There's still time to send a message to Chris Rusbridge at the Digital Curation Center to enter his personal data recovery challenge:
I will do my best to recover the first half dozen interesting files that I’m told about… of course, what I really mean is that I’ll try and get the community to help recover the data. That’s you!His deadline is Twelfth Night, January 5, 2009. Read his post for the rest of the details.
OK, I define interesting, and it won’t necessarily be clear in advance. The first one of a kind might be interesting, the second one would not. Data from some application common of its time may be more interesting than something hand-coded by you, for you. Data might be more interesting (to me) than text. Something quite simple locked onto strange obsolete media might be interesting, but then again it might be so intractable it stops being interesting. We may even pay someone to extract files from your media, if it’s sufficiently interesting (and if we can find someone equipped to do it).
The only reference for this sort of activity that I know of is (Ross & Gow, 1999, see below), commissioned by the Digital Archiving Working Group.
What about the small print? Well, this is a bit of fun with a learning outcome, but I can’t accept liability for what happens. You have to send me your data, of course, and you are going to have to accept the risk that it might all go wrong. If it’s your only copy, and you don’t (or can’t) take a copy, it might get lost or destroyed in the process. You’ll need to accept that risk; if you don't like it, don't send it. I might not be able to recover anything at all, for many reasons. I’ll send you back any data I can recover, but can’t guarantee to send back any media.
The point of this is to tell the stories of recovering data, so don’t send me anything if you don’t want the story told. I don’t mind keeping your identity private (in fact good practice says that’s the default, although I will ask you if you mind being identified). You can ask for your data to be kept private, but if possible I’d like the right to publish extracts of the data, to illustrate the story.
I've been thinking a lot lately about data migration and recovery, and I think this is a great way to illustrate the challenges and solutions -- with real data and the stories behind its creation, loss, and potential recovery.