KeepIt is a preservation project, about preserving digital repositories. But not preserving anything else, it seems. So we stand accused by Chris Gutteridge of not eating our own dogfood. The evidence is here, in this blog. What are we doing to preserve the content of this blog, the embedded content (Slideshare, YouTube) and the twitters?
Chris says: “these sites, while amazingly cool and useful, have no contract or duty of preservation. The universities involved could always keep their own information, but the “primary” URL for each item is likely to be the one on the above site. That means if the plug is pulled on youtube (is it making money? can it?) then all those URLs could just go away.”
The obvious answer is we are distinguishing the project and communications about the project from the object of the project, the repositories. Should we be preserving the project and its outputs as well? Yes. And that’s a point that goes to the heart of the project’s approach. You cannot preserve content effectively unless you know what it is you want to preserve, i.e. you need a plan. When it comes to the day-to-day activity of the project as reflected here – rather than the boiled-down reports and papers that are presented, added to repositories, published, and thus more actively ‘preserved’ (or managed) – we don’t know what is worth preserving or what should be. We don’t yet have a plan. What follows instead are some thoughts on the preserving the formal vs the informal, and trying to identify where these might meet in the new online continuum.
WordPress blog. Most heavily used service so far in the project. We are using a blog service hosted in our university school (ecs.soton) rather than a public service, so there is a chance to do something about preserving that, linking to the repository perhaps. Maybe there could be a closer association between repositories and blogs. Having said that, while there are some students using the ECS blog service, I’m not sure many academics are, and there could be a message there.
(Note. We will be setting up a project wiki soon, and will again use the in-house hosted wiki.)
YouTube/Slideshare. We are using these principally for the embed function, to display in the blog. Of the four items embedded in the blog to date (3 slides e.g., 1 video), one is also in a repository, and the others we must assume were not considered formal enough by the authors for repository deposit. Those are the two angles on these types of material and repositories: display functionality vs scope for deposit.
Twitter. I’ve only been using it for a few days, so I can’t comment yet on its instant ephemerality vs long-term value. I wouldn’t rule out the latter in terms of realising some academic value, but my immediate impression is it’s not there yet and would have to be heavily filtered. The practice is not there yet, nor the filter mechanism.
So the project is focussed on preservation of repository content. To what extent are we seeking to preserve what is in repositories, to shape content creation practices for better preservation, or to shape repository policy to accept and therefore preserve a wider range of content types such as considered here? This is an open question, and one that we need to try and answer in the remaining year and months of the project.
The general fact is that practice in digital preservation is always trying to keep up with content creation practices. McLuhan said the content of a new medium is an old medium. Hence pdf. Blogs, Twitter (to come, Google Wave), etc., are the leading-edge content forms for the new online medium. If it seems obvious and inevitable to state that digital preservation is always reacting, never leading, Chris is saying this doesn’t have to be the case. Content creation, repository support tools, repository management and preservation are all part of the same continuum. We all face the same problems. It’s good to be reminded of that.