Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Data Liberation: Google's mission

This is the stated mission of a Google engineering team called the 'Data Liberation Front':
Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google's products. Our team's goal is to make it easier to move data in and out
Yay! Loyalty is best achieved through great products, not data lock-in. As an individual who uses online data services this approach makes me very happy. As an archivist I'm ecstatic. Thanks guys.

More about how to get data in and out of Google's many services at the DLF's blog.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

building castles 1: the problem

It has been an odd couple of days. You know how it is. A problem that needs solving. A seemingly bewildering array of possible solutions and lots of opinions and no clear place to start. In an attempt to bring some shape to the mist, I'm going to start at the start, with the basics.

The Raw Materials
  • A collection of things.
  • A set of born digital items - mostly documents in antique formats.
  • EAD for the collection - hierarchical according to local custom and ISAD(G).
  • A spreadsheet - providing additional information about the digital items, including digests.
The Desired Result

A browser-based reader interface to the digital items that maintains the connections to the analogue components and remains faithful to the structure of the finding aid and presents that structure in such a way as to not confuse the reader. Ideally the interface should also support aspects of a collaborative Web, where people can annotate and comment, as well as offer "basket"-like functionality ("basket" is the wrong term), maybe requests for copies and maybe even the ability to arrange the collection how they'd like to use it.

(I imagine you've all got similar issues! :-))

We put together a sketch for the interface to the collection for the Project Advisory Board and got some very useful feedback from that. Our Graduate Trainee Victoria has also done some great research on interfaces to existing archives and some commercial sites which provides some marvellous input on what we should and could build.

But this is where things get misty...

We have some raw materials, we have a vision of the thing we want to build (though that vision is in parts hazy and in parts aiming high! (why not eh?)), so where to we go from here?

(To put it another way, there are the foundations of a "model", a vision of a "view"; now we need to define the "controller" - the thing that brings the first two together).

  • We could build a database and put all the metadata into it and run the site off that

  • We could build a set of resources (the items, the sub[0,*]series, the collection, the people), link all that data together and run the site off that.

  • We could build a bunch of flat pages which, while generated dynamically once, don't change once the collection is up.

There is a strong contender for how it'll be done (the middle one!) and in the next exciting episode I'll hopefully be able to tell you more about the first tentative steps, but for now I'm open to suggestions - either for alternatives or technologies that'll help and if you have already built what we're after then please get in touch... ;-)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Note to self...

...don't play space invaders on a donor's Mac (which is a PC)!

(Needless to say we wouldn't anyway!)

This, from the site:

As technology grows, our understanding of it diminishes, yet, at the same time, it becomes increasingly important in our lives. At what point does our virtual data become as important to us as physical possessions? If we have reached that point already, what real objects do we value less than our data? What implications does trusting something so important to something we understand so poorly have?"