I got to thinking in the shower the other day that we’ll be needing the concept of the WholeHuman sooner rather than later. WholeHumans have no permanent embellishments on the skin or holes pierced in the skin; have had no parts of the body, including from the sexual organs, deliberately removed; and have not had surgery to alter their natural appearance. They have no permanently attached artificial physical appendages; and they don’t contain any embedded physical engineering equipment. WholeHumans don’t have any embedded chips or other computer equipment, or software that connects them to any digital networks. WholeHumans have not had their DNA adjusted to enhance their capabilities or appearance. WholeHumans are simply people who are as they were born and who have developed naturally. They may have been born with disabilities, or have had accidents or illnesses – the notion of WholeHuman (WH) includes no value judgements. We will need the concept of WH in the future to remind us of what humans are as we gain a growing capability to augment our bodies with technology. Even today, with a proportion of the world’s population not being WH, such a concept might help us make choices in the face of cultural and religious motivations to deface, cut, mutilate and remould our bodies.

Personal filing in a 40 year vortex of change

This entry has been jointly authored by Paul Wilson and Peter Tolmie

The PAWDOC filing system was set up in 1981 to try and understand how the newly emerging office technologies of that era might assist individuals to manage their office documents. Over its 35+ years of operation much has been learnt, and it is our intention to try and understand and describe those findings. However, the system was set up to address requirements in the office of the 1980s, and there has been a revolution in the way business operates since then. In order to be able to relate the findings to office work today and in the future, this entry explores the differences in  requirements for personal filing in the office between the early 1980s and 2019.

Perhaps the most significant difference is the transfer of huge amounts of information from paper-based documents to digital files. Note that this is not saying anything about the current volume of paper in the office (though we would suggest that there is probably less paper filed by individuals now than in the 1980s) – just that individuals now have to deal with huge amounts of electronic material in contrast to the early 1980s when they dealt with virtually none. This transition has been facilitated by a huge growth in the use of computer hardware – desktop computers, laptop computers and mobile phones – throughout the world, from a base of zero to near-universality.

The growth in the use of computers has also prompted huge changes in office work. At the beginning of the 1980s, office professionals used support staff – typing pools, secretaries, and admin support staff – to perform their administrative tasks.  However, as office technology became widespread, professionals started to do their own typing and support staff became a luxury which could be cut to reduce budgets. In 2019, only very senior management have secretaries and office workers are expected to be self-sufficient and fully competent in the use of all hardware and software relevant to the realisation of their work.

These changes were accompanied by a revolution in communications. Electronic mail has now almost entirely replaced internal memos and external letters, and has prompted massive increases in the amount and speed of communication. Email also rapidly became the key mechanism for supporting distributed teamwork – nationally and globally – and now underpins a battery of related interests, from the sharing of documents to the organisation of voice conference calls (which are the unsung foundation upon which much of business and government now operates). In more recent years, as mobile phones have permeated throughout the world’s populations, text messaging and chat applications have become an integral element of personal and business relationships. To this highly significant mix of new technologies must be added the recent massive uptake in Social Media. An unfortunate side-effect of the sheer effectiveness and pervasiveness of these mechanisms is high levels of information overload across a large proportion of office workers.

Importantly for the work to derive findings from the long-term operation of the PAWDOC filing system, the changes described above have impacted filing activities in the office. Hot desking and home working have made personal filing cabinets and bookshelves a luxury. The folder systems integral to computer operating systems (primarily from Microsoft and Apple) are now used to store the electronic documents created and received by the individual. At the same time, email systems have their own integral filing systems into which mail can be rapidly sorted and stored indefinitely in the cloud; text messages are stored on users’ mobile phones in the form of text streams by both senders and recipients; and Social Media systems have their own self-contained environments distributed across vast computing networks. The further evolution of cloud-based repositories, such as Dropbox and Google Drive has led to an added utilisation (if not trust) in distributed document stores. Even if users wanted to integrate these different collections, it would be almost impossible for them to do more than just copy selected elements from one to another or to a dedicated filing system: these stores are separate silos and will probably continue to be so for many years to come.

The design of the PAWDOC system in 1981 was based on an understanding of office filing requirements at the time. There was an expectation of how emerging office technology might be used to support those filing requirements, but little appreciation of how the technology itself would change the way business operates. Initially, then, learnings from the development of the PAWDOC system were entirely focused upon what the impact might be of new assumptions about filing built into the construction of computer systems in the early 1980s. Later on, in the middle period of PAWDOC operation, the findings speak to what it was taking to manage a filing system in a changing work environment populated by imperfect but maturing technologies. More recent findings give a somewhat different picture, as many of the troublesome technologies of the middle-era have come to be taken-for-granted resources, giving rise to new kinds of problem, of which information overload is but one potential symptom. What is clear at present is that computer technology and the business world is now changing so rapidly, the presumption present in the early days of PAWDOC – that one could readily identify needs and solutions for the future – now seems somewhat naïve (if still just as pressing).

One thing, however, we believe has remained constant and that is the attitude towards filing across the population. Most people are not motivated to put effort into filing because it is extra work for an indeterminate reward at some undetermined point in the future. A smaller subset of people is willing to put varying degrees of effort into the activity. We believe this has changed little between the early 1980s and the present day. As it happens, the PAWDOC owner was at the more extreme end of this latter group and wanted to file both effectively and comprehensively. Hence the PAWDOC collection contains most of the documents that the owner read and/or believed to be significant in his work; and consequently it should be borne in mind that the learnings derived from his experiences concern almost the worst case requirements of filing load and effort. It should be easier for most of the population. Certainly, it would seem easier, for digital copies are now retained of virtually everything as a matter of course. The extent to which that is oriented to as a personal collection of materials is a different matter, as is the probity of third parties hanging on to everything in that way. These, of course, are burning questions of the moment, and ones to which we shall ourselves return.

Knowledge Nugget Endeavours

In 1981 I was working in the newly formed Office Systems team in the UK National Computing Centre, and I was interested in how the new technology could support the management of an individual’s office documents. So, a colleague and I decided to experiment with our own documents. This was the start of a still-running practical exploration of how to manage personal documents using digital technology.

It was my practice to highlight key text with a side line as I read/scanned documents, and, as my document collection grew, I began to wonder how I could make explicit use of this very specific information. No doubt the act of highlighting was in itself helping me to assimilate documents; but I wasn’t sure if all the highlighted facts were being retained in my brain and being used to develop new concepts.

During the 1990s, the trendy new topic of Knowledge Management emerged which provided a recognised arena in which I was able to explore these ideas. Sometime during this period, I latched onto the term ‘nugget of information’ (the first mention of this in my filing index is in an article by one Ted Howard-Jones in the March 1998 issue of the Groupware and Communications Newsletter). My attempts to relate lowly personal filing to the Knowledge Management field eventually fizzled out in the face of much sexier concepts such as an organisation’s ‘intellectual capital’. However, in the early 2000s, I did make a specific attempt to see if I could use Concept Mapping software to capture nuggets, by applying it to 19 new age books on the pyramids and the like; but that is where my knowledge nugget endeavours ended.

Now that I’m trying to find a home for my document collection, and to identify the findings from its long term operation, it seems a timely moment to review this particular aspect, to do some practical work on the nuggets I’ve identified over the years, and to draw some conclusions on the topic.

Doggie Tales

A question that keeps arising in the Order from Chaos investigations documented on this site is ‘why are things being kept?’ One answer is that an item reminds us of people or events that we want to remember; and remembering such things seems to be important for humans. The parable below hints at a reason why.

Doggie Tales – a parable about existence in our world

On platform 5 at Slough railway station there’s a glass box on the wall and it contains the stuffed remains of Station Jim, a beloved dog well known to passengers using the station in the 1890s. A plaque explains as follows:

“Dog Jim was first brought to Slough station when he was about three months old. He was like a ball of wool then, and could be carried about in an overcoat pocket. The first trick taught him was to get over the stairs of the footbridge, and he learnt it so well that he never once crossed the metals from the time he was brought here to the time of his death.

He started his duties as Canine Collector for the Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund when he was about four months old but, because he was in bad health, he was only actually collecting about two years or so. Yet he managed to place about £40 to the account of the Fund. He only once had a piece of gold put in his box — a half sovereign. On several occasions half crowns were found, but the majority of the coins he collected were pennies and halfpennies. After a time he was taught to bark whenever he received a coin, which caused a great deal of amusement to his numerous patrons. One Sunday during the summer of 1896, a hospital parade was organised at Southall, and his trainer was asked to take him up there to collect. The result was that when his boxes were opened by the Treasurer 265 coins were in them. There were only about five pieces of silver, but when it is remembered that he barked for each coin given him, this must be regarded as a good afternoon’s work.

His railway journeys were few in number. On one occasion he went to Leamington; that was his longest ride. Another time he got into a train and went to Paddington, but was seen by one of the guards and promptly sent back again. Another day he got into a train and was taken into Windsor. The officials saw him, and wanted to put him in the next train home, but he would not agree to that, and walked back through Eton.

He knew a great many amusing tricks. He would sit up and beg, or lie down and “die”; he could make a bow when asked, or stand up on his hind legs. He would get up and sit in a chair and look quite at home with a pipe in his mouth and cap on his head. He would express his feelings in a very noisy manner when he heard any music. If anyone threw a lighted match or a piece of lighted paper on the ground he would extinguish it with a growl. If a ladder was placed against the wall he would climb it. He would play leap frog with the boys; he would escort them off the station if told to do so, but would never bite them. At a St. John Ambulance Examination held at this station he laid down on one of the stretchers and allowed himself to be bandaged up with the rest of the “injured”. He was a splendid swimmer and a very good house dog. He died suddenly in his harness on the platform on the evening of November 19th 1896, and was afterwards placed here by voluntary contributions from a number of the residents in Slough and the staff at this station.” [reproduced on 15May2019 from the Wikipedia entry for Slough Railway Station]

I first came across Station Jim when my office moved to a building opposite Slough Station in 1986 and I occasionally travelled up to London for meetings. There he was in his glass case, 90 years after his death, still intriguing passengers as they waited for their trains. He stuck in my mind, and although I haven’t visited Slough station for 25 years, he popped up in my head as I thought about writing this piece. I googled him and came up with his story straight away. In fact, a search for ‘Station Jim Slough’ produces some 685,000 hits (a search for just ‘Station Jim’ results in a misleadingly huge number of hits probably because a TV film based very loosely on the dog was made in 2001).

Wikipedia cites the Office of Rail and Road‘s statistics in saying that Slough railway station has over 4 million users every year; so it’s reasonable to suppose that, since the display was installed in the late 1890s, many millions of different people must have looked at Station Jim’s taxidermied remains and read about his life. His display and plaque bear testimony to his existence; and they continue to create and reinforce his memory in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people every year, just as his physical presence on the platforms did all those years ago.

Our beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Alfie, died peacefully a week ago from a heart attack aged eleven. He was a loving dog and just wanted to be close to us all the time. Two days after he died we gave all his artefacts – baskets, bowls, food, etc to a dog charity with the one exception of Monkey, the first stuffed toy he ever had and his favourite throughout his life. Monkey has had a wash and now resides on the settee. Alfie was an integral part of our lives, and was also loved by other members of our family and friends. He inspired the concept of ‘Alfie time’ – 6pm – time for drinks and snacks. It was of course the crisps, pretzels, cheesy nibbles etc. that Alfie knew he was entitled to, that drove him to remind us every evening (sometimes with extravagant displays of crouching and turning and whimpering and short barks) when it was Alfie Time. Alfie Time became an established feature in our lives and will be forever thus for us and family and some friends.

We have many photos of Alfie in the indexed and labelled digital family photo collection and physical photo collection in albums, that I have painstakingly built up from all the photos and negatives that I could find in our house and my mother’s house. In fact, a search of the digital collection found 259 photos with Alfie in the file title. Many of these are also in the physical albums. From time to time we’ll look at these photos and they will bring back all our memories of Alfie, how he behaved around the house, how he was so pleased to see when we returned to the house, and all the good times we had with him when we took him away with us. We can’t be certain what will happen to our physical and digital photo collections after we are gone; but we would hope that our children and grandchildren would value this family archive enough to look after it and perhaps even look at it occasionally. If and when they do, they will find Alfie’s picture appearing constantly throughout those eleven years of his life together with descriptions in the file titles and album slip-in tabs of what he was doing and reflecting the close bond he had with us. As they look at those photos, the memories of those who knew Alfie will come flooding back. For our grandchildren, who only knew Alfie briefly up to when they were about 2 and 3 years old, the photos will bring meaning and tangibility to some traces in their minds. For those who come later, the images and words (should they survive the years) will create and reinforce memories of our plucky, loving dog.

When I was three, my mother and father took me to Singapore where my father had got a job as a shipping agent. Shortly after arriving there, we got a dog – a dachshund called Mandy. I have some clear memories of Mandy, and there are 8 photos of her in the family photo collection. I went home to boarding school when I was eight and sometime after that Mandy died. My mother tells me he died peacefully lying on the drive in the sun while she was out. She and I both remember Mandy with fondness. However, my father is dead and none of the rest of the family ever met Mandy, so really we are the only two who have a strong recollection of her time on this earth. Perhaps there are one or two old timers in their eighties and nineties who came to our house in Kheam Hock Rd and retain a fragmentary image in their minds of her – but they’re dying out fast. I mention Mandy to the family very occassionally and her photos might be stumbled on in the photo collection from time to time; but her presence in our collective minds is dimming as the years go by. Eventually there’ll be just those 8 photos and associated words in the file titles (should they survive the generations) that will bear testimony to the part that Mandy played in our lives at Kheam Hock Rd.

My wife’s family had a dog when she was little. He was called Bruce, and they lived in a house in Leeds. My wife remembers Bruce but rarely talks about him; and I have no recollection of conversations with her mother, brothers or sisters about Bruce – in fact, her two brothers had not even been born before Bruce died. I’ve found 2 pictures of Bruce in the family photo collection and, although I must have indexed them and created their file titles, I’d forgotten they were there or what they looked like. They have left new traces in my mind overlayed with the conversation I had with my wife about him yesterday morning. They are images and information of interest but they inspire no emotion in me; and I guess my wife feels the same about what I tell her about Mandy. Perhaps my wife will talk about Bruce to the family sometimes in the future, but, like Mandy, Bruce’s presence in this world will eventually fade to just those two black and white photos that may spark an interest in those who see them.

My mother’s parents got a dog – a wire-haired terrier – soon after we moved out to Singapore in 1953. We have just one photo of my grandfather and the dog taken in the mid 1950s in the garden in Old Retford Rd, Sheffield. My mother never met the dog and can’t remember what it was called or anything else about him – only that he was run over outside the house to the great mortification of her parents.

Earlier generations of our family probably – possibly – had dogs.

FM – or MF – Representation

Observing politics over the last few years, it does seem that women sometimes have a different perspective on some issues and how they are approached. It’s got me thinking that perhaps women and men ought to be equally represented in political systems. The easy way to achieve that would simply be to have two election contests for each constituency – one for the female representative and one for the male representative.

Dress fit

I’ve been pondering on my last entry about easy-pull-on socks, and realised that, actually, balancing on one leg to put a sock on is really quite athletic. Perhaps it would be possible to put together a coherent fitness programme based around dressing and undressing. Specific designs of particular items of clothing would require the use of particular muscles and skills to put them on and take them-off; and different designs would facilitate the exercise of different sets of muscles and different levels of difficulty.

Opening the channels

Since our initial phone conversation on 28th Feb, Peter Tolmie and I have Skyped twice more – we seem to have got into a pattern of speaking every four weeks or so. In our second conversation, Peter pointed out to me that my pawdoc filing system was just another manifestation of my inclination to keep things – as amply demonstrated in the various journeys documented in pwofc.com. He asked me what I thought I’d learnt from all these experiences, and I recounted a few things that immediately came to mind. Afterwards, however, I began to think that there were a great many more learnings dotted around the website. So I duly trawled through pwofc.com and recorded in a spreadsheet anything that looked like a finding. For good measure, I used another worksheet in the same spreadsheet to list all the requirements and findings specified in the paper about PAWDOC that was published in Behaviour & Information Technology (BIT) in 2001. I’ve given the spreadsheet to Peter and it will provide a base set of information for our investigations going forward.

My re-assessment of the BIT paper reminded me that one of the things I was thinking about when I wrote it was how one could use the key points in the documents you read to develop ones knowledge. This idea stemmed from my practice of putting a line next to key points – or nuggets as I termed them – in documents. I remembered that I’d made a start on this work some 17 years ago by recording in a Mind Mapping programme nuggets I found in books about the Pyramids etc. Peter and I discussed the possibility of my revisiting this material in a ‘Nugget Management’ journey sometime.

In our last Skype call on 25th April, Peter asked if I could keep an auto-ethnographic log of my keeping activities to provide us with more base material on draw on in our analysis activities. I duly created a spreadsheet with the headings listed below and am now recording all instances in which I make a specific effort to store a physical or digital artefact. The word ‘specific’ is used to exclude general keeping of things like email messages in email folders; and the word ‘artefact’ is used to explicitly require that a whole integral item is kept not just information removed from it like the name of a species from a plant label.

  • Ref No
  • Date
  • Item
  • How the instance arose
  • Reason for keeping
  • Initial actions and decisions made
  • Actions taken

Peter’s comment on my request for his views on my recording scheme was “This is great. It’s not how I would have done it myself, but that doesn’t matter at all. The main thing is that it works for you. Just different work practices because we come from different backgrounds. Nothing more.”; and I doubt that I, on my own, would have come up with the idea of a generalised keeping log. Herein are clues as to the sheer unique and precious value of collaboration with our fellows.

Easy to Pull on Socks – EPS

If you want to get going you want to be able to put your socks on quickly. You want to be able to stand on one leg and just have the sock glide over your toes and instep and slip around your heel like water going round a u-bend. Some socks have that soft pliable texture – and retain it through the washing machine; but an awful lot don’t. It would be great if sock suppliers could make socks with such a capability and sold them as ‘easy to pull on socks’. They may already be out there but I haven’t seen them. On the other hand, there are socks out there which have such characteristics but are not advertised as such. I’ve got an odd sock that does fit the bill and I’m going searching round the stores with it; but it would be so much easier if such socks were sold with an EPS label.

Getting an HTTrack Copy

HTTrack is a free-to-use website copier. Its web site provides the following description:  “It allows you to download a World Wide Web site from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site’s relative link-structure. Simply open a page of the “mirrored” website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online.”

I downloaded and installed HTTrack very quickly and without any difficulty, then I set about configuring the tool to mirror pwofc.com. This involved simply specifying a project name, the name of the web site to be copied, and a destination folder. The Options were more complicated and, for the most part, I just left the default settings before pressing ‘Finish’ on the final screen. There was an immediate glitch when I discovered that I had not provided the full web address (I’d specified pwofc.com instead of http://www.pwofc.com/ofc/); but having made that change, I pressed ‘Finish’ again and HTTrack got on with its mirroring.  Some 2 hours 23 minutes and 48 seconds later, HTTrack completed the job, having scanned 1827 links and having copied 1538 files with a total file size of 212 Mb.

The mirroring had produced seven components: two folders (hts-cache and www.pwofc.com) and 5 files (index, external, hts-log, backblue and fade).  The hts-cache folder is generated by HTTrack to enable future updates to the mirrored web site; the external file is a template page for displaying external links which have not been copied; backblue and fade are small gif images used in such templates; and the log file records what happened in the mirroring session. The remaining wwwpwofc.com folder and index file contain the actual contents of the mirror.

On double clicking the Index file, the pwofc.com home page sprang to life in my browser looking exactly the same as it does when I access it over the net. As I navigated around the site the internal links all seemed to work and all the pictures were in place, though the search facility didn’t work. External links produced a standard HTTrack page headed by “Oops!… This page has not been retrieved by HTTrack Website Copier. Clic to the link below to go to the online location!” – and indeed clicking the link did take me to the correct location (I believe it is possible to specify that external links can also be copied by setting the ‘Limit’ option ‘maximum external depth’ to one, but my subsequent attempt to do so ended with errors after just two minutes; I abandoned the attempt). The only other noticeable difference was the speed with which one could navigate around the pages – it was just about instantaneous. From this cursory examination I was satisfied that the mirror had accurately captured most, if not all, of the website.

An inspection of the log file, however, identified that there had been one error – “Method Not Allowed (405) at link www.pwofc.com/ofc/xmlrpc.php (from www.pwofc.com/ofc/)”. According to the net, a PHP file ‘is a webpage that contains PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) code. … The PHP code within the webpage is processed (parsed) by a PHP engine on the web server, which dynamically generates HTML’. Interestingly, I wasn’t aware of having any content with such characteristics, but, on closer inspection of the files in my hosting folder, I found I had lots of them – probably hundreds of them. I tried to figure out what the error file related to but had no clue other than its rather striking creation date – 23/12/2016 at 00:00:00 – the same date as several of the other PHP files. I had not created any blog entries on that day, so my investigation ground to a halt. I don’t have the knowledge to explore this, and I’m not prepared to spend the time to find out. My guess is that the PHP files do the work of translating the base content stored in the SQL database into the structured web pages that appear on the screen. I’m just glad that there was only one error – and that its occurrence isn’t obviously noticeable in the locally produced web pages.

The log file also reported 574 warning which came in the form of 287 pairs. A typical example pair is shown below:

19:31:13        Warning:    Moved Permanently for www.pwofc.com/ofc/?p=987 19:31:13        Warning:    File has moved from www.pwofc.com/ofc/?p=987 to                                           http://www.pwofc.com/ofc/2017/06/29/an-ofc-model/

I tried to find a Help list of all the Warning and Error messages in the HTTrack documentation but it seems that such a list doesn’t exist. Instead there is a Help forum which has several entries relating to such warning messages – but none that I could relate to the occurrences in my log. As far as I can see, all of the pages mentioned in the warnings (in the above instance the title of the page is ‘an-OFC-Model’), have been copied successfully so I decided that it wasn’t worth spending any further time on it.

All in all, I judge my use of HTTrack to have been a success. It has delivered me a backup of my (relatively simple) site which I can actually see and navigate around, and which can be easily zipped up into a single file and stored.

A Backup Hosting Story

In the last few days I’ve been exploring making backup copies of this pwofc Blog using the facilities provided by the hosting company that I employ – 123-Reg. It was an instructive experience.

When I first set up the Blog in 2012 I had deliberately decided to spend a minimal amount of time messing around with the web site and to focus my energies on generating the stuff I was reporting in it. Consequently, most of my interactions with the hosting service had involved paying my annual fees, and I had little familiarity with the control panel functions provided to manage the web site. In 2014, I had made some enquiries about getting a backup, and the support operation had provided a zip file which was placed in my own file area. Since then I had done nothing else – I think I had always sort of assumed that, if something went wrong with the Blog, the company would have copies which could be used to regenerate the site.

However, when I asked the 123-Reg support operation about backups a few days ago, I was told that the basic hosting package I pay for does NOT include the provision of backups – and the company no longer provides zip files on request: instead, facilities are provided to download individual files, to zip up collections of files, and to download and upload files using the file transfer protocol FTP. Of these various options, I would have preferred to just zip up all the files comprising pwofc.com and then to download the zip file. However, the zipping facility didn’t seem to work and, on reporting this to the 123-Reg Support operation, I was told that it was out of action at the moment… So, I decided to take the FTP route.

I duly downloaded the free-to-use FTP client, FileZilla, set it up with the destination host IP Address, Port No, Username and Password, and pressed ‘Connect’. After a few seconds a dialogue box opened advising that the host did not support the secure FTP service and asking if I wanted to continue to transfer the files ‘in clear over the internet’. Naturally I was a little concerned, closed the connection, and asked 123-Reg Support if a secure FTP transfer could be achieved. I was told that it could be and was given a link to a Help module which would explain how. This specified that a secure transfer requires Port 2203 to be used (it had previously been set to 21), so I made the change and pressed ‘Connect’ again. Nothing happened. A search of the net indicated that secure FTP requires a Port No of 22, so I changed 2203 to 22 and, bingo, I was in.

FileZilla displays the local file system in a box on the left of the screen, and the remote file system (the pwofc.com files in this case) in a box on the right. Transferring the pwofc files (which comprise a folder called ‘ofc’, a file called ‘index’, and a file called ‘.htaccess’) was simply a matter of highlighting them and dragging them over to a folder in the box on the left. The transfer itself took about 12 minutes for a total file size of 246 Mb.

Of course, the copied files on my laptop are not sufficient to produce the web pages: they also require the SQL database which manages them to deliver a fully functioning web site. If you double click the ‘Index’ file it just delivers a web page with some welcome text but no links to anything else. Hence, these backup files are only of use to download back to the original hosting web site for the blog to be resurrected if the original files have become corrupted or destroyed. I guess they could also, in principle, be used to set up the site on another hosting service – though I have no experience of doing that.

Of course these experiences only relate to one customer’s limited experience of one specific hosting service and may or may not apply generally. However, they do indicate some general points which Blog owners might find worth bearing in mind:

  • Don’t assume that your hosting service could regenerate your Blog if it became corrupted or was destroyed – find out what backup facilities they do or don’t provide.
  • Don’t assume that all the functions provided by your hosting service work – things may be temporarily out of action or may have been superceded by changes to the service over the years.
  • Remember that a backup of the website may be insufficient to regenerate or move the Blog – be clear about what additional infrastructure (such as a database) will be required.
  • If you want to be able to look at the Blog offline and independently of a hosting service, investigate other options such as creating a hardcopy book, or using a tool such as HTTrack (which is discussed in the following entry).