I’m starting to plan a new publication – a Handbook of Socio-technical Systems Engineering, which will be a series of short chapters plus extensive appendices which comment on and link to work that has been done in this area.
Like paper books, I want this to be an archival publication – that is, I want it to be accessible indefinitely, long after I’ve lost interest in looking after it. Unlike a paper book, someone interested won’t have their own copy so this means that I need to ensure that material is available for at least 10 and perhaps 20 years or more. As the links are an inherent part of the handbook, I don’t want them to break. I also don’t want to have to change the handbook if some underlying software gets updated or replaced.
So, of course, I started by googling for hints and tips on the best way to publish long-lifetime material on the web. And found nothing. Surely someone else has tried to do this?
My initial thoughts on this are:
1. The host of the web site needs to be someone who understands archival publication. I’ve tried my local University library and they may come up with something – but they don’t seem to have anything like this for the moment.
2. Paid-for hosting sites are risky – I might die and stop paying. Although, in such a situation, I wouldn’t be in a position to care about broken links. Or, the hosting site might go out of business, etc. long after I’ve stopped maintaining this.
3. It’s unwise to build the site using anything but static XHTML. If I rely on PHP, mySQL, etc. then new incompatible versions of this software might appear sometime in the future. While compatibility is promised, it doesn’t always work out that way (I have unreadable Powerpoint presentations from the 1990s). But for how long will this be maintained?
4. As far as possible, I need to copy material from links and maintain local copies because I simply cannot rely on external sites being available. I don’t know how practical this will be – I can probably maintain copies of papers that are referenced but certainly not dynamic web sites.
5. As far as browser compatibility is concerned, I need to build for the most standards-compliant browser, whatever that is (probably not Explorer but I haven’t used this for such a long time, I don’t really know)
6. Wikis should probably be avoided – too liable to spam and so too high maintenance.
Any advice in this area gratefully received.