woensdag 19 oktober 2011

Digital Preservation Summit (1): how far have we come?

We have gathered in cold, rainy, windy Hamburg today and tomorrow for the Goportis Digital Preservation Summit (#DPS2011). So the sunny note on which Adam Farquhar of the British Library started off the conference was quite welcome - except that some of us (including the undersigned) saw a few more clouds in the sky than Adam. A matter of the cup being half full or half empty?

Adam Farquhar (left) with Angela Dappert (DPC)
Farquhar said our progress to date is 'pretty encouraging'. 'Digital preservation has become business as usual,' he said, 'for large memory institutions.' Now that I reread my notes, the addition about large memory institutions is probably crucial to Adam's argument, but what stuck in my mind, and also in the mind of Steve Knight from the National Library of New Zealand (both of us presented during the day), is that in our opinion, digital preservation is still quite a long way off from being business as usual for most of the stakeholders - including data producers, funders, and all but the very largest memory institutions.
Adam also said that we are doing digital preservation 'at a substantial scale', citing recent BL projects involving the migration of millions of objects - whereas in my community (the Netherlands Coalition for Digital Preservation) I hear much grumbling about the (lack of) scalability of the tools we have at our disposal at present.

Fortunately (I mean in terms of agreeing on issues), Adam also saw a number of challenges:
  • changes in digital materials (flash, social media with short urls)
  • content in context - when a publication is commented upon over the years, it changes
  • dynamic content - complex objects such as 3D interactive views of crystals; html5 (which incorporates javascript elements)
  • a lack of skills in memory institutions - which is getting worse because of the budget cuts.
And I agree with all those (and surmise that Steve Knight will too).

At the end of his keynote, Adam Farquhar said two things:
  • Do not wait until we know everything to get it right, but do whatever you can now
  • Within our community, we need to become more honest about what works and what does not. That is the only  path to true learning.
To which I can only say: hear! hear!

There is much more good stuff to report from this conference (including instructive disagreements between presenters), but this time live or even semi-live blogging is difficult because I am presenting and moderating myself - plus: this conference is very well organised and the audience does not get any (boring) time off for blogging. Also, it is a 9 to 6 programme, and your blogger needs time to eat and sleep. So, dear readers, I must ask for a little patience. But I assure you: ALL shall be revealed  ... and in a matter of days even, because then we have the KEEP workshop coming up, and iPRES ...

On a more practical note: powerpoint and laptops are wonderful inventions, but can somebody PLEASE come up with a solution whereby every presenter is visible to the audience?
(Thanks to Natalie Walters for allowing me to use this image)

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