This week the UK National Archives announced that they will be closing the Your Archives wiki in September 2012. Existing content will be preserved as HTML snapshots and kept available on the government web archive, but it won’t be running on MediaWiki so search, edit and export won’t work. Along with TNA’s other online resources, Your Archives will be replaced by the new Discovery service (now in beta), which will integrate the Catalogue, DocumentsOnline and user-created content, along with a powerful search engine and an API so that third parties can query the data (so no more need for Python scripts to scrape data out of the HTML). It’s not yet clear exactly what kind of content they will and won’t let us add, and I suspect that the scope will be narrower than Your Archives, but better integration should make up for that. One of the biggest problems with Your Archives was that getting incoming links from the Catalogue was very clunky and getting incoming links from DocumentsOnline was impossible (so people browsing DocumentsOnline had no easy way of knowing if a transcript of the document was available). This was a limitation of the Catalogue and DocumentsOnline as much as a limitation of MediaWiki, but in any case it’s good that they’ve solved it.
I’ve been contributing to Your Archives on and off for over four years. According to the log of my contributions, the first page I created was a transcript of a prisoner of war report on 27 October 2007. Up to now I’ve made 3,410 edits, including creating the third most popular page (which has had over 80,000 views – my ‘proper’ academic publications will never be that widely read). Now as a community moderator I’ll be helping to manage the transition by tidying up existing content and ensuring that it will be as accessible as possible in the archived snapshot version. I’ll also be exploring the possibilities of MediaWiki outside Your Archives. It’s still an immensely powerful and useful piece of software. I used it to draft my book and it worked really well for that, which shows that wiki doesn’t have to mean letting just anyone edit, or even any kind of collaboration at all. I really want to find out how to use Semantic MediaWiki and what it can do. It is kind of sad that Your Archives is coming to an end, but that’s just sentimentality. If things don’t change they’ll stay as they are, and who’d want that?