Tessella is a company in the business of selling digital preservation products and services based on the idea that content needs "Active Preservation", their name for the idea that the formats will go obsolete and that the way to deal with this prospect is to invest resources into treating all content as if it were in immediate need of format migration. Their market is
managing projects for leading national archives and libraries. These include ... the UK National Archives ... the British Library [the] US National Archives and Records Administration ... [the] Dutch National Archief and the Swiss Federal Archives.It isn't a surprise to find that on Tesella's official blog Rob Sharpe disagrees with my post on format half-lives. Rob points out that
at Tessella we have a lot of old information trapped in Microsoft Project 98 files.The obsolescence of Microsoft Project 98's format was first pointed out to me at the June 2009 PASIG meeting in Malta, possibly by Rob himself. I agree that this is one of the best of the few examples of an obsolete format, but I don't agree that it was a widely used format. What proportion of the total digital content that needs preservation is Project 98?
But there is a more puzzling aspect to Rob's post. Perhaps someone can explain what is wrong with this analysis.
Given that Tessella's sales pitch is that "Active Preservation" is the solution to your digital preservation needs, one would expect them to use their chosen example of an obsolete format to show how successful "Active Preservation" is at migrating it. But instead
at Tessella we have a lot of old information trapped in Microsoft Project 98 files.Presumably, this means that they are no longer able to access the information "using supported software". Of course, they could access it using the old Project 98 software, but that wouldn't meet Rob's definition of obsolescence.
Are they unable to access the information because they didn't "eat their own dog-food" in the Silicon Valley tradition, using their own technology to preserve their own information? Or are they unable to access it because they did use their own technology and it didn't work? Or is Project 98 not a good example of
a format for which no supported software that can interpret it existsso it is neither a suitable subject for their technology, nor for this debate?