In the early 1990s, one of the regular refrains of electronic publishing enthusiasts like William Mitchell and George Landow and Richard Lanham was that the brave new world of zeroes and ones would make information incredibly fluid. You could write something in Lisbon, and people could read it instantly in Los Angeles or Lagos. Nothing need ever be lost, or forgotten. Information would fly freely, hopping carefree from place to place and platform to platform.
I recently moved this blog from Typepad to WordPress, and during the migration it occurred to me that it would be good to be able to access all the stuff I’d written over the years– about 7500 posts– in Evernote, or even Scrivener (which I love but which is starting to get creaky). Downloading a copy of your posts from WordPress is not hard; but getting it into Evernote, or into Scrivener, requires both an immense amount of cleanup and wrangling, AND an understanding of the details of different flavors of XML (which XML was SUPPOSED TO FIX WASN’T IT?) that’s above my capacity right now.
Really amazing that in the twenty years since I worked at Britannica, and we were excited about the coming of SGML, that we’re still dealing with proprietary formats, import/export problems, calculating how many days it would take to do the mind-numbing work of cleaning up files, etc. etc. Just amazing.