Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-10-24: Fun with Fictional Web Sites and the Internet Archive

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Internet Archive, I realize that using Memento and the Wayback Machine has become second nature when solving certain problems, not only in my research, but also in my life. Those who have read my Master's Thesis, Avoiding Spoilers on Mediawiki Fan Sites Using Memento, know that I am a fan of many fictional television shows and movies. URIs are discussed in these fictional worlds, and sometimes the people making the fiction actually register these URIs, seen in the example below, creating an additional vector for fans to find information on their favorite characters and worlds.
Real web site at http://www.piedpiper.com/ for the fictional company Pied Piper from HBO's TV series Silicon Valley
Unfortunately, interest in maintaining these URIs fades once the television show is cancelled or the movie is no longer showing. As noted in my thesis, the advent of services like Netflix and Hulu allow fans to watch old television shows for the first time, sometimes years after they have gone off of the air. Those first-time fans might want to visit a URI they encountered in one of these shows, but instead encounter the problems of link rot and content drift shown in the examples below.
Link rot for http://www.starkexpo2010.com/ showing the StarkExpo,
a fictitious technology fair from the Marvel Studios film Iron Man 2 (left -memento),
now leads to a dead link (right - current dead site)
Content drift for http://www.richardcastle.net/
from the fictional character's web site (left -memento)
now leads to an advertisement
for the cancelled ABC television show Castle (right - live site)
Fortunately, the Internet Archive can come to the rescue. Below is a chart listing some fictional URIs and the television shows in which they occur. The content at these URIs is no longer available live, but is still available thanks to the efforts of the Internet Archive. Included in the far right column are links to example URI-Ms from the Internet Archive for each of these URI-Rs, showing how fans can indeed go back and visit these URIs.
TV Show or
Movie
Network or
Production Company

URI-R
Current
URI-R
Status Compared to URI-M
Link to URI-M from the Internet Archive
The Simpsons FOX http://www.dorks-gone-wild.com/ Link Rot

No HTTP server at hostname
URI-M
True Blood HBO http://www.americanvampireleague.com/ Content Drift

301 Redirect to HBO.com
URI-M
30 Rock NBC http://jdlutz.com/karen/proof/ Link Rot

500 HTTP Status
URI-M
Iron Man 2 Marvel Studios http://www.starkexpo2010.com/ Link Rot

Hostname does not resolve
URI-M
Castle ABC http://www.richardcastle.net/ Content Drift

301 Redirect to ABC.com Castle page
URI-M
LOST ABC http://www.oceanic-air.com/ Link Rot

301 Redirect and 404 HTTP Status
URI-M
Jurassic World Universal Studios http://www.jurassicworld.com/ Content Drift

Was Fictional Content, Now Advertises Movie and Games
URI-M
The practice of publishing content at these fictional URIs shows no signs of abating. For example, the HBO TV Series Silicon Valley is a comedy about the lives of tech entrepeneurs working in Silicon Valley. The television show features several fictional companies that have real web sites that fans can visit, such as http://www.piedpiper.com, http://www.hooli.com/, and http://www.bachmanity.com. Because the show is about software developers, there is even a real Github account for one of the fictional characters, shown in the screenshot below. Using the "Save Page Now" feature, I just created a URI-M for it today in the Internet Archive.
This concept will become more important over time. As historians and sociologists study our past, some of these resources may be important to understanding these fictional worlds and how they fit into the time period in which they were developed. This makes improved archivability and reduction in Memento damage important even for these pages.
As to the meaning of the content, that's up to the fans to evaluate and discuss.
-- Shawn M. Jones

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