the daily column

The Web of Broken Links

I went to link to this today, because I thought it was hilarious and insightful and speaks to something within me as a frequent traveller: “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sleeping Positions on a Plane” from The Washington Post – and since I found it especially perfect a post, I thought I’d put it here on my blog.

And then I got to thinking: I have a whole lot of links here… how many still live to this day?

It’s truly depressing to explore.

Many of those links that landed on personal sites are broken entirely; people don’t maintain their websites for decades, they move on and find new homes for their worlds, if any. You’re not always there to notice until it’s years too late, a site you read every day that someday stopped publishing and you didn’t realise.

And equally, on the sites that survive, the rubble of broken links litters their sites.

These ones were perhaps those hosted on long-lived entities like Blogspot, and somehow still remain, a once-populated site that no longer updates. A favourite blog to read for me, Tequila Mockingbird, published its last post 12 or so years ago, at the tail end of 2007, a post like any other that gave no idea that the author wouldn’t return.

If you try to go anywhere outwards from there, it’s just as likely as not to lead to a broken link. How would we ever piece the web back together? Do we need to default every 404 to fall back to a web archive search?

The impermanence of the web is perhaps as much a feature as a bug; the ability for these words to be removed from the web with a push of a button perhaps a blessing for some, history that is erasable in a way that doesn’t even leave a physical trail.

On the other hand, pity the poor historians and archaeologists of the future, finding a web of broken links that hinted at something more vast and interesting than they can ever grasp, like Fermat’s last theorem fitting in the margins of history but the original pages never found, simultaneously mundane and profound.

opinion politics


The year is now 2020.

14 years ago, I started this site as I was planning a move from Melbourne to Sydney. Previously, I’d been publishing on a friend’s server, buried in a subfolder, but that’s when the site came into its own. So now, with this post, I’ll have published items in 3 different decades – ain’t that a thing about getting old.

Right from the start, this site has been about my own political observations – one of the very first things written here was about the Cronulla Race Riot in December 2005, a decidedly unwelcome event for someone just about to move to the city.

It seems to have been an isolated incident of sorts, in hindsight, as we never quite got to something so nakedly racist on the streets of Australia again, but it left a high water mark – a new edge for the Overton window to nudge up against. And to some degree, you’d think over the years we’d nudged the Overton window the other way, with things like the Apology to the Stolen Generations, but that turned out not to be the case. We go into 2020 with the Conservatives in power across the US, UK, Australia, India, Russia… so many places of influence holding back and pushing towards a long-lost golden age without really understanding why that golden age existed in the first place.

Australia is on fire. I mean it in the worst possible way; at the time of writing, some 5.8 million hectares have been burnt, more than the Amazon fires of 2019, millions of tonnes of CO2 unleashed into the atmosphere just as we don’t need it, an estimated 500 million wild animals dead, a government in disarray as to how to respond, towns on the coast being evacuated by the Navy because there’s no other way out and the only safe place is to shelter on the beach because nothing can burn there after all.

14 years ago, I didn’t think that was coming. I knew global warming was an issue, but I didn’t know that we had such little time to turn the tide. I hoped that someone in charge knew what needed to be done; I voted along the lines that I thought would make a difference, but 14 years on, we’re still where we were, a brief flirtation with doing the right thing now six, seven years ended, and a government apparently in utter denial about what it takes to get it right.

A lot changed in that time.

A lot needs to be done still.

How do we start? Plant a tree. Speak to your neighbours about the issues. Figure out how you can reduce your impact. Talk to your family about what is coming, and how we can act to overcome that. Call your local MP at the state and federal level, speak to your councillors. Ask them what they’re doing, because we’ve seen now what it means to have warming truly come home to roost, and if we don’t want to live in a Mad Max world in our lifetimes, then we need to start changing it now.

Let’s make 2020 the year that you make a difference.