Less Movable Targets

Here’s an update to my previous blog post, on the volatility of web links.

The Twitter post has a bunch of responses, with some useful tidbits in there. Some resources mentioned: HTML5 UP! for free CC templates; gamedev.net has been around for almost 20 years and can act as an archive, gamedevs.org keeps some old presentations around. Go three paragraphs down for some web hosting suggestions. The idea of using the archive.org link as the “real” link is clever (and a bit sad), but assumes archive.org will always be around. Note that publishers such as the ACM allow you to put your published articles up on your homepage, your institution’s website, and on non-commercial repositories. I’m not sure how entities such as ResearchGate (where I’ve seen a number of papers stored) fit into this picture – they appear to be for-profit, e.g., they sell advertising, so I don’t think they fall into any of the ACM’s categories. I appreciate their efforts, but am concerned that papers there may go away because ResearchGate hasn’t been challenged by the ACM or others. Again, long-term durability is a question.

Also see the comments after the original post. My comment on “The sooner these are displaced by open publications like the JCGT, the better” is that, in graphics, there are no other free (to both readers and authors) journals, at least none that I know about. arXiv maybe qualifies. Looking there today, this article seemed like a handy summary, pointing to some resources I hadn’t known of before. But, trying to go to a site they mention in their article, Chrome warns, “Attackers might be trying to steal your information from dgtal.org” – OK, never mind. There might be great stuff at arXiv, but it seems like a firehose (10 articles published in graphics in the last week), without serious peer review. Editorial filtering and peer review is worth a lot. I guess you might be able to use a strategy of putting your preprint at arXiv, sort of like ResearchGate but less questionable (arXiv is run by Cornell). This approach is underutilized within graphics, AFAIK: only 2 papers on our refs page are available this way, vs. 25 for ResearchGate. If someone wants to explain what I’m missing here, great!

Thanks to you all for the followups, and I find my thoughts about the same: corporations come and go, more quickly than we expect. While I have a lot of faith in various institutions, ultimately I think the entity that best looks out for my interests is me. Having my own domain and website is good insurance against the vagaries from change of job status, change of corporate services (or existence), and change of webmaster. Me, I’m a cheapskate: http://erichaines.com is just a subdomain of realtimerendering.com, of which I’m the prime webmaster; we also host a number of other groups as subdomains, such as the Advances in Real-Time Rendering course notes repository and Ke-Sen’s invaluable work tracking conference articles – doing so costs me no time or money, as others maintain them. So another option is to share a domain and host among a bunch of people.

Yes, your own website costs a little money (the price of two cups of Starbucks per month), but admit it: you pay more in a month for your smartphone and internet service provider than the yearly cost for a website. It’s a bit of effort initially to register a domain and set up a website, but once the template and blog are in place, you’re done. Write a new article or slide set, one that took you hours or weeks to create? It’s five minutes to add it to your web page and upload it. Morgan McGuire, Andrew Glassner, and I like bluehost. Sven Bergström likes digitalocean for $5/month hosting, and gives some setup and admin tips. His previous favorite was site5. Sebastien Sylvan likes nearlyfreespeech, which I hadn’t heard of and looks quite cheap for a personal site (like, possibly something like $3.65 a year (plus $12 per Gig stored, or maybe less – the pricing is not clear), with a free Gig download a day), assuming you’re not serving up huge files or don’t get popular; ijprest notes in the comments that Amazon’s S3 hosting is bare bones, just basic hosting, but about as cheap at nearlyfreespeech and is pretty much guaranteed to outlast you.

Oh, and the presentation from 2012 I mentioned in my last post that is no longer available – dead link – is now available again, as Duncan Fewkes sent me a copy and Michal Valient gave me permission to host it. It’s now here – a few minutes work on my part.

Question for the day: if Gmail and Google Docs suddenly went away, would this cause a collapse that would take us back to the 1990’s, 1950’s, or would the loss kick the world all the way back to some time in the 1800’s? Just a thought, you might want to use Google Takeout or other backup method now and then. If nothing else, visiting your Google Takeout site is interesting in that you see the mind-boggling number of databases Google has in your name.


  1. ijprest’s avatar

    A good option for static site hosting is Amazon S3. Pennies per GB stored/transferred, and you only pay for what you actually use. And it’s relatively easy to hook up to a vanity domain for discoverability.

    This isn’t an option for dynamic sites that require databases or server-side processing, but if you just want to host your content, it’s a very cheap and reliable way to go.

    (For comparison, at current rates, 1 GB stored + 30 GB/mo transferred == 1.36/mo == 16.32/yr, which is pretty close to the Nearlyfreespeech number quoted above. But your cost would be much less if you don’t use all of that 30 GB/mo transferred.)

  2. Eric’s avatar

    Thanks, good point, and I’ve added this to the post itself, since the comments on posts can get hidden or ignored.

  3. isonno’s avatar

    There is another, controversial, way to make a permanent record of a technical idea: File a patent on it.

    Your idea is published by the federal government, which does a pretty good job of keeping track of it (a couple of fires in the 1800’s not withstanding). For the first 20 years, you can even sue anybody who tries to use it. And you’ll get a nifty eight digit number to remember it by.

    Preparing a filing costs about $1,500 or so, and takes 1-4 weeks depending on the complexity. Getting it issued usually takes at least a year, often more if revisions are requested by the patent office. I highly recommend the Nolo Press book “Patent it Yourself”. Of course, if you hire help (i.e., lawyers) or work at a big company, the costs are way higher. Like, 5 – 20x higher.

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