I have a question...
Journalists and visitors approach us with questions regarding the site, our intentions, how the site came to be and where it might go. The questions usually are put to Norbert Specker, his personal perspective is often reflected in the answers. We try to collect the questions and answers as they appear. Feel free to ask your own.
Interviews: The Guardian, University of Calgary, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
How many entries have been added by visitors to the site?
The original collection had 130 screenshots collected by Norbert Specker. Visitors to the site contributed another 110 screenshots for a total of 240 (as of September 6th, 2002). Check the list.
How did you guys come up with the idea to take screenshots?
Sitting at the desk in Victoria, B.C. Norbert Specker was pointed to the desaster by an email from Switzerland. His business partner Bettina Tamo concluded a mail with "..but that is really not so important. Not when you see what is happening in the US right now". That is when he started to go to the news sites
"Working as a consultant for online media ventures since many years I just happened to know that the systems were not equipped to automatically keep copies of the websites. The web has no memory. If nobody would actively make copies, the pages would be lost for ever. That was in the second phase though. At first it became very much my personal therapy to deal with the incomprehensible. Surf, click, surf, click, surf, click."
Only hours later did he realize that to be of service to the industry the screen shots had to be captured more systematically.
Then Dominc Meyer and Urs van Binsbergen helped to get the collection online by September 17, 2001.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from visitors to the site?
Visitors come in very different roles. Some people just want to commemorate the day. From the academic and student community we hear that it helps in their work but we have not seen yet how it does that. The site seems to help parts of the media industry to realize that online media work has a meaning and an obligation beyond the bottom line.
What kind of role do you think the web does play in cases like September 11?
First we hope there won't be another event like that. However, when there is live coverage as was the case on September 11, the web certainly is only second in line. The role it filled was to satisfy the need for deeper information, more detailed coverage, a direct access to various (international) perspectives, opinions, discussions. That it did very well, it provided transparency, for example it helped to sort out urban legends at least as fast as it produced them.
As this site and many others prove there is also a historic role, an educational role the web can play.
Who says that your site will be around in the future?
There is no guarantee. The site is a drain on our resources in many ways. But we certainly have experienced that the site is bigger than us and it is not really our choice anymore, it is a public affair. There is no use for a historic document if it is not accessible. So with the help of patrons (maybe you would be the right one ) and a kick-back we get if somebody else uses the tool (it is really cool) we will keep it running for the foreseeable future.
What's your favourite screenshot?
Google telling the visitors that the web is definitely not the place to get more info. Rather TV or radio should be consulted. For a moment this looked like the ultimate defeat of online publishing. Luckily the web came into its own in the aftermath of the events.
What is your role with the website?
To conceive the idea, plan the site, ensure usability. Then to motivate the web wizards Urs van Binsbergen and Dominic Meyer to come up with the site in the shortest time and draw on their excellent ideas and inputs. Next to somehow figure out together with Bettina Tamo how not to go broke on an advertising free site that is so band-width hungry. And I am not ashamed to say; we have not quite figured it out yet in this case.
Then increasingly to communicate the role of archives, to think further about the theoretical and practical framework for things like the Digital Collection.