One of the great myths of the digital age is, “The Web is forever.” Well, it turns out that web sites and documents posted online may be quite temporal in nature. They certainly may not last hundreds of years, like paper, unless we’re talking about a mean tweet you sent at 13 years old. What you write, create, post, and share online is at the mercy of numerous forces, technical, economic, and human.
Back in the days when magazine journalism was still viable, I enjoyed the privilege of being paid for my journalism and opinions. I worked my way up from columnist to Senior Editor of publications like Curriculum Administrator and District Administration Magazines. I freelanced for other publications as well. Not only was a paid for my creativity, but my work was read by as many as 100,000 educators each month. (Today, I get to blog – – sigh) The magazines could afford to pay me and even mail each issue to subscribers for free because they sold advertising alongside the editorial content. Once the Web swept the world, this business model moved online, sometimes with better or worse profitability. In the best case scenario, a piece of “content” could be published on paper and online with the promise that the online edition would live on and continuously generate ad revenue. Therefore, publishers had a financial interest in preserving, curating, and sharing my work – or so I thought.
Well, it turns out that companies are often run by knuckleheads, servers cost money, publications are acquired or go out of business, Internet providers come and go, and that IT manager you pay minimum wage may just be that good at his job. I learned all of this the hard way when years worth of my writing began disappearing behind 404 errors and broken Web links. Even the Web publication I created online disappeared.
I cannot tell you how many times I used The Internet Archive to find articles I wrote. Some of my work was still online “courtesy” of web sites that either stole it or had a license from the original publisher to “share” my work without permission or compensation. That’s OK. I’ll just borrow my own work from the thieves and post it on my own web site.
You may be thinking, “Why didn’t you just keep copies of your writing?
- I’m a slob.
- The finished publication is likely to be an edited version of what I submitted.
- Hard drives crash.
- I’m disorganized.
- Ownership of work-for-hire is often complicated.
- I trusted others to preserve my work.
Not wishing to lose years of work, I invested an obscene amount of time engaged in online archaeological digs in an attempt to locate, copy, paste, format, and repost my publications. The result rescued work I was proud of and wished to preserve, but the more I wrote and the more time that passed, even this effort became rag-tagged. Links went to all sorts of sites with all manner of formatting and broken links began to reappear. This is a giant pain in the ass.
I saw David Pogue rave about a service site called Authory and decided to give it a try. I’ve spent the past couple of months working with Authory and I’m a big fan. Authory is a web site that finds, organizes, backups, and curates your existing publications for a new audience. It’s incredibly easy to use, reliable, and well supported. I have enjoyed numerous interactions with the company’s CEO since I began using it. You can think of Authory as equal parts administrative assistant, portfolio manager, graphic designer, blogging platform, newsletter publisher, and mailing list manager. If you have been curious about digital publishing platforms, like Substack, Authory provides much of that functionality without the profit motive or association with smarmy libertarians.
Here are a few of the benefits of Authory.
- If you wrote for a publication on the Web or with an online archives, just send the top-level link to that domain and Authory will find all of your articles and store them in your Authory site.
- Authory features lovely formatting. – My Authory site looks great, the articles are legible, and may be viewed in several formats.
- Once you tell Authory where to find your writing, any new publications are automatically backed-up, added to your Authory portfolio, and shared with your subscribers!
- The site is searchable.
- You may include video and other multimedia as publications in your Authory site.
- Phenomenal customer support – both in chat right in your site and via email. The Authory team has been responsive and solved many problems created by my disorganized mess.
- You can write/blog/post/share directly in the Authory site. There is no need to create another blogging platform or use HTML to share your thoughts. New content created on the Authory site will appear as part of your body of work.
- You may download your entire portfolio easily at any time from Authory. This way, if Authory goes kaput, you have a complete archive of your work in one place. Change jobs, your work is still your work.
- Manually upload PDF documents or articles on the Web.
- “Fans” of your writing may subscribe simply to receive news of each new publication by you automatically via email.
- Authory allows you to create newsletters automatically sent to subscribers.
- You can use Authory to manage subscribers and download that information for your own use.
- Simple and powerful social media integration – use Authory to attract readers to your work via Twitter.
- You may create collections of your work to curate your writing and hope different audiences find what they’re looking for.
- You can hide from public view articles you wish to archive/back-up, but no longer wish to be widely available.
- Great data analytics that let you know how your articles are being viewed and shared. All of this data belongs to you, is secure, and simple to use. No complicated or buggy plug-ins are required.
- Unlimited storage space
- For most mortals, all of this only costs $8/month!
As great as Authory is, I wish it had the following features:
- Automatically scour the Web for articles by you. Once you acknowledge that you are the creator, that document is added to your Authory portfolio.
- It would be great if standard html elements like horizontal lines could be added to Authory articles. For example, articles often have biographical paragraphs at the end of a page, but Authory has no way to separate these from the text of an article.
- A bulk uploader where one could create a spreadsheet containing a list of URLs and the publication it should be associated with in your portfolio
- I would love the ability to schedule newsletters containing X number of random articles from the past or articles sorted by topic for subscribers who may have missed your “greatest hits.”
Thanks to Authory, over 1,300 of my articles, papers, blog posts, and interviews are now archived at https://authory.com/garystager. Not too shabby! (I still need to organize collections, add a few dozen more documents, and hide some crummy stuff, but I digress…)
Disclosure: If you subscribe to Authory, you get a free month and I can earn a few months free.
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.