.
I have been asked by people who run archive buildings to donate additional material I may come across on my travels. Offers to grab poor old Willie's glass slides and negatives have come from many sources over the years. Sometimes even ridiculously silly offers from out of the area. To add insult to injury, one suggestion even came from a local man directed towards selling his glass to an Edinburgh outfit!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I detested being a witness to someone trying to take advantage of an elderly man who was approaching 80 at that time.
If I had a substantial collection, I would be very very reluctant to donate/ lend to any museum that couldn't guarantee 100% complete public access. Far less would I wish that collection to be taken out of the area which the collection features on most of it's plates, probably never to be seen or heard of again.
PUBLIC ACCESS means allowing anyone to make a copy, hi res scan, or whatever and to use how they see fit. (Perhaps within the confines of non commercial use) That is the reason material is donated in the first place. The whole idea of donating/ lending material to a museum/ library is for the sole purpose of continuous public access in the future. It is not for any government body to try and claim copyright, or to charge for access, or worse, not allow use of the material that was loaned / donated to them in good faith in the first place. Why do some museums not allow photos? The curators are only custodians. The items were donated in the first place for public consumption.
If I was a relative of a donor of a collection, I would insist in taking the collection back into private hands again if these people continually abuse their positions of trust and abuse the copyright laws. This really is a disgusting dishonour to the memory of the life of the original donor.
who donates material to ayrshirehistory.com is doing so with the knowledge
that their images are being used on a free to view public web site for
June 2005 - AEC closed, despite the initial large investment with public money.
I often wonder where all the equipment, including A3 scanners, multimedia projectors etc etc from the AEC went??
Web support from all the little community groups that had been encouraged to create web pages in the first place were transferred to some kind of a mickey mouse outfit up the coast somewhere. This mob decided not to allow more than one update per month!!!! Into the bargain, they couldn't or wouldn't set up a basic FTP so I could update easily from the "ayrshirehistory.com office". I am unsure if the guys paying their bills (the taxpayer) were aware of their unhelpful attitude.
None of the councilors were anywhere to be seen when the AEC closed it's doors. Oddly I had been told only a few months before by Councilor Smith's son in a pub one night that he was going to make ******* sure his father would take ayrshirehistory.com off line. I complained the very next day to some English spoken councilor at his early Saturday surgery, so was probably still howling with the beers from the night before. He claimed there were no such plans to remove the web site. In hindsight, here was another person who obviously was having trouble telling the difference between fact and fairy stories. The web site was as good as off line when it was between "proper" hosts.
Going through a period of despair with the cowboy outfit the council set us up with. Fed up humming along to Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive. Despite only one year's grace with this John Wayne outfit after the Ayrshire Electronic Community were disbanded, a letter arrived to say that they were pleased to announce (I bet they were - jingle jingle) that the ayrshirehistory.com web site was to be given another year's grace, and then support (again term used loosely) would be withdrawn. (I do wonder how much money changed hands between that company and the people paying the bills, who were of course the taxpayers? I doubt very much if it was a tenner a year!!)
This additional hosting was a crafty move giving the various web projects another couple of years. The original people that set up the AEC at the taxpayers expense, would have long since moved on, and there was no one to take the responsibility of pulling the plug from under them. Stealth I think they call it nowadays. Politicians still have the neck to ask me for votes as well!!! Strangely, I gave up voting just around that time and have never darkened the doorstep of a polling station since. I never will unless the attitudes of politicians in general change dramatically.
It looked like I would have to pull the plug eventually on the archive. Web space provided by 2006 from companies like Virgin and AOL amounted to a massive 10 meg!! The archive was about 550 meg!! Web space for this amount of desired capacity still was not cheap. My new pal from Paisley Uni had long since made himself scarce.
Enter the late Gordon Cunningham. Gordon had a large amount of unused web space with his ISP, and offered it free of charge. That kind offer was taken up, and became ayrshirehistory.org. I was unsure how permanent this would have been, for example if he had changed Internet Service Providers, but at least I could update easily via FTP.
So for a time, the most up to date archive was ayrshirehistory.org, while the .com address remained stagnated on the servers of the cowboy shower. But luck was to change.
Early 2007 - I won a competition, and won £100 quid's worth of web support. Lucky white heather or what..!! Not that it mattered that I was the only one that entered the competition!!! Finally here was a company which seems decent and reasonable to reinstate ayrshirehistory.com to it's own web space and domain.
After the first year I was to be charged a modest 30 quid a year for unlimited web space (within reason). This was the best deal I had been offered up to that time. A permanent company, so I thought, and so long as I made sure it was paid every year, permanent web space for other web sites as well. (The initial offer was for free unlimited web space with these chaps, but then they discovered I did not have a simple 5 page web site, so there was some back pedaling went on!!)
Search engines start finding and indexing the new site nicely.
2008 - Renewal of ayrshirehistory.com due. Sponsor claims he wishes
to still be involved at least at web space hire level, but fails to
pay bills. Web site almost went off line again, but for chance communication
with web host firm saying outstanding bill was not paid by sponsor.
Made sure it was paid, and old sponsor's logo removed from the front
This company had certainly been too good to be true after all. It remains unknown if this disappearance was a result of death, illness, bankruptcy, jail, alien abduction, sex change, mother-in-law visiting, or sheer incompetence. Wait a few weeks incase there is work being done on the server, but still unable to contact the web hosting company, and even the company's own web sites all vanished overnight.
Realise the errors of my ways when allowing someone else to take control of the domain name. This had been the case from day one in fact. At the time it seemed convenient to allow web hosting company to take care of the domain as well. It is always easy to be clever afterwards.
ayrshirehistory.eu had to be taken as a temporary back up measure. This has been running now since possibly around September 2008. So at the end of the day the hosting is now going to be twice the price for keeping the two domains going. Because of all the messing around, GOOGLE has still not really found the site, and indexed it the way it once had.
Tried to retake ayrshirehistory.com many times, by trying to get an auth id out of the domain company who I suspected previous hosting company had dealt with. This proved a nightmare. In the end I was hit by brick walls, illiterates, and simple machine derived replies to e mails. I had no option but to wait till May 2009 when the domain registration ran out!!! But even that wasn't good enough. There was a 40 day grace period, another 20 or 30 days when an expensive offer would have secured the domain, (money always seems to talk), a week of deletion period, till finally on 21st July 2009 the domain became available again in the public "domain". (Awful pun)
Worried someone else may have been watching the domain, I am keen to wind this up ASAP. I had possibly made the mistake of waiting till the following day's e mails came in to see what the new hosting company are going to do re me having already paid them to transfer the domain, and hire web space. I e mailed them to say the address I paid for in December is now available. I was on a help chat to someone whose competence I was unsure of!! If I lost the domain to someone else overnight, it wasn't for the want of trying!! To be honest I was half waiting on some other unscrupulous owners of other similar domains to jump on the bandwagon. This would have been perfectly legal and above board, but morally - well judge for yourself.
Next day I seem to be dealing with foreigners that can't even read English on a technical support chat, and can not it seems answer simple questions. Either that it may have been a silly machine derived response. I kept asking questions and my previous e mails were pasted back at me about auth ids that were not now required.
But, the final part of the long story is this. At lunchtime on 22nd July I was in touch with a person with the unlikely name of Peter. He has reclaimed the domain. BRA-VO for Peter. And again the domain ayrshirehistory.com comes up on line as taken. Once again by myself!!
SAME OLD SAME OLD - The domain is once again tied in with web space from a hosting company. What do I do?? What if the current company go for a fall. It is probably better taking a domain on a per year basis in this respect. Can I protect the domain? Can I ask for an auth id in advance just incase? Who do I ask. Another machine?? Who knows?
It may be a useful point, maybe not, the fact that the ayrshirehistory.com server is not in the UK now, therefore we are technically a foreign web site, as far as the UK goes.
I hope I haven't bored you with this long winded story of how we keep ayrshirehistory.com's head above water. Trust me when I say it really is the shortened version!!!
TO SUM UP - There you have it. It may look as though during some years there has not been much work done here at ayrshirehistory.com, but as you see from the work going on in the background, it has been no picnic. And to at last have the desired .com address back is such a relief. It doesn't really matter or have any effect on the content of the site whatsoever.
It simply has that "dot com" ring to it.