Stepping out of Line (Wayback Texas)

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In Kenya, the founders also partnered with national archives such as Kenya Railways and the African Medical Research Foundation to source content. At one point, Kwetu. Net had a list of 47 partners listed on their site [ 19 ]. Access was available on the following basis.

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To secure content from producers and owners, there was a services-for-content system in place. For instance, a 30 percent subscription discount was applied to institutions that provided them with content [ 20 ].

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Similarly, Kwetu. At their peak, the site had a subscription base of 15 African and U. They also served a range of other institutions such as think tanks, embassies and foreign missions, civil society and donor agencies. In terms of functionality, the founding team built the site from scratch, including a search engine [ 21 ] and an A-Z index-tagging system, with a diverse range of tags.

This became extremely technically demanding. Extensive amounts of time would go into negotiating with the various content producers, uploading, curating, tagging and indexing the content to ensure ease of access and searchability. Over time, the demand for more content compounded this challenge. Even when the site reached upwards of one million manuscripts in its database, it became clear that it could not supply the demands for content put on it by its paying customers.

Furthermore at this point, demand was not coming from local and regional universities — primarily because of low penetration rates and high Internet costs — which stalled the spread of a localized user base. On top of the technical challenges, the primary motivation that led to Kwetu. Soon, the maintenance costs to keep it afloat — including paying the 30 correspondents connected to the site — exceeded the subscription revenues.

The founders were therefore compelled to divert their attention to income-generating projects, and eventually away from Kwetu. A one-day delay in paying for renewal constituted in the loss of kwetu. The site officially went off—line in , according to Nyamu, one of its founders. The original site including HTML, text and images is cached in the Wayback Machine, making it possible to view the skeleton of the old site. Although it no longer exists on the Internet, the content that had been meticulously curated is still in the hands of the founders.

The team, though now working on other ventures, is still passionate about what they had started and stated in interviews in the course of this research their interest in reviving the project. Despite the technical and financial challenges, they do not consider the site to be a failure.


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So what would it take to get Kwetu. The requirements to bring the site back would be primarily financial; that is, securing enough funding to keep the project sustainable. Whether a subscription model would still function in light of the Open Access movement in academia is not clear to these writers.

While founders, Nyamu and Ouko, indicate that they still have access to the content and maintain relevant connections with their provider networks, at the moment they are focusing their attention on private sector clients. In this case, a combination of technical, financial and human factors was involved. Referring to the list of common reasons for sites going dark presented above, at least three neglect, technical and financial apply here.


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One of the often overlooked aspects of Web preservation is the human time and energy it takes to keep Web sites alive, updated and functioning. All of the technical support fell to the original founders and immediate staff. Human oversight resulted in the domain name being lost, at which time, from the point of view of site visitors, it would have simply vanished.

Finally, in cases such as this where the content is still in a state of preservation by its owners, but remains dormant due to a lack of resources, what can be done to restore it? We return to this question in our conclusion. Online streaming of all full-length films was available without charge or geographic restrictions, making EFT an important repository and indeed a genuine public service:.

Internet service provider Enki Technologies handled the software, programs and file storage. Copyright permissions to the original films for redistribution were secured from these partners, which effectively made EFT a heritage film aggregator that took on the hosting and maintenance responsibility for the films.

Another intention behind the site was education and instruction in the field of film preservation. The original, full-length films together with additional film restoration resources, quizzes, puzzles, interviews and music composition notes comprised a valuable example of an interactive, public digital archive. When no music was available, Lobster would commission orchestral scores from music students not more than one film per musician , and pay for them.

Thus, the site as a whole became an important and much-loved resource with many valuable features. A message from on the official EFT Facebook informed users that the site has been temporarily closed for technical and financial reasons see Figure 3 but no specifics were given. The post promised that a new partnership may result in the site re-opening very shortly. By September , no new announcements had been made on the Facebook community or any other site regarding a re-launch despite the indication that users would be kept informed.

In response to this post and in other places around the Web, many former users questioned what had happened to the site and expressed their dismay that they had lost access to the videos. The full details of the financial and technical reasons for a prolonged outage have remained mostly unexplained, leaving these former site visitors in the dark. While the text and images making up the shell of the EFT Web site have been saved by the Internet Archive, the Wayback Machine has not saved copies of the actual films.

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Similar to Kwetu. Thankfully, that time has arrived. The films will be released weekly, so the full collection is not yet available. It took the sudden actions of just one person to wipe hard drives that would take down an entire Web site for nearly two years.

Following that event, a great deal of dedicated effort, cost, negotiation and even luck went into the restoration process to bring EFT back online. In addition, at the time of writing, the original URL europafilmtreasure. With some of the films online, but a continued lack of communication with the public both prior to and after the site was closed as well as in the lead up to its re-launch, the EFT case brings up some interesting gray zones that affect Web preservation.

Even as former users made continued reports about the site going dark and that they desperately wanted restored access to the films, lack of transparency led many to assume that EFT was not coming back. An anthropological case study approach proved effective in addressing both of the aforementioned cases. Tracking down the relevant parties required prolonged investigation and multiple attempts at personal communication.

While both Kwetu. Each instance has localized peculiarities and complications. The benefit of both cases, however, is that the content is still in existence. The stories behind the loss of access and possible restoration can be used to evaluate what methods might be employed to restore sites like these in the future, or, preferably, to prevent such losses before they happen. Restoring a single site is a challenging enough task, but when a collection of related Web sites goes dark, prevention strategies are much more difficult to specify and quantify as losses can potentially include an entire digital ecosystem of information.

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A challenge for archivists is being able to tell the difference between isolated cases and more dispersed problems that may entirely wipe out a whole significant portion of the internet with serious social implications. Hardware failure and technical neglect are not the only ways that online content can be lost.

The following case study focuses on conditions of political turmoil where external, and often non-digital, factors at play put the Web at risk every day. It shows that preventative backups are especially important when it is not always clear what information will become significant in the future.

Wherever there are volatile conditions on the ground, the Internet is susceptible to damage and loss. Human rights-related Web sites are therefore especially at-risk of going dark. In such cases, there are serious socio-political implications.

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When local news Web sites or cultural heritage organizations have their sites shut down during times of social upheaval, riots, or war, both daily communicative capabilities and the historical record can be irrevocably damaged. Unlike the two case studies above, the following study of at-risk sites in Sri Lanka from the perspective of a citizen archivist shows what can be learned from an expert who independently archives at-risk sites before they are lost forever.

He reflects on why it is important not to let this happen:. His expert knowledge of the political situation and key players in Sri Lankan human rights arena enable Hattotuwa to make pre-emptive and decisive steps towards archiving potentially vulnerable content with a higher success rate than relying on automated crawls.

At the first hint of vulnerability, he saves a copy of the site in question before it can be lost.