Readers of FGI are well acquainted with link rot, where internet links break over time.
Today I’d like to talk about something more subtle with no obvious way to detect the problem.
On the Alaska page of the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States project, I had a link to APOC InfoQuick, a database of disclosure information for public officials and lobbyists from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Today I visited the link at https://webapp.state.ak.us/apoc/index.jsp and chose the “lobbyist reporting” menu item because I thought it would be fun to list BP lobbyists in a personal blog entry I was drafting.
The lobbyist reporting section had a Search Lobbyist Registrations link. I clicked on it, searched for BP and got some listings. But only from 2007, the first year that Sarah Palin was Governor.
Searches in other parts of the lobbyist reporting system confirmed that NO information was available after 2007. I started to wonder if I’d missed the session law that repealed lobbying reporting requirements.
Then I noticed that the URL started with “webapp” and thought that it might be good to see if this database was still linked from the APOC home page.
It wasn’t. Now they had a link called “search reports” at http://doa.alaska.gov/apoc/SearchReports/index.html. The page features two reporting systems for public officials – An “interim reporting system” for reports filed 2010 and later and “searchable campaign reporting” which is the public official/candidate portion of APOC InfoQuick. This explains why APOC InfoQuick wasn’t taken off the live web.
Current information on lobbyists in Alaska is still available, just not database searchable. You can access various PDF lobbyist reports from 2005 forward at http://doa.alaska.gov/apoc/TrainingReports/lobbyist.html.
I have no information on why lobbyist information is no longer database searchable and speculating why would take me out of my comfort zone of not discussing policy choices made by the level of government I work for.
The main point I’m making is that most librarians and other information specialists are pretty comfortable with link checking and fixing broken links when we find them. But what can we do when a site remains on the web but has stopped being updated? Especially when there’s no note on the old site about the change?