zaterdag 17 december 2011

This blog has moved / Deze blog is verplaatst

As of 15 December 2011, this weblog and its archive have been incorporated into the NCDD website, new url:
or directly to the weblog, new url:

Per 15 december 2011 is deze blog met archief en al verplaatst naar de NCDD website, nieuwe url:
of direct near het weblog, nieuwe url:

donderdag 8 december 2011

DISH2011 wrap up: the digital shift and us (DISH 4)

One can always trust Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information to bring the issues home, and DISH2011 was no exception. ‘The digital shift is disrupting our organizations in fundamental ways,’ he said, finally addressing the question that the other four keynotes had left open: what does it all mean for us, for memory institutions.

Here are some of Clifford's observations:

‘In many ways, digital surrogates are more useful, more accessible and more robust than physical objects. That is deeply upsetting for people who have dedicated their entire lives to collecting and maintaining physical objects.’
‘Our new, online, audiences are very difficult to get hold of.’
‘We used to know where our collections began and ended. Our new users have no patience for those, often historical, accidents. To remedy this situation, organizations band together, but this raises new questions of ownership … of the reassembling.’

‘There are many more opportunities now for users to engage and to participate. Sometimes user impact is quite trivial, but it can also be very profound. For a lot of content, there is somebody out there who knows much more about it than we do and he is able to get in touch with us. Just think of the vast volumes of audiovisual content from our living memory. But user generated content does raise issues of trust: to what extent will we, memory organizations, be able or willing to vouch for this content?’ And there is more, ‘These participants may want to contribute more than just tags, they may bring us their own archives, expecting that there should be a place for the memories of all of us.’

Cliff Lynch is an acute observer of what goes on in our information world
Such a development will have a fundamental impact on our acquisitions policies. Many new choices will have to be made. We must talk about those choices, document them, share them with our peers, and thus develop a sense of what is happening. ‘I find that exciting and promising,’ Lynch concluded.

So the question becomes: are we adapting to this new environment? I attended a workshop session on 'national infrastructures' and heard Marco de Niet of the DEN Foundation say: 'We should have done this ten years ago.' He was commenting on Dutch plans to use the Europeana structure and tools to aggregate content from a variety of Dutch institutions on one discovery platform. They call it the 'Netherlands Cultural Heritage Collection'  - but really, it is metadata only and, if we are lucky, we will get some thumb nails. A workshop attendee asked the critical question: "Will our users be satisfied with just metadata?" Joyce Ray of the US IMLS figured that no-one would be able to find the money to aggregate the content as well. 

Marco de Niet (left) and Hans de Haan addressing the workshop
 on national infrastructures. Time ran out before we were able to start
 discussing the usefulness of national discovery platforms in an international information space.

But should such practicalities stop us from making bold moves?

In order to give us a sense that all of this is doable, the conference organizers had contracted strategist Michael Edson of the US Smithsonian Institution to give us a final pep talk the American way. His advice: stop thinking and talking in terms of ‘the future’. The pace of innovation is so quick now that we simply cannot spend months or even years talking about strategy. Because if we do, we will fail to recognize the things about digital culture that we can bank on now. In other words: ‘It is all a matter of going boldly into the present.’ Strategy should do work. It is a tool. (The text of his entire speech is on slideshare (edsonm).

Michael Edson
This is a spirit that can work - just look at what the Internet Archive has done with a shoestring budget of $10-15 million. But can it work for us, for you and me?

This is what Edson offered to take with us into the office this Monday morning:

1.     What world am I living in?
2.     What impact does my organization want to have in that world?
3.    What should I do today?
I would say: good luck to all of us!

Grabbing digital preservation by the roots - #DISH2011, 3

Day 2 starts out with a plenary keynote by Samuel Jones about the importance of culture for our lives. Interesting and entertaining, no doubt about that, but like yesterday’s keynotes (see earlier post) the viewpoint is rather philosophical, and thus it is difficult to determine what heritage institutions can take home from it in terms of concrete advice as to how to deal with all this on a day-to-day-level.

So, after coffee I am heading for something completely different: a workshop by Karin van der Heiden, a freelance Dutch adviser on matters of digital archiving, especially for graphic designers.

Karin van der Heiden (right) with Job Meihuizen of Premsela.
In cooperation with Premsela, a Dutch archive for designers, she has recently published a brilliantly clear brochure entitled ‘Save as …’ giving graphic designers some really basic and helpful advice about how to organize their information and archives (see post in Dutch). A really good initiative, because we all know that choices well made at the production stage can really help keeping the stuff usable over longer periods of time. Focussing on production gets to the problem of digital preservation at the root. There is a Dutch-language version and an English-language version. The website is still only in Dutch, but I have been told that a US edition with website is forthcoming from AIGA, the US professional association for design.

On Twitter, Karin advertised her workshop as ‘digital archiving for dummies’. Perhaps there were a lot of archivists who thought 'that is not for me', because there were only a handful of attendees. But Karin's intention was not to train the archivists, but to train the archivists to train the producers - to train them to get away from complex terminology like OAIS and TRAC, and to enable them to explain to their producers what to do, at the level of explaining to your father what he should do if he wants to be able to look at his grandchild's pictures in 10 or 20 years.

If you think that this is perhaps too basic a level, just remember this: more and more digital content is being produced outside the sphere of influence of heritage institutions. Can you see the boxes of junk coming your way in 10 or 20 years' time and the troubles and expense they will cause? Educating everybody is therefore important to all of us. Karin's mission is to make basic preservation measures doable, enable designers, artists, researchers and everybody else to easily integrate basic measures into their workflow:

Great stuff. I'll let you know when the US edition becomes available.

Playing the 'digital lifecycle game' #DISH2011, 2

With no set body of knowledge or best practices, training our staff to deal with digital objects remains quite a challenge. The European DigCurV project promotes the availability of vocational training for digital curation. At DISH 2011 DigCurV's Kate Fernie and Katie McCadden presented a really cool training tool: the digital curation lifecycle game. Loosely based on a Monopoly board, the game presents players with real-life questions:

Rony Vissers (Packed, Belgium) searching for answers
'Half-way through your digitization project, the chosen file format is replaced by a new standard. What do you do?' and: 'You get funding to hire a manager for your preservation department. What skills will you require?' ‘You want to digitize your collection of sound recordings, but you do not have the necessary equipment, what do you do?’

Shawn Day, Digital Humanities, seems to feel the threat
These, of course, are no yes or no questions. They are intended to prompt discussion - and in our workshop session there were plenty of inspiring discussions.

The (physical) trial version we played still has a few flaws and Kate and Katie welcomed feedback to improve the game,  but even as it was, the game had us working hard and having fun for over an hour. DigCurV intends to make the game available as a member’s bonus, so I would say: by all means, check out the website and join the DigCurV network! DEN Foundation and my own NCDD are members already, and Marco de Niet and I instantly decided that we must make a Dutch version.

How mature is your organization when it comes to digital preservation?

At the same DigCurV workshop Marco de Niet of DEN foundation drew attention to another tool that can be helpful in educating staff. It is a ‘maturity’ model developed by Charles M. Dollar, which was recently used as the basis for Dutch librarian Enno Meijers’ thesis Stapsgewijs naar duurzame toegang (on the NCDD website). The model is used to measure your own organization’s progress against a number of key criteria, and then decide where improvement is needed. Next month Charles Dollar will be speaking about his model at the PASIG Austin conference in Austin, TX, and I will write more about it then.

woensdag 7 december 2011

Are heritage institutions 'living the digital shift'? #DISH2011, 1

Today and tomorrow I am attending the DISH 2011 conference, or: Digital Strategies for Heritage, a biannual international conference organised by the DEN Foundation and The Netherlands Institute for Heritage (Erfgoed Nederland), two Dutch institutions with remits to promote (ICT) innovation in the cultural heritage sector. Paraphrasing first keynote speaker Katherine Watson of the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), the question apparently still must be asked: 'Are the arts, culture and heritage living the digital shift?'

The conference covers many angles of the digital shift, but obviously I will be on the lookout for sessions and papers dealing with long-term access. Having that focus makes it easier to make choices at this conference, which boasts three blocks of no fewer than fifteen (!) simultaneous parallel sessions - which means you always miss 14/15th of what's on offer. That's a lot to miss, and somebody tweeted: I hope the three plenary keynote presentations make up for the 'sacrifice'.

Did they? I can only give you my own answer: yes and no. Yes in the sense that they gave us a powerful picture of what present-day digital culture is all about. But for me, personally, the three keynotes pretty much covered the same ground and thus I would have been happier with just one keynote and more opportunity to attend a workshop. My preferred keynote would not have come from Katherine Watson or from Charles Leadbeater (although they made good points), but from Amber Case, a ‘cyborg anthropologist’ studying the tools we make for ourselves. These are 'no longer extensions of our physical selves, but extensions of our mental selves'. Case described the collections of digital photographs that we all have as a ‘Mary Poppins bag’  that is weightless – and because it is weightless and sheer unlimited, we do not really feel an acute sense of loss when it goes to waste .... Ah, so that's why it is so difficult to find funding for digital preservation! Yet, the stuff we put on Facebook and Youtube is as much a historical record of our lives as the murals in the Egyptian pyramids were. Only much more fragile and ‘suspended in mental space’.

Amber Case, 'living the digital age', despite her admittedly 'analogue' upbringing.
'In my own back yard, I understood the limits of my mental and physical capabilities.'
Other things we have to come to terms with are the digital age’s ‘simultaneous time’ – there is always somebody awake somewhere in the world and they may be filling your inbox to the brim. Physical proximity to people is losing relevance (‘everybody is always looking at their mobile phones and laptops’ - this conference is no exception) to ‘virtual proximity’ online. We have ‘second selves’ online which we must groom like our first selves. The games we play give us immediate rewards which are addictive. And we shed things and apparatuses like a tree sheds leaves – no more hand-me-downs from previous generations.

This world is fast, it is non-linear, it is mobile; users are actively engaging and have a million choices (Katherine Watson). And, what’s more, according to Amber Case they demand an information/cultural environment in which the interfaces and platforms and websites which we, heritage institutions, have so painstakingly built, disappear entirely into the background. Actions are reduced, queries are eliminated. 'The best technology is invisible; it gets out of the way and connects people.' Users want interfaces to make them feel 'superhuman', 'powerful'. 

Charles Leadbeater: Users no longer want to be passive receivers, they want to 'search, enjoy, make, share, do'. The world is becoming 'asymmetric': small investments may have big impacts, and vice versa. Traditional roles and responsibilities no longer work. English football, with fixed roles for footballers (offense) and kicking pushing muscle (defense), has been transformed by (Dutch footballer) Johan Cruyff. At Barcelona FC, everybody must be able to play football.

Chair Chris Batt with a breakdown of the audience of
more than 300 attendees, 75% (my estimate) from the Netherlands
Pfffffhhh ... I turn my head and look at the many familiar faces in the audience. Colleagues from museums, from archives, from academic libraries. I happen to know about the average age of their staff. I happen to know about their budgets. I happen to know about their closets full of floppy disks and cd-roms. I happen to know about their ageing IT systems. And I think, wow, we've got a long way to go ...

BTW: my 1/15th of the afternoon programme, a DigCurV workshop about digital curation education, was well worth it. More about that tomorrow!

maandag 5 december 2011

Een "infrastructuur": wat is dat en hoe bouw je het?

Velen van jullie hebben de afgelopen jaren de missie van de NCDD op een van mijn powerpointdia's zien staan:

Dat is een hele mond vol, en dus zeg ik er altijd maar bij: wat wij daaronder verstaan is een landelijk dekkend netwerk van voorzieningen: mensen, kennis, opslagfaciliteiten, software, hardware, opleidingen, en, niet te vergeten, financiering.
Over een mond vol gesproken ...

Hoe vlieg je zoiets groots aan? De ene methode is de deltaplanmethode: grootschalig, hoog-boven-over. In polderland Nederland zie je zoiets maar zelden. Dan moet het water ons écht aan de lippen staan, zoals in 1953 letterlijk gebeurde. Voor de duurzame bruikbaarheid van onze digitale bestanden is zo een beweging (nog) niet tot stand gekomen. Wij (zeg maar, informatieprofessionals) weten wel van de tijdbom die onder onze digitale informatie tikt, maar die urgentie wordt nog lang niet door alle bestuurders als dringend ervaren.
Dus hebben we binnen de NCDD gekeken of we de uitdaging in min of meer behapbare brokken kunnen opdelen. Daar zijn vier werkpakketten uit gekomen:
  1. Opslag (het betrouwbaar en vooral zo efficiënt mogelijk opslaan van de bits en de bytes, inclusief netwerkverbindingen)
  2. Preservering (wat moeten we nu precies doen om die duurzaamheid te waarborgen - monitoren van de ontwikkelingen (preservation watch), plannen van preserveringsacties, de softwaretools die je daarvoor nodig hebt, R&D, en vooral veel kennis)
  3. Afstemming collectiebeleid (digitale informatie laat zich lastig vangen in de traditionele taakverdeling tussen instellingen, daar moet je nieuwe afspraken over maken)
  4. Kwaliteitszorg en certificering (wanneer is een archief een 'trustworthy digital repository'? Hoe bewijs je dat?)
Voor de eerste twee werkpakketten zijn sinds juni dit jaar NCDD-werkgroepen aan het werk. Zij hebben de opdracht gekregen om diverse scenario's te bedenken voor een landelijke infrastructuur. Die moet a) zo efficiënt (lees: goedkoop) mogelijk zijn, en b) de kwaliteit van duurzame toegankelijkheid in Nederland op een hoger plan brengen - met name ook voor de kleine instellingen die zelf geen digitaal depot kunnen betalen. Alle officiële informatie daarover staat op

De werkgroep Preservering aan het werk: rond de tafel Jata Haan (EYE), Giovanna Fossati (EYE, voorzitter), Frédérique Vijftigschild (NCDD support), Paul Doorenbosch (KB), Aad van der Valk (Beeld en Geluid), Mette van Essen (Nationaal Archief), Jeanine Tieleman (DEN) en Andrea Scharnhorst (DANS); ontbreken: Barbara Sierman (KB), Robert Gillesse (DEN) en Gaby Wijers (NIMk). Beelden van de werkgroep Opslag houden jullie van me tegoed.

Aan mij de eer om al dit werk te ondersteunen vanuit de NCDD, en ik kan je zeggen, de werkgroepen hebben het niet gemakkelijk. Duurzame toegankelijkheid is een jong vak met heel veel onzekerheden. Wie kan voorspellen wat voor computers we over 10 of 20 jaar zullen hebben? Wie durft te voorspellen hoe snel het web blijft groeien? Wie durft te selecteren wat we wel en niet moeten bewaren? Wie durft er vandaag definitief te zeggen wat de beste duurzaamheidsstrategie is? En hoe zit het met alle bestuurlijke en juridische complicaties?

Ga er maar aan staan. Niettemin zijn we vol goede moed aan het werk gegaan. Er wordt hersenkrakend nagedacht en geschreven. Ideeën worden geopperd en soms weer van tafel geveegd. Om soms later opnieuw op te duiken als andere alternatieven niet haalbaar zijn gebleken.

Maar we hebben hulp nodig. Van jullie. Daarom organiseren we:

NCDD symposium "Bouw een huis voor ons digitaal geheugen",
24 januari 2012, KB, Den Haag, 10.30 u tot 16.30 u, toegang gratis, wél even aanmelden

Programma en aanmelden op

woensdag 30 november 2011

Digital preservation basics in four online seminars

If you are new to digital preservation, you may want to check out four ‘webinars’ organized by the California State Library and the California Preservation Program. The one-hour webinars promise to give you a basic understanding of what digital preservation is all about, of interest especially to librarians and archivists who are involved in developing digital projects.

The first webinar is scheduled for December 8, 12 PM Pacific time (which is 21.00 hrs in Holland). Topics include: ‘storing digital objects, choosing and understanding risks in file formats, planning for migration and emulation, and the roles of metadata in digital preservation.’ See