Thursday, April 10, 2008

How Fleeting Our Shared Memory

Knitters have built community and shared experiences and a deep and rich vein of reference material on web sites. The more we interact, the more information we discover on these sites, the more we contribute ourselves, the more we turn to them as our shared archive, and the more we think of it all as permanent.

Why print out patterns? Why go to the library? we might start to think. After all, there's more on the web than we have room to store. With the enormous resources out on the network and almost supernaturally effective search engines, we begin to feel we can rely on finding anything we need to know, right at our fingertips, right when we need it. But there are times when we see it isn't so.

The sudden shutdown of MagKnits is one of those times. MagKnits was an on-line knitting magazine that published free patterns from many talented knitting designers over the last few years. These patterns included some very famous ones, beloved of bloggers, like Grumperina's Jaywalkers sock pattern. Whether from frustration, financial dead-end, or just plain exhaustion, the maintainer of a formerly reliable web site can just... stop. Knitters who had been intending to knit one of the patterns some day, who counted on being able to go get it when the time came, are left uncertain.

The patterns are not exactly gone. Echoes are everywhere. On the laptops of people who had already downloaded them to knit. In Ravelry, where many had been made available before the shutdown. In the caches of Google. In the giant web archive project known as The Wayback Machine. In the records of the designers, who thankfully still own their own copyrights for these patterns and may publish them again. But the primary lode is gone. The echoes are scattered, some of them denuded of their charts and photos, and many of them evanescent.

The patterns originally published in MagKnits, though, have enough of a following, enough of a magnetic pull, that I believe they will coalesce again. Other losses, not so widely noted, may not.

I've seen cases in which a knitter's blog, an individual on-line personality and all it has shared, has suddenly stopped. Months go by with no new posts. We begin to wonder about the real person behind the on-line identity. We hope boredom, not hardship or tragedy, has caused the outpouring to stop.

I've seen cases in which an E-Bay seller has suddenly stopped. An artist of gorgeous hand-painted spinning fibers, whom I'd bought from more than once, who posted about her farm and the rescue animals who live there. Time wears on and no new items are offered for sale. We begin to wonder why she stopped and if she's OK. We wonder if the animals are being taken care of.

The web sites remain, still there, unchanged, seeming now a little ghostly and sad. Perhaps they'll stay, frozen, until the paid-for term of Internet service expires and they disappear, to be replaced by the commercial sites that crop up to trap the unwary.

But I hope they are only resting.

1 comment:

Two Cables and a Frapp said...

Here, here. Very well said. You've echoed many of my thoughts also on once active but now stand-still blogs/on-line boutiques. It really is sad and a bit upsetting about MAG.