THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

Information from the team at the UK Web Archive, the Library's premier resource of archived UK websites

Introduction

News and views from the British Library’s web archiving team and guests. Posts about the public UK Web Archive, and since April 2013, about web archiving as part as non-print legal deposit. Editor-in-chief: Jason Webber. Read more

28 January 2015

Spam as a very ephemeral (and annoying) genre…

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Spam is a part of modern life. Who hasn’t received any recently, is a lucky person indeed. But only try to put your email out there in the open and you’ll be blessed with endless messages you don’t want, from people you don’t know, from places you’ve never heard about! And then just delete, de-le-te, block sender command…

Imagine though someone researching our web lives in say 50 years and this part of our daily existence is nowhere to be found. Spam is the ugly sister of the Web Archive, it is unlikely we’ll keep spam messages in our inboxes, and almost certainly no institution will keep them for posterity. And yet they are such great research materials. They vary in topics, they can be funny, they can be dangerous (especially to your wallet), and they make you shake your head in disbelief…

We all know the spam emails about people who got stuck somewhere and they can’t pay the bill and ask for a modest sum of £2,500 or so. Theses always make me think: if I had spare £2,500, it’d be Bora Bora here I come, but that’s just selfish me! Now these are taken to a new level. It’s about giving us the money that is inconveniently placed in a bank somewhere far, far away:

Charity spree

From Mrs A.J., a widow of a Kuwait embassy worker in Ivory Coast with a very English surname:

…Currently, this money is still in the bank. Recently, my doctor told me I would not last for the next eight months due to cancer problem. What disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a charity or the man or woman who will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct here godly.

Strangely two weeks a Libyan lady, who is also a widow, is writing to me that she also suffered a stroke and all she wants to shower me with money as part of her charity spree:

Having donated to several individuals and charity organization from our savings, I have decided to anonymously donate the last of our family savings to you. Irrespective of your previous financial status, please do accept this kind and peaceful offer on behalf of my beloved family.

Spam


Mr. P. N. ‘an accountant with the ministry of Energy and natural resources South Africa’ was straight to the point:

… presently we discovered the sum of 8.6 million British pounds sterling, floating in our suspense Account. This money as a matter of fact was an over invoiced Contract payment which has been approved for payment Since 2006, now we want to secretly transfer This money out for our personal use into an overseas Account if you will allow us to use your account to Receive this fund, we shall give you 30% for all your Effort and expenses you will incure if you agree to Help.

My favourite is quite light-hearted. Got it from a 32 year old Swedish girl:

My aim of writing you is for us to be friends, a distance friend and from there we can take it to the next level, I writing this with the purest of heart and I do hope that it will your attention. In terms of what I seek in a relationship, I'd like to find a balance of independence and true intimacy, two separate minds and identities forged by trust and open communication. If any of this strikes your fancy, do let me know...

So what I’m a girl too, with a husband and a kid? You never know what may be handy…

Blog post by Dorota Walker 
Assistant Web Archivist

@DorotaWalker 

 

Further reading: Spam emails received by web-archivist@bl.uk. Please note that the quotations come from the emails and I left the original spelling intact.

11 November 2014

Collecting First World War Websites – November 2014 update

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Earlier in 2014 we blogged about the new Special Collection of websites related to World War One that we’ve put together to mark the Centenary. As today is Armistice Day, commemorating the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, it seems fitting to see what we have collected so far.

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The collection has been growing steadily over the past few months and now totals 111 websites. A significant subset of the WW1 special collection comes from the output of the Heritage Lottery Funded projects. The collection also includes websites selected by subject specialists at the British Library and nominations from members of the public.

A wide variety of websites have been archived so far which can broadly be categorised into a few different types:

Critical reflections
They include critical reflections on British involvement in armed conflict more generally, for example the Arming All Sides website, which features a discussion of the Arms trade around WW1 and Naval-History.net, an invaluable academic resource on the history of naval conflict in the First and Second World Wars.

Artistic and literary
The First World War inspired a wealth of artistic and literary output. For example the website dedicated to Eugene Burnand (1850-1921) a Swiss artist who created a series of pencil and pastel portraits depicting various ‘military types’ of all races and nationalities drawn into the conflict on all sides. Burnand was a man of great humanity and his subjects included typical men and women who served in the War as well as those of more significant military rank.

The Collection also includes websites of contemporary artists who in connection with the Centenary are creating work reflecting on the history of the conflict. One such artist is Dawn Cole whose work on WW1 has focused on the archive of WW1 VAD Nurse Clarice Spratling’s diaries, creating a project of live performance, spoken word and art installations.

Similar creative reflections from the world of theatre, film and radio can be seen in the archive. See for example Med Theatre: Dartmoor in WW1, an eighteen-month project investigating the effect the First World War had on Dartmoor and its communities. Pals for Life is a project based in the north-west aiming to create short films enabling local communities to learn about World War One. Subterranean Sepoys, is a radio play resulting from the work of volunteers researching the forgotten stories of Indian soldiers and their British Officers in the trenches of the Western Front in the first year of the Great War.

Community stories
The largest number of websites archived so far comprise projects produced by individuals or local groups telling stories of the War at a community level across the UK. The Bottesford Parish 1st World War Centenary Project focusses on 220 local recruits who served in the War using wartime biographies, memorabilia and memories still in the community to tell their stories.

The Wylye Valley 1914 project has been set up by a Wiltshire-based local history group researching the Great War and the sudden dramatic social and practical effects this had on the local population. In 1914 24,000 troops descended suddenly on the Wylye Valley villages, the largest of which had a population of 500, in response to Kitcheners’ appeals for recruits. These men arrived without uniform, accommodation or any experience of organisation. The project explores the effects of the War on these men and the impact on the local communities.

An important outcome of commemorations of the Centenary of WW1 has been the restoration and transcription of war memorials across the UK. Many local projects have used the opportunity to introduce the stories of those who were lost in the conflict. Examples include the Dover War Memorial Project; the Flintshire War Memorials Project ; Leicester City, County and Rutland War Memorials project and St. James Toxteth War memorials project.

Collecting continues
This shows just some of the many ways people are choosing to commemorate the First World War and demonstrates the continued fascination with it.

We will continue collecting First World War websites through the Centenary period to 2018 and beyond. If you own a website or know of a website about WW1 and would like to nominate it for archiving then we would love to hear from you. Please submit the details on our nominate form.

By Nicola Bingham, Web Archivist, The British Library

03 November 2014

Powering the UK Web Archive search with Solr

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When you have hundreds of millions of webpages to search, what technologies do we use at the UK Web Archive to ensure the best service?

Solr
At the core of the UK Web Archive is the open source tool Apache Solr. To quote from their own website, ‘Solr is a very popular open source enterprise search platform that provides full-text and faceted searching’.

It is built using scalable and fault tolerant technologies, providing distributed indexing, automated failover and recovery, and centralised configuration management. And lots more besides – put simply, Solr is proactively pushing towards all aspects of big data search indexing and querying.

Open UK Web Archive
The UKWA website provides public access to more than 200 million UK selected webpages (the selection process includes gaining the permission to publish the archived site from the website owner, and you can nominate a website to archive via our Nominate a Site page.)

Once a site is harvested it is stored internally on several systems to ensure the safe keeping of the data. From these stores the data is ingested into the Solr service, which analyses the metadata and content, primarily to enable the fast querying of the service. Much of Solr’s speed comes from its way of indexing this data, which is called reverse-indexing.

Capable servers
To support these archived websites and provide the UK Web Archive search, we run the service on two dual Xeon servers – an HP ProLiant DL580 G5 with 96GB of RAM and an HP ProLiant DL380 G5 with 64GB of RAM. The data is stored on a Storage Area Network (SAN) using fibre channel connections.

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The Solr service itself runs under the Apache Tomcat Java management service, and is split between the two physical servers as a master and slave setup – one provides the data ingest mechanism, the other provides the data querying mechanism for the public website.

Scalability
One of the benefits of using Apache Solr is that it is fairly simple to grow a system, in terms of both speed and data capacity. As the amount of web content increases, we can add more hardware to handle the extra load as Solr is designed from the outset as a distributed service.

By Gil Hoggarth, Web Archiving Technical Services Engineer, The British Library