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The free flowing web of information can also solve the problems of old/new documents and of revisions (both intended and unintended) causing lost information

Thankfully the Web Consortium ( has kept historical information about the development of the Web, and left some of the web pages as they were written, and they have refrained from updating them as new information has become available (which means that all the historical information is still there).  This is important because one overlooked problem in updating a document and keeping it current is that you can unintentionally lose valuable and important information.  This commonly happens when documents are rewritten to make them clearer (as the original emphasis can easily be lost), and seemingly unimportant information can be dropped, as it just seems to add clutter to the document.  Old information may also be replaced in a document by new information, which can be very good for the immediate purposes of the document, but the information can be permanently lost if the document is its only repository.

All of the above, along with restructures (either company, web site, or other), can easily and quickly change documents, unless a full history of the document (not just changes) is kept somewhere.  When this happens, a lot of good information can be lost until somebody else comes along and reinvents the same things.  Often they do not realise that there was a good information base available in the past that would greatly ease any trouble they have reinventing it.  Occasionally when this seemingly irrelevant old information is stumbled on by somebody who is interested in that particular area (especially when they are looking for the old, original documents, ideas and objectives), the results can be significant, once the information has been processed into a form that they want.

This brings to light another point that is important when it comes to old documents (not only web, but also other electronic forms, and even hardcopy).

Information may not continue to be available over time.  A document that was written yesterday may be easily available, but then again it may not.  There are many causes of information becoming unavailable, and this can happen at any time, potentially even immediately after the information has become available.  For example a document may be created, the only copy (in other words, no backup) might be stored on a floppy disk, or a web site, and then the floppy disk becomes damaged, or the web site crashes, losing the information.  There are many other potential ways for information to be lost, even within hours of it being created or made available, and a couple of the longer term access problems will be discussed next.  That is the information is still there, but there is no way to access that information.

With the current rate of change in the computer industry, and the associated changes in storage formats, documents that we now rely on may not remain accessible.  As an example, if you were to try to access information that was stored on a 8-inch CP/M floppy, or tried to read an old word-processing format, you may find that they are no longer supported, and you may not be able to retrieve the information.

Of course incompatibility between old document formats and new applications is not the only side to the continuity-of-information coin.  Another problem that occurs is when a document has been created in the latest version of a program; a previous version may not be able to read the file.  This happens when people with an older or reasonably current word processor/web browser try to read something that was created in the latest version, and saved with no thought about those with current or older software/hardware, or even those that don't have everything enabled by default.  The best case is that the person (who in the case of web pages is surfing the Web) that is trying to access the information realises that something is wrong, and they try to do something about it.  If it is too much trouble, they may not bother (which occurs all too often), or even worse, they may see nothing, and so assume that there is nothing there, and they never come back.

One example of this problem is when a someone using a particular version of a word processor, suddenly finds that they can not read a document, because one of the members upgraded their version of the word processor to a later version.  A second example is when you visit a web site of a company, and all you get is a blank page (because they assume that you have images and/or JavaScript/VBScript turned on).  Some people have images turned off because they take a long time to download over a modem.  Also some people do not have JavaScript/VBScript turned on, as it increases the complexity of rendering the web page in the browser and has the possibility of leading to some instability.

This demonstrates the need to keep old versions of documents, even versions that seem at the time to have no significance.  It shows the importance of keeping at least all of the major revisions of documents, in addition to at least the most recent set of changes so that any changes that have unforeseen consequences can be rolled back and any problems solved with ease.

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