Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

I am mortified to find that I only posted three times in 2010. I'd like to be able to say that it was for some glorious reason, but, to be honest, I just haven't made time. I've tweeted (and re-tweeted) quite a bit. I went out on the road and spoke at a number of conferences. I had one article come out that I wrote in 2009. But in 2010, I just didn't make much time to write.

I could make a public resolution, but that's risky...since the proof of failure or success would be right here. So no resolution.

There were a number of topics that caught my attention this year.

Twitter donated their archive to the Library of Congress this year. It has been startling to me just how much public outcry there was. It's not unlike a journal -- a very public journal, aggregated from millions of people. Given the Library's collections of personal papers and man-on-the-street collections, Twitter seems perfectly in keeping with the Library's other analog and digitial collections. And, the Library archives web sites. In one sense, archiving Twitter is archiving another part of the web.

I got more involved in web archiving this year. I've been involved in web archiving before - I started up an initiative to archive course web sites in 2000. It's been gratifying to become involved again, and see how much has been saved and will be saved. Not just at institutions like the Library of Congress or other national libraries or research universities (check out the institutions that are part of the IIPC), but through personal, volunteer efforts. I'm looking at you, Archive Team.

Archives are acquiring increasing numbers of born-digital collections. I've been thrilled to see the increased interest in the use of digital forensics tools in the appraisal and processing and accessing of such collections. But there are challenges. Archives are looking at vintage media, which often requires vintage hardware and software. The collection at the Library's Package Campus is something to behold, but I shudder at what it will take to keep the equipment operational. To understand some of the challenges, a couple of key reports came out this year, on Preserving Virtual Worlds and Digital Forensics in Cultural Heritage.

In that same vein, I've always been interested in computing history. I am going to resolve to return to reading more on that subject.

I've been thinking a lot about documenting computing history in aid of digital preservation. There are multiple initiatives to document and verify file formats. There is at least one initiative to document carrier media. There are archives of manuals and media. I am thinking a lot about what other sorts of documentation are needed - operating systems, application software, hardware of all types... I heard these challenges subtly woven through many presentations and discussions at our storage architecture meeting this year.

I've been thinking a lot about standards this year. That comes from working with an initiative to collect content from the wild, as published. How do we collect things as they are, but minimize the grief required to deal with variety when ingesting them into a managed environment? That I wish I had a great answer for. But that's what 2011 will in part be about.

I almost forgot about personal digital archiving! We started an initiative at the Library in 2010, with Personal Archiving Day and a Personal Digital Archiving booth at the National Book Festival. I loved working at both events. There's a lot more to be done about public awareness and promoting best practices.

Monday, May 24, 2010

writing more very soon

Since switching jobs on March 1 (I moved from the Repository Development Center at the Library of Congress to the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library) I have had much less time to write. I have a couple of long posts on a couple of topics waiting to come out - more very soon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day 2010

I find it incredibly challenging to identify a single individual to write about on Ada Lovelace Day. I have a number of colleagues that I admire more than I can say, and what I really want to do is give a shout out to everyone I can think of (being sure that I am forgetting many women to whom I apologize profusely):

Grace Agnew, Rachel Allen, Ivy Anderson, Martha Anderson, Caroline Arms, Murtha Baca, Carol Bartels, Maria Bernier, Liz Bishoff, Suzanne Bonefas, Sandy Bostian, Cristine Bostick, Kristine Brancolini, Lois Brooks, Colleen Cahill, Laura Campbell, Lisa Chan, Robin Chandler, Patricia Cruse, Robin Dale, Ann Della Porta, Christina Deane, Robin Dowden, Laine Farley, Eleanor Fink, Daisy Flemming, Rachel Frick, Michelle Gallinger, Wendy Gogel, Cathryn Goodwin, Trisha Gordon, Emily Gore, Beth Gould, Laura Graham, Ronda Grizzle, Abbie Grotke, Kat Hagedorn, Susan Hazan, Geneva Henry, Nancy Hoebelheinrich, Gina Jones, Katherine Jones, Anne Kenney, Stacey Kowalczyk, Elisa Lanzi, Cindy Maisannes, Martha Mahard, Maura Marx, Amalyah Keshet, Michelle Kimpton, Katherine Kott, Liz Madden, Jane Mandelbaum, Cathy Marshall, Kathleen McDonnell, Bethany Mendenhall, Marla Misunas, Bethany Nowviskie, Susan Patterson, Sandy Payette, Toni Peterson, Cecilia Preston, Abbey Potter, Merrilee Proffitt, Suzanne Quigley, Michelle Rago, Vicky Reich, Oya Rieger, Jenn Riley, Chris Ruotolo, Bess Sadler, Dorothea Salo, Beth Sandore, Lenore Sarasan, Jodi Schneider, Candy Schwartz, Sarah Shreeves, Katherine Skinner, MacKenzie Smith, Erin Stalberg, Deb Thomas, Jennifer Trant, Jennifer Vinopal, Jewel Ward, Susanne Warren, Amanda Watson, Robin Wendler, Olivia Williamson, Debra Weiss, Holly Witchey, Ann Whiteside, and Diane Zorich.

I want them all to know that they have influenced and inspired me again and again over the years and today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I think a lot about obsolescence in my work: hardware, software, and file formats. I encounter a lot of obsolescence in my personal life as well: I own a Saturn (I am currently looking for a place to get it repaired since the Saturn and GM dealerships near me both closed -- I haven't needed to drive it since it developed a coolant leak late last year, but I need it again soon); I can't seem to find the dish washing liquid I prefer except at one store; and the body wash I used for years was discontinued, as was the product I choose to replace it soon after. My liking a TV show seems to be the kiss of death, an assurance that it will soon be canceled.

It's the anniversary of my mother's death today, and for some reason I've been experiencing a strange sense memory of a beauty product my mother used, a cosmetics counter lotion that I could not for the life of me remember the name of, but I remembered the black art deco packaging and its scent vividly (and that I used to sometimes buy it for her at Hart's department store in San Jose, California, also defunct). Last night I found some web sites with images of vintage cosmetics ads and, after some extensive browsing, found an ad that jogged my memory (thanks, Found in Mom's Basement). It was a Charles of the Ritz product called Revenescence. Not surprisingly, the product and brand no longer exists.

Circling back to obsolescence, this product was apparently beloved by generations of women who continue to seek it out. I found a 6oz bottle on eBay priced, optimistically one hopes, at $395, and smaller bottles for $150. There are warnings about pirate versions! And someone has attempted to recreate it, emulate it if you will, with some success. In other words someone so valued this that a market re-emerged, and it became worth someone's while to bring back a product that was made obsolete.

How often does that happen with software? I have seen innumerable games and applications brought back through emulation, and translation and transformation tools created for file formats. But how often is a market recreated, and market value reestablished at a higher rate? Should it ever happen, as an incentive to keep a application or format alive?