Friday, May 08, 2015

Leeroy Jenkins Sufffers Digital Degradation. Is the Cloud not as secure as we thought?

An astute poster on Reddit spotted that the famous World of Warcraft parody video "Leeroy Jenkins" has apparently degraded over time on Youtube and the audio is now corrupted.

What could be going on. Are digital archives not as incorruptible as we once believed? If such an iconic work can be corrupted what does this mean for our precious memories that we are increasingly trusting to cloud storage?

Storage devices can degrade over time but this is very unlikely to be the cause of Leeroy Jenkins corruption. Any half way decent cloud storage system has multiply redundant back ups with error correction. As several respondents to the Reddit post have pointed out it is far more likely that the errors were introduced when the video was converted from an older video format to a newer format. The "copy of a copy" syndrome kicks in and quality degrades.

EDIT: For clarification: You can copy digital files perfectly so "copy of a copy" degradation isn't always a problem but digital video formats employ lossy compression so some quality is lost with each conversion. The audio distortion in this case however is so extreme I suspect this is more than just incremental loss  of quality over multiple conversions. I think something went seriously wrong in a recent conversion to HTML5 format.

Regardless of the cause however the video is now corrupted. Given Leeroy's iconic status I am hopeful that some nerd at Google will take notice and restore a pristine copy. The fact that this can happen is something to think about however. Leeroy Jenkins may still be well known enough for someone to go to the bother of fixing it. I doubt you can say the same about the videos you uploaded of your child's birthday party.

Original Reddit post from I_ama_Borat here: http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/357s6l/eli5_all_of_a_sudden_the_famous_video_of_leeroy/ 

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