The “Why” of Personal Archives

Last week a friend and I were debating whether I had lost my mind, archiving articles I had read and enjoyed either in Evernote or as PDFs on my hard drive. His point was simple, and one I have heard made often. “Why should I archive stuff on my hard drive,” he asked. “If I ever want it again, it will be there for me with a quick search on Google.”

His words struck me today as I was going back through a folder of articles about writing that I had culled from the Internet. I wanted to move those onto Instapaper so I could read them en masse in advance of jumping into my first book project, after which I would archive the articles to Evernote and toss the PDFs

So I input the links conveniently saved at the bottom of each pdf page, expecting to call up these articles on the web, just as I had found them originally.

No such luck. Fully half of the articles were either gone, behind paywalls, or only available through a paid archiving service.

Was I surprised? Yes.

See, what really got me started on info-hoarding was my desire to be able to refer to a library of electronic resources even if the Chinese government should pull the plug on access to my preferred sites. Paranoid? Perhaps. But I have lived in China long enough to remember the days when The New York Times, The Washington Post, and dozens of other publications of record were blocked and there was no consistent means around the blockage. The bad old days may be gone, but nobody who understands China is betting that they are gone forever.

I had never really conceived that the information would go away courtesy of the nice people who created it. But it has. Some I have lost because I no longer pay the freight of subscriptions (FT wants $260 per year, Economist $130), some have firewalls (many Department of Defense websites do not seem to like Chinese IP addresses), some have moved (like my International Herald Tribune links) and some are really just gone.

The point of all of this is simple: we provide a lot of links to some interesting (and, for the moment, free) books and book-length works. Take advantage of the price and availability while you can: there is no guarantee, in this age where The Great Internet Enclosure Movement meets the Digital Commons, that any of it will be free for long.


PLAAF: Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth

j-10a seen at zhuhai airshow

Image via Wikipedia

Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth is a new RAND Corporation monograph that describes how the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has reached a turning point in its development. No longer a motley collection of weed-grown bases and Soviet hardware, the force is beginning to transform itself into a thoroughly modern air arm.

Keeping in mind that funding for this effort came from a U.S. Air Force that is determined to justify the skyrocketing costs of its new air-superiority fighters, the book offers important food for thought. China faces an expensive effort in modernizing both its air force and its navy at the same time, and the challenge of creating the training and doctrine to mould the new hardware into an effective fighting force should not be underestimated.

A good read for followers of Chinese defense policy.


Daily Post 02/22/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

UN Security Council Enlargement and US Interests

This excellent Council on Foreign Relations report by Kara McDonald and Stewart Patrick takes on another frequently-overlooked but critical aspect of U.S. foreign policy: the planned enlargement of the UN Security Council. The authors urge the Obama administration to step away from America’s neutral stance on the issue and begin urging the process in a direction in keeping with the best interests of the United States.

Congress and National Security

Kay King from the Council on Foreign Relations looks at the effect of Congressional gridlock on foreign and national security policy in this quick read from the CFR. New media and the longer election cycles have placed a higher political premium on pithy sound bytes and have eroded reflective debate. Fixing the problems won’t be easy, but King has some recommendations on where to start.