[Foundation-l] More on Wikimedia strategic planning

Thomas Dalton thomas.dalton at gmail.com
Mon May 4 22:41:19 UTC 2009

2009/5/4 Nikola Smolenski <smolensk at eunet.yu>:
> It seems to me that you are joking, but I was seriously thinking about
> cooperating with the Long Now project on long term preservation of Wikipedia.

No joke, I thing the long term preservation of knowledge is a very worthy cause.

> Printing Wikipedia on acid-free paper every year or at least decade in several
> copies dispersed on several continents should ensure that the contents last
> for several centuries at least. It wouldn't be prohibitively expensive either
> and it could gather some media attention (= sponsors).

Acid-free paper won't last for several centuries without decent
storage, and we're talking about a small library worth of paper. (See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Size_in_volumes - and that's
just the English Wikipedia. Include other languages and other projects
and you have a very sizeable amount of content.) That kind of storage
isn't particularly cheap. Air tight containers in a cave might work
pretty well though - caves have very stable temperature, and the air
tight containers would control humidity - and the caves already exist
so no need to spend money constructing somewhere.

> For a really long term, a cooperation with some brickworks, where a brick
> printer would be introductd in the brick producing process, so that Wikipedia
> (and other important works) would be printed on every brick produced. We know
> that Sumerian tablets have lasted for thousands of years, so these bricks
> would surely last that long too.
> And for even longer, do the same with bottle manufacturers.

Yeah, bits and pieces would survive a long time, but you wouldn't get
any significant portion of the projects saved that way. If you got it
written on bricks that were being used to build a building you have
good reason to believe will be around a long time, then it might work,
but you would need a lot of bricks.

According to the page I linked to above, the English Wikipedia has
7,484,527,350 characters. Let's assume an 8pt font (any smaller and it
becomes difficult to write or read easily) on a standard brick (which
Wikipedia tells me is, in the UK, 215mm by 65mm), that's about 18
lines of text and maybe 17 words per line. That's about 300 words per
brick (I'm assuming only one face will be written on). That works out
at 25 million bricks. That's well over 1000 typical houses just for
one copy of one project. Since the vast majority of these bricks
aren't going to survive you are going to want massive redundancy. I
don't think it is practical.

Engraving on bottles isn't going to work - the bottles will
(hopefully!) get recycled.

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