Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Canadian Government Documents

Eight years ago, in the sixth post to this blog, I was writing about the importance of getting copies of government information out of the hands of the government:
Winston Smith in "1984" was "a clerk for the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite historical documents so that they match the current party line". George Orwell wasn't a prophet. Throughout history, governments of all stripes have found the need to employ Winston Smiths and the US government is no exception. Government documents are routinely recalled from the FDLP, and some are re-issued after alteration.
Anne Kingston at Maclean's has a terrifying article, Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data, about the Harper administration's crusade to prevent anyone finding out what is happening as they strip-mine the nation. They don't even bother rewriting, they just delete, and prevent further information being gathered. The article mentions the desperate struggle Canadian government documents librarians have been waging using the LOCKSS technology to stay ahead of the destruction for the last three years. They won this year's CLA/OCLC Award for Innovative Technology, and details of the network are here.

Read the article and weep.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Enhancing the LOCKSS Technology

A paper entitled Enhancing the LOCKSS Digital Preservation Technology describing work we did with funding from the Mellon Foundation has appeared in the September/October issue of D-Lib Magazine. The abstract is:
The LOCKSS Program develops and supports libraries using open source peer-to-peer digital preservation software. Although initial development and deployment was funded by grants including from NSF and the Mellon Foundation, grant funding is not a sustainable basis for long-term preservation. The LOCKSS Program runs the "Red Hat" model of free, open source software and paid support. From 2007 through 2012 the program was in the black with no grant funds at all.

The demands of the "Red Hat" model make it hard to devote development resources to enhancements that don't address immediate user demands but are targeted at longer-term issues. After discussing this issue with the Mellon Foundation, the LOCKSS Program was awarded a grant to cover a specific set of infrastructure enhancements. It made significant functional and performance improvements to the LOCKSS software in the areas of ingest, preservation and dissemination. The LOCKSS Program's experience shows that the "Red Hat" model is a viable basis for long-term digital preservation, but that it may need to be supplemented by occasional small grants targeted at longer-term issues.
Among the enhancements described in the paper are implementations of Memento (RFC7089) and Shibboleth, support for crawling sites that use AJAX, and some significant enhancements to the LOCKSS peer-to-peer polling protocol.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"The Prostate Cancer of Preservation" Re-examined

My third post to this blog, more than 8 years ago, was entitled Format Obsolescence: the Prostate Cancer of Preservation. In it I argued that format obsolescence for widely-used formats such as those on the Web, would be rare. If it ever happened, would be a very slow process allowing plenty of time for preservation systems to respond.

Thus devoting a large proportion of the resources available for preservation to obsessively collecting metadata intended to ease eventual format migration was economically unjustifiable, for three reasons. First, the time value of money meant that paying the cost later would allow more content to be preserved. Second, the format might never suffer obsolescence, so the cost of preparing to migrate it would be wasted. Third, if the format ever did suffer obsolescence, the technology available to handle it when obsolescence occurred would be better than when it was ingested.

Below the fold, I ask how well the predictions have held up in the light of subsequent developments?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Prediction: "Security will be an on-going challenge"

The Library of Congress' Storage Architectures workshop asked gave a group of us each 3 minutes to respond to a set of predictions for 2015 and questions accumulated at previous instances of this fascinating workshop. Below the fold, the brief talk in which I addressed one of the predictions. At the last minute, we were given 2 minutes more, so I made one of my own.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Infrastructure for Emulation

I've been writing a report about emulation as a preservation strategy. Below the fold, a discussion of one of the ideas that I've been thinking about as I write, the unique position national libraries are in to assist with building the infrastructure emulation needs to succeed.