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Eating our own dogfood?

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.

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6 Responses

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  1. Steve Hitchcock says

    Following from the ‘continuum’ point in the penultimate sentence, I note that Kings College London has just announced an MA in Digital Asset Management. The compulsory module in this programme is “structured into four themes; creation, publication, management, and preservation.”
    It just needs to get the repository connection in there somehow as well.

  2. Steve Hitchcock says

    More on the ‘continuum’ point. Peter Murray-Rust, a leading Web scientist, has blogged about preservation as a content creator, and his (relative) personal failure in preserving his content, and makes this impassioned plea:

    I would urge University Repositories: Stop agonizing about preservation and start disseminating.





    BTW, the ‘hamburger’ is Peter’s habitual reference to PDF.

    I would direct the plea at other content creators too.

  3. Miggie Pickton says

    You’ve hit the nail on the head by saying that this is a discussion of preserving the formal vs the informal. I would no more expect my tweets to be preserved than my countless notes to myself on scraps of paper. Both serve a purpose at the time, but really don’t need preserving for posterity (of course if I turn out to be the next Leonardo da Vinci then that might be different…).
    Perhaps this is an advocacy matter – if your work is valuable then don’t leave it to Youtube/Slideshare etc, put it in your repository?

  4. andrew gray says

    while we can’t preserve everything and repositories have avoided being described as archives, we may have to accept that is what some people view repositories as i.e. archives. One research centre was interested in the repository as a sort of archive of their conferences and events and the academic pointed out that in 30/50 years no one will probably be interested in their ‘drawings’ but they will probably be interested in their emails and correspondence since it will show the informal links that are sometimes invisible that actually reveal the workings of the centre.

  5. andrew gray says

    re: Peter Murray Rust – it would be so lovely to forget about copyright! does he also suggest we not worry about preservation?

    and im very pleased that eprints are having a ‘training day’ on linked data – whenever i look at it i get a vague understanding and think it will never work for art researchers!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Eating our own dogfood? Yes we can! - Diary of a Repository Preservation Project linked to this post on June 29, 2009

    […] been questioned about whether or how we might preserve our project outputs in the form of blogs, slideshows, […]

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