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Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson is vice president of Marketing for Breker Verification Systems. He previously served as Product Management Group Director for Advanced Verification Solutions at Cadence, Technical Marketing Director in the Verification Group at Synopsys and Vice President of Applications Engineering at … More »

Raiders of the Lost Article

June 18th, 2013 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

Back before DAC, I wrote a blog post on the rapid migration of technical information from magazines and catalogs to online-only publication. I addressed the topic from my perspective as a voracious reader of industry news who likes flipping through magazines as a nice break from staring at the screen most of the day. Just for the record, today over lunch I skimmed through the latest hardcopy issues of Information Week, Electronic Design, and MIT’s Spectrum. But my post also addressed a more serious topic: the evanescence of online technical content.

Futurists would have us believe otherwise: online is supposed to be forever. However, many technical sites are hosted by motivated individuals or organizations who may simply decide one day to stop. Other sites are owned by commercial interests, including publishers, who may fold and take their content with them into the void. Yes, there are organizations trying to capture the ongoing history of the Internet but, in my experience, their retention of desired content is inconsistent at best.

What does this mean from my perspective as a frequent technical author? Ignoring blog posts, company newsletters, and other media that could be considered ephemeral in nature, my resume lists about 200 articles and conference papers that I’ve authored, co-authored, or ghostwritten. Even a quick scan reveals many in now-obsolete magazines and sites, including Computer Design, ASIC & EDA, Integrated System Design, Silicon Strategies, Microsoft Embedded Review, and Electronic News.

If a hardcopy edition was printed, I know that I can find a copy in one of five document boxes in my office. I expect that I would have no trouble locating another copy in any decent engineering library. But when only the online version ever existed, I have to admit that I have not been diligent in saving local copies. In a few instances the archives of the defunct magazine were preserved or sold to another publication and are still available online. Otherwise, for all practical purposes my articles are gone forever.

The SCDsource site is an example discussed frequently. Founded by well-known EDA journalist Richard Goering in 2007, it published lots of interesting technical articles on all sorts of topics. When Richard joined Cadence in 2009, the site and all of its content disappeared. As part of a recent refresh to the Breker site, I attempted to find a copy of a 2008 article by Richard that mentioned Breker’s participation in a DesignCon panel.

I checked the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine but found only an incomplete copy with just the first page and no quotes from Breker. However, it did have a quote from me since I also happened to be on that particular panel as a Cadence representative. I love the concept of the Internet Archive but they’re a long way from offering the kind of permanent storage needed for a reliable record of the Web.

The lesson of social media is clear: assume anything online lives forever. The lesson is equally clear for content that you don’t want to lose: copy, don’t just bookmark and assume that it will be around forever. As an author who’d like a complete record of his work, I’ll vow to save local copies of everything published. Please contribute your own thoughts on physical versus online media, based on your experiences as a reader and perhaps as a writer as well.

Tom A.

The truth is out there … sometimes it’s in a blog.

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