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Author Topic: Wayback Machine  (Read 4215 times)

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Wayback Machine
« on: October 01, 2013, 02:17:17 PM »
I'm curious to learn what others think about the etiquette of using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to read old web pages that have been removed from the web.

The question that comes to my mind regards a website I visit occasionally where aspiring writers post essays for others to read.  The webmaster encourages readers to write to authors to thank them for sharing their work.  I actually do that, from time-to-time, if I read a particularly well-written piece.

Here's where the Wayback Machine comes in:  There is one author who has posted several essays in the past that I have appreciated, but I haven't gotten around to reading all of his work or thanking him for sharing.  Then last week I noticed that almost all of his essays have been removed from the website without explaination.  This weekend I used the Wayback Machine to read the rest of his essays on an old version of the website.

I'm thinking that it would be polite to thank the author for his work.  (I enjoyed most but not all of his pieces, but I think I'd just comment upon the ones I liked.)

But this is my question:  Would it be tacky or rude to comment upon the essays that have been removed from the current version of the website?  Is it creepy behavior (or perfectly proper) to use the Wayback Machine to read things that have been removed from current versions of websites?


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Re: Wayback Machine
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2013, 02:35:27 PM »
There's a very old saying where I come from. "Once you post something to the web, consider it to be out there forever."

No, I don't think there's anything wrong with you reading his essays, regardless of what website you found them on. If he specifically had his posts removed from the original website, he may be interested to know they are still out there... somewhere. Not that there is a whole lot he can do about it.

Anyway, I don't think it would be rude for you to comment to him. I wonder if you're worried that he'll be mad they're still available on the web and that he'll somehow direct that anger toward you. If he does, well, he's the rude one. But if you're anticipating that based on what you know about him, you might be better off just keeping mum.


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Re: Wayback Machine
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2013, 02:57:12 PM »
While I think its nice that you want to thank him for his work, I would just be glad you were able to access the stories to read and leave it that. 

Tea Drinker

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Re: Wayback Machine
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2013, 07:11:47 PM »
I don't think it's creepy to use the Wayback Machine, but whether I would comment on something I found that way would depend partly on content and partly on whether there was any explanation of why the original site was gone. In this case you have to go on content, since there's no explanation, except that it almost certainly wasn't a server crash, no longer being able to afford web hosting, or the like: either the author or the site admin decided to take them down.

So, for example, if these were personal essays I would hesitate--maybe he had an unpleasant conversation and decided he doesn't want to talk about that aspect of his life or past right now.

If the essays are political, maybe he's no longer sure he agrees with what he wrote. (A message saying "Hey, really cool essay, I really like how you explained what's wrong with Purple People Eating" might not go over well if the writer has since become a Purple People Eater.") One of my favorite authors, Ursula Le Guin, wrote "The trouble with print is it never changes its mind," in the context of a topic where she had changed her mind, and the opinions she no longer held were being quoted approvingly. Her previous ideas and opinions are still out there, of course, and the best she could do is note that she has thought about the topic and feels differently (or did at the point that the bit I'm quoting was published).

On the other hand, if several writers' essays have disappeared, I'd be more inclined to think it was the site owner's decision, not this writer's, and hence more likely to write to him about it.
Any advice that requires the use of a time machine may safely be ignored.


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Re: Wayback Machine
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2013, 09:54:16 AM »
I think that, if you choose to contact the author, you can simply mention that you read the essays "some time ago." You don't need to refer to  the Wayback Machine or how long it's been since you read the essays - just that you read and enjoyed them. Since the author is still on that website, I assume its simple enough to contact him/her and that s/he is still interested in hearing from readers.

If you were going to take issue with a point the author was making in a now-vanished essay, that would be a different matter, but I suspect simple appreciation would be fine.