Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham

 

Due to major changes in the site's operation in Dec 2017 the archives cn now only be accessed through the Bulletin Board.  Select 'Discussion' in the Main Menu to open the Board Index page, then 'MSN Board Archive' in the header area

 

 


 

Developer's Notes on the MSN Archive

 


 

These notes are included for anyone with more than a passing interest in the archives.  It is important for serious users to understand exactly what this system is and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not.

 

This is an attempt to conserve the messages posted by members of the Greenhill GS MSN Group, for the ex Greenhillian community as a whole, when the MSN service closed 23rd Feb 2009.  Many members of this site were also members of the MSN Group.

 

The messages were extracted either from MSN directly or from mails sent by the group and held on personal machines.   No attempt was made to replicate or mirror the MSN livery, presentation etc.

 

Making a true back-up of the MSN board was impossible for people other than MSN staff.   The only public 'official' MSN transfer known to us was extremely deficient as regards both content and structure.

 

The process was not easy.   It appears that MSN procedures, formats and servers changed many times after the inception of the group in May 2001.   In addition the GGS board was particularly large for a system without even basic provisions for thread management.

 

The system contains approximately 11,500 messages which were harvested and extracted by software.   Some of this was generally available on the web but required detailed configuration by us for this purpose.   Other dedicated software was written by ourselves..

 

There may be small errors, particularly of formatting, introduced by this process but we believe that the content is essentially a faithful reproduction of the original.

 

In a very few instances, where we have had to change a message for technical reasons, a red 'archivist note' has been added as to the change and reason.

 

All processed messages have been read at least once (by very long suffering volunteer members of this site) and any unusual aspects checked against the original web item. In practice most messages have been checked by at least two people.

 

No attempt has been made to clean up or improve original presentation.  <o:p></o:p> etc.  was a characteristic feature of the MSN system.

 

At release date we have difficulty reproducing very specialist foreign characters, which appear as ????????. We have originals and can store them. Long term we have to find out how to feed them back to the browser client.

 

Images have been downloaded and conserved where available and a notice posted where they were not.   Restricted space for members images was a problem for the MSN group, and prolific posters sadly had to delete early material to make room for later postings.

 

We have tried to conserve the MSN concept of 'Deleted' and 'Hmmm' pages in principle.   Because of the circumstances however we cannot be certain to have reproduced these exactly in individual cases.

 

Deleting a page removed the content and the author, but left a marker in the system.   This has been reproduced.

 

The Hmmm page could have several possible reasons.   The message may just not exist, either through system error or deletion of a whole thread by a manager.   Another reason could be that the message existed but the server took too long to find it.

 

It is possible that items may exist on this system which were shown as Deleted or Hmm in the final days of the group.  This is due to material source and timing issues.  Conversely items shown as Hmm may have existed on MSN but were too slow to open.   We have, however, double checked against this known possibility.

 

The MSN system could tolerate duplicate (and more) thread titles.  It was also very easy for novices to do start a duplicate inadvertently when replying to a post.   This system cannot handle duplicates.

 

For our convenience, and I suspect users in general, duplicates have been suffixed in brackets.   Only the bracket suffixes are ours.   On occasions group members used similar tricks to avoid duplication when they knew it could happen.;

 

Kevin Dronsfield
Feb 2009