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A farewell to a colleague and a reminder to save things

July 4, 2010

Since 2006, Jeff Kuykendall has operated Optical Atlas, the best Elephant 6 resource on the internet. In addition to breaking most of the E6-related news of the past few years, he has published rare documents, conducted interviews, and put together colossal features, all in the name of being a fan. At one point, the site was updated almost daily, but over the past few months, updates have become fewer and farther between.

It will be an especially long time, it seems, before the update following Kuykendall’s most recent post, “A Last Message from Optical Atlas”:

Last December, finding that my work on Optical Atlas was becoming–less than 100%? Somewhat listless?–I thought I’d refocus myself in putting together a decade-end E6 retrospective. It took almost a month to create, and the reaction was wonderful.  (I’m surprised so many of you read through it all.  It was big!) But I’d been thinking about that being the last post on the website ever, and that didn’t exactly happen. How could I end it when there was a new Apples in Stereo album coming out, and Miles Kurosky was returning to the music scene, and Jeff Mangum seemed to be steadily resurfacing? Late winter and spring were a pretty exciting time to be an Elephant 6 fan. Still, by sticking around I’d missed my chance to go out with a bang, and as you may have noticed, since then each gap between an Optical Atlas update seems to have been longer than the last. So I am here to tell you that this is it. The End.

Optical Atlas’s contributions will be missed, by both fans and folks trying to write books. But while it sucks Kuykendall is closing up shop, it’s a huge help (to me, at least) that it existed in the first place. Having so much stuff compiled in one place is an invaluable resource. As hard as it can be to pin people down for interviews, it has been another challenge altogether to find secondary sources of information.

These sources can be divided into two categories: web and non-web. The latter–which includes things like out-of-print music zines and old photos and stuff–is much harder to come by. It requires persistence and luck, and a whole lot of both.

The web stuff, while easier to find, poses a risk that the non-web stuff does not, although it’s a risk that can be easily mitigated. Basically, while it’s easy to find web materials, there’s never any guarantee that it will be there the next time you want to look it up. I’ve already been burned by this before. In some cases, stories are archived and thereby protected from deletion by their authors, but this is not always the case. To protect myself from losing good resources, I need to save–not just bookmark–everything I find worthwhile.

Until now, I had neglected to do this with the stuff I might use from Optical Atlas, figuring it would still be around when I needed it. Kuykendall isn’t posting anymore, but he seems to intend to leave his site up in its current form for the time being. Still, I don’t know how much longer that will be, and who knows what other things could happen? This is an awfully fickle series of tubes we’ve got here.

So my task now is to go through the bowels of the site and save just about everything. It’s going to take a while, but I have no reason to wait around. I’m going to miss Optical Atlas, but I’ll make sure to keep it around, at least on my own hard drive.

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