Author Archives: John Hickey

Lawrence Lessig : “They Don’t Represent Us” – Conversation & Book Signing — Tuesday, December 17 at 6pm

Please join us at the Internet Archive’s San Francisco Headquarters on Tuesday, December 17th at 6 pm to hear a titan of Internet law, political reformer and “the most distinguished law professor of his generation,” Lawrence Lessig discuss his new book They Don’t Represent Us.

RSVP Here Free, but Donations Welcome

Lawrence Lessig won’t be coming home, exactly, when he appears at the Internet Archive for a talk about his latest book, They Don’t Represent Us, on Dec. 17th. The Harvard professor will be coming to a place, however, where he should feel extremely comfortable. He has made defining the rules of the internet one of his life’s causes, and that nicely intersects with the Internet Archive, which exists as a treasure trove of the internet’s history that sits at the intersection of technology, law and culture.

Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, has seen many distinguished visitors drop by at his organization’s San Francisco offices, but Lessig’s evening promises to be special. Kahle says he is honored to have Lessig stop by to provide insights into his latest book. “Lawrence Lessig, a hero of mine, brings clear messages of what needs fixing and how we might do it, and do it by working together,” Kahle said. “I am looking forward to his new book.”

Lessig’s history in print is as an author who doesn’t waste time getting to the point. Before his publishers intervened, he’d wanted to title the book An Essentially Unrepresentative Representative Democracy. Briefly a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, he wasn’t able to gain sufficient traction in his goal of instituting campaign finance and electoral reforms.

With the publication five weeks ago of They Don’t Represent Us, he tackles those subjects again. He has particularly harsh words for gerrymandering, the process by which federal and state representatives manipulate the boundaries of electoral constituencies to maximize the benefit of those crafting the boundaries and to suppress minority votes.

One complaint is that only about a dozen so-called swing states are ever in play in presidential elections, that these states get upward of 90 percent of candidates’ time and money, and that these states, being mostly older and whiter, don’t well represent the nation as a whole. He points out that there are 7½ times as many people working in solar energy as there are working in mining coal, but you don’t hear about those solar energy jobs much during presidential campaigns because those people are from non-swing states like Texas or California. The coal mining jobs are in many of the swing states.

Lessig says representatives in safely gerrymandered districts are more in danger of defeat from members of their own party in primaries. And that, Lessig argues, leads to the extremes in both the Republican and Democratic parties being amplified.

He proselytizes for modifications to the Electoral College, which recently has put two men, George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016, into the presidency despite losing the popular vote. His suggestion is to ditch the winner-take-all systems used by most states in presidential elections in favor of proportionally allocating electors.Doing so, he says, would make winning votes in Utah equally important as winning votes in California despite the difference in populations, making presidential candidates need to care about all states instead of what Lessig calls “Swing State America.”

Doors will open at 6pm. The discussion will start at 7pm and will be followed by a reception. Signed copies of book will be available for sale.

Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Time: 6:00-9:00 pm
Where: Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave. SF, CA 94118

6pm – Reception
7pm – Conversation
8pm – Reception/Book Signing


“History Needs a Soundtrack”: Minot State University Donates Large 78rpm Record Archive for Digitization and Preservation

Minot State University in North Dakota had reason to love the idea of having the thousands of elderly recordings its library had in storage. Who doesn’t love the idea of having access to that kind of American musical history?

Minot State records 4

Minot State’s History 78s Project wanted to get its collection of approximately 15,000 78s out to a wider audience and is using Internet Archive to get the biggest bang.

One problem. The school community didn’t have any access to those discs. Playing 78-rpm records in the day of iPods, Pandora and Spotify is no easy feat.

The collection of 78-rpm discs covering classical to early jazz, blues and country music was historically significant. But without digital access, the music wasn’t being taken in by the student body, faculty, alumni or the wider world. And so Minot State is donating approximately 15,000 recordings to the Internet Archive so they can be digitized and preserved.

“We’re tremendously excited that the Internet Archive will be able to preserve this rare slice of America’s early recording history,” said Minot State history professor Daniel Ringrose. “Personally, I’ve always thought history needs a soundtrack, and this digitation project will let many people experience that past by listening to it.”

The Internet Archive is in the midst of digitizing the entire lot, and Minot State’s MSU History 78s Project will have as its reward the complete collection digitized.

“We are preserving the state’s property,” Ringrose said. “This is a chance to partner with Internet Archive make accessible America’s sound history. There’s jazz in there, patriotic music, dance music, waltzes, western Americana and even some early rock and roll 78s. The earliest discs go back before World War I, to 1912 and 2013. There are a lot of regional labels and regional artists that would be hard to find.”

Minot State records 1

It took Minot State’s History 78s Project three weeks of work from volunteers to get the collection ready to ship to Internet Archive.

Thanks to a group of 19 volunteers that spent three weeks of summer mornings sorting the individual discs into sleeves and boxing them up for shipping the discs have been delivered to the Internet Archive.

“Many of the recordings never made it off the 78s they were originally on,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “So, having the collection at the Internet Archive gives a breadth and depth to music people have not heard for decades.

“We are hoping there are many records from the middle of the country from the early 20th century representing the different immigrant communities and emerging blues, jazz and country genres.”

The Internet Archive, which currently has about 150,000 recordings digitized and available, has the capacity to digitize about 4,000 discs per month, making it likely that the entire Minot State collection will be available to the public by sometime in 2020.

“It’s exciting to have some organization make it possible to have people study this and to make it more accessible,” Ringrose said. “Some of this stuff is still in original sleeves and may never have been played. Other stuff was so old and so fragile, and we didn’t have any equipment to play it on. This can be a learning tool.

“We recruited volunteers aged from 12 to 72 to box this stuff up for shipping. And the 12-year-old is asking how much music is on one of these discs. There is no point of reference for a disc that may only have three minutes of music on it. The whole collection might fit on that iPod that Steve Jobs held up 10 years ago, and we needed a whole semitruck to ship it.”

The Great 78 Project

As the newly acquired discs from the MSU History 78s Project get digitized, they will become part of the The Great 78 Project at Internet Archive.

And there is no shortage of those waiting for the new additions. There are almost 5,000 followers of the Internet Archive’s twitter robot feed highlighting a newly digitized record every hour (

The Minot State donation may be at the leading edge of a new wave of library activity. The North Dakota school wanted to find a way to get the collection out to a wider audience and target the space that the recordings were taking up to other purposes. The first thought was to offer all that music to another school, UC Santa Barbara, with a large collection of 78s. UCSB couldn’t make it happen, but David Seubert from the school introduced Ringrose to Kahle and Internet Archive.

“We are thankful that with our current funding, we can pack, ship, process and preserve the whole collection, both physically and digitally,” Kahle said. Minot State will get back a digital copy of their entire collection which Ringrose said he believes will prove to be more accessed and useful than the 78 collection had been in recent decades.

Kahle said that the addition of the Minot State collection together with a similar one from the Boston Public Library are the first steps in opening the world of early recorded music to the digital age. They are among the first to decide to reformat their collections as opposed to other options such as disposing of them.

“By bringing antique recordings to the Internet, we hope to get closer to universal access to all knowledge,” Kahle said, adding that the Internet Archive’s goal is for 400,000 78-rpm recordings to be put online, of which about 150,000 have already been digitized by Internet Archive. “We are actively looking for records we do not already have.

“We would like these recordings to be linked to from Wikipedia and discographies, and also from reference sites such as and We even have an interface to the collection through Amazon’s Alexa. If you say `Alexa, ask Internet Archive to play tango 78s,’ it will play for hours. Similarly, with Google Home, if you say `Hey Google, ask Internet Archive to play hillbilly 78s.’

“Whatever it takes to get this music into the hands and ears of digital listeners.”

The Wayback Machine: Fighting Digital Extinction in New Ways

Extinction isn’t just a biological issue. In the 21st century, it’s a technical, even digital one, too.

The average web page might last three months before it’s altered or deleted forever. You never know when access to the information on these web pages is going to be needed. It might be three months from now; it might be three decades. That’s how the Wayback Machine serves—making history by saving history. Now, the Wayback Machine is fighting digital extinction in brand new ways.

Wayback MachineAs the Internet Archive prepares for its anniversary celebration on Oct. 23, our Wayback Team is unveiling some new features to make what some call “the memory of the web” even more detailed and responsive. 

Try out some of our new Wayback Machine Features:

  • Changes: a new service enabling users to select two different versions of a given URL and compare them side by side. Differences in the text of the content are highlighted in yellow and blue.
Our new Wayback Changes tool highlights how a web page differs through time, comparing two versions of the same page side-by-side.
This is the high level view of “Changes.”

Just click the  “Changes” link at the top of the “Calendar View” page to find an index of archives of the selected URL with a high-level indicator of the degree of change between the available archives.  When no content has changed, the page appears in the same color. You can then select any two archived versions of the page so they can be rendered side-by-side with the changes between them highlighted in blue and yellow.  Best of all you can then share this “Changes” URL with others (e.g. via Twitter or embedded in a news story) so others can easily see the changes as well.  

  •  Save Page Now: an updated version of perhaps the most popular feature of the Wayback Machine. Of particular import is the new ability to archive all the embedded links and outlinks (connections to external web sites) with just one click.  
The new and improved Save Page Now function allows you to save web pages in various ways and share them in your own archive of favorites.

Also new is the ability for users to save web archives in a public directory of favorite items. It’s essentially a personal but public bookmarking system of pages that others can follow. Imagine how important this might be for future researchers, family members or fans interested in the web pages you chose to personally save for all time.

  • Collections:  A new way to learn about why a given URL has been archived into the Wayback Machine. Start by clicking the “Collections” link at the top of any “Calendar View” page. You will then be shown a list of all the collections that this URL is included in, plus you can select individual playback URLs from any of those Collections. Click on the Collection name to learn more about its provenance. And if it was created as part of the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service, you can execute full-text searches on archived web pages that are part of that collection.
  • Show All Captures: The Wayback Machine archives some URLs many times a day. In some cases hundreds, or even thousands of times a day. While all of those captures have been available for playback, the calendar view would only show a sampling of those captures. The new Show All Captures feature now presents a list of each and every capture available per day, even for captures that are made seconds apart.

Who will be using these new features? Earlier this month, Mark Graham, the Wayback Machine’s director, got a request from a TV journalist for help—not just for something Trumpian or Brexit-ish. Instead, the just-married journalist saw that her wedding day web page was about to expire and wanted to be sure it would be preserved. Using the new and improved Save Page Now, she was able to preserve the page (including all outlinks) with one click.

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) partners with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine in order to produce reports that monitor the government.

The Environmental Data and Government Initiative (EDGI) partners with the Wayback Machine in its work monitoring government websites with particular emphasis on environmental issues. Our new Changes feature will help them track and publicize how government agencies are deleting and altering information about climate change and environmental protection issues, by comparing and publishing web pages side-by-side.

Graham underscores that the Wayback Machine, which has many scholarly, historical and journalistic uses, “is relevant to how you live in the United States today. Wayback Machine captures are even admissible in many courts.”

 “It can be used for holding people and governments accountable,” he said. “At the same time, it can be used for other things, like a bride’s request to preserve a wedding page.”

Fighting digital extinction, the Wayback Machine way.

NOTE: On October 23rd, come by the Wayback Machine Demo station at our World Night Market event to meet the team who built these new features. You can purchase your tickets here.

Adding New Features to the Internet Archive Music Experience

IA Music Player

The recently reconstructed music player has more, much more, to offer in making music accessible.

This is a time of transition, musically speaking, at the Internet Archive..

Our online digital library is best known for its immense archive of web pages and websites in the Wayback Machines. Less well known are the million-plus recordings the site has stored digitally and made available to the general public, mostly from 78s, albums and CDs.

Highlighting the growing importance of music on is the debut this month of our new music player. While you can listen to only a sample of most modern songs, the new player now embeds Spotify and YouTube versions of the full song, so listeners are now able to click right from to those services and listen to the full track. Examples: and

Liner Notes, Santana
Using the Internet Archive’s new music player, album covers and full liner notes are available with just a click.

We’ve digitized at high resolution the album liner notes, including full CD booklets and the paper labels on the discs themselves. And at the bottom of each page are lists of related music tracks – covers, other versions of the same song done by the same artist and compilations where that song has been used.

Related music
Want to find music related to the music you already know? IA’s music player is good at making those matches.

“It’s exploratory; it’s not exact,” said Internet Archive’s Brenton Cheng, who is at the head of the product team engineering the new music player. “The system uses each song’s acoustic ‘thumbprint’ to match it with songs in other services. The goal here is to start engaging with the music.”

“With our related music tracks listed down below, you are going to be exploring and discovering items, covers and versions that you didn’t know existed before. I think now we’re doing a better job of presenting the content that we have, and then helping people discover more.”

As streaming services gain popularity, the rich fountain of information found on album covers and CD liner notes is in danger of being lost. The Internet Archive seeks to fill that void by preserving the entire package that makes for a deeper musical experience. Now exploring those covers is right there in the music player itself.

“I think our presentation experience has until now not been as much of a focus as our gathering of materials from different sources,” Cheng said. “So now we are really trying to take time and check with our users, finding out who’s using the site and what they need. And we’re trying to present better experiences for exploring, consuming and searching for content.”