Friday, December 23, 2005

Seasons Greetings from the DIGITAL Archive

We here at the DIGITAL Archive would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Celebrate this holiday season - we made it this far, why not sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Besides these warm wishes, I'm tossing in a Christmas gift for you readers that will last all year round, thanks in part to Flickr, the Web's best online photo sharing site, in my opinion.

Scroll down the main page and keep your eyes to the right (if you're reading this via a RSS news reader, please visit this page). You'll notice a Flickr flash gallery with images of the McGill campus (taken by various McGill amateur photographers) fading in and out in random sequences. It's a mini photo gallery with a twist. No batteries needed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Web Archiving

I can't believe I forgot to mention a significant development in regards to our digitalpermanence initiative.

A few weeks ago, our dp team viewed a piece of software, which was developed by a Ph.D student here at McGill, that captures dynamically-generated webpages such as the McGill University website.

The McGill University website includes both static webpages (HTML webpages that have text and graphics) and dynamic webpages (HTML webpages whose contents reside in a database and are populated upon a page request).

It's easy enough to capture static webpages with freely-available software (e.g. HTtrack); however, it's another story entirely to capture websites that are both static and dynamic.

The software that was developed can capture static webpages in XHTML and capture database content and package it into XML. It is hoped that we can tie both the XHTML and XML together and create a seamless web archive of our McGill website. That's the plan.

I'll post more as further details and new developments emerge.

Tagging Emails

In the New Year, the dp team is hoping to launch a small pilot project in collaboration with the university's IT sector. The project will focus on finding ways to classify emails in order to separate business emails from non-business emails and append retention rules so that they can be managed properly and those of long-term value be preserved for future researchers.

For classifying or organizing email inboxes, we're considering 2 approaches:
  1. Create new folders and sub-folders in user's inbox into which they click and drag business emails into appropriate folders;
  2. Adopt a tagging approach in which users tag or label emails with business value with distinct terms such as Personnel, Financial, Student, etc.
We're hoping to implement these approaches in 2-3 university units, both administrative and academic.

This pilot project is in fact a research project. We'll be testing and analyzing hard results. We'll audit email records users send us. And we'll move forward from there, correcting what doesn't work and enhancing what does.

This is our first foray into a concrete email management program. We are not considering an enterprise-wide email management software solution just yet. We really want people on campus--staff, faculty, administrators--to begin to think a little differently about emails and electronic correspondence, to see them as equally valuable as paper memos from days gone by.

It's about change management first. Then it's about email management.

For preserving emails (the big long-term issue), we're considering converting emails to XML. With its structured appearance, emails seem to be a perfect fit for XML. According to some of the university technologists I spoke with, there should be not much trouble in converting emails to XML, at least technically speaking. The real issue is to make sure the right emails (i.e. the classified emails) are preserved and transferred to the university archives' planned long-term storage servers, while the junk, the miscellaneous, the spam are deleted permanently.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Storm Hits the DIGITAL Archive

My scheduled blogging was interrupted by Montreal's first snowstorm of the season. And was it ever a big snowstorm! According to Environment Canada, Montreal received 40cm (15 inches) of snow, almost beating the record set in 1971, which was 43.2 cm (what's a few centimetres among friends, really).

Friday morning, December 16, I woke to see that the world of 'snow and grass patches' from the day before had transformed into a one giant snow covered mound. One person explained the snowstorm in the best possible way:

You know those snow globe toys? The ones where a miniaturized city scene or landscape is placed inside a plastic dome-shaped casing that is filled with a liquid and tiny white, sparkling flakes. Upon shaking the globe, the entire scene is blotted out by the 'snow.' Well, picture that and then picture knee-high snow, pedestrians walking in the middle of the road, cars on the highway stuck in traffic, etc. And you get a pretty good picture...if not, check out the pic accompanying this post.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Who else is out there?

I believe that blogging is all about communicating and connecting with people who share your interests. One can find an amazing blog filled with some great content by searching feverishly or sometimes by sheer luck. I've been fortunate enough to come across a few good ones--and I'm always on the lookout for more.

In searching for and reading blogs about electronic documents/records, digital preservation, digitization projects, technology etc, I've noticed a nice trend among bloggers: people making mention of the blogs that they read, listing them, describing them, and including their URL. This is great. The search for relevant blogs becomes all the more easier.

So without further ado, here's a list (in no particular order) of the blogs that I find interesting:

  • The Ten Thousand Year Blog (by David Mattison) - I don't know how Archivist-Historian David Mattison does it, but he pulls together a wealth of digital preservation and digital culture information pretty much every single day. I subscribe to his RSS feed.
  • Digitization 101 (by Jill Hurst-Wahl) - Another content-rich, all things digital blog run by Jill Hurst-Wahl, who runs a digitization consultant service company called Hurst Associates. Very good quality stuff. I subscribe to her RSS feed.
  • digitization (Mark Jordan) - Another great blog that nicely packages news and information on digitization, electronic publishing, and digitization projects. Always a posting worth reading. I subscribe to his RSS feed.
  • ::schwagbag:: (Sherri Vokey) - Sherri is "a tech-inspired and Mac-lovin' librarian who offers up a daily (well, mostly) dose of library and technology related miscellany." What I like about Sherri's blog is that she combines her work experiences and love of technology in one cool package. I subscribe to her RSS feed.
  • The Shifted Librarian (Jenny Levine) - Jenny's blog reflects her belief that librarians ought to shift and embrace current and emerging technologies in order to truly serve tomorrow library patrons. I agree, and that's why her blog is of interest: she posts lots of information on new technologies--cool tools--and how they enhance the librarian/information professional's career and service. I subscribe to her RSS feed.
  • I Like Dust (Lindsey) - A newly discovered blog, I Like Dust chronicles the career aspirations of an archivist in training, Lindsey. (Word of advice from someone working in a university archives, inhaling dust is not good ;). I subscribe to her RSS feed.
  • Preserving the digital (Mnemosyne) - I recently came across this blog. Just started reading it. I subscribe to his/her RSS feed.
Do you know of other digitization-themed blogs?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Knock, knock, knocking on IT's Door

Our dp team had a meeting with the McGill University's IT director. The meeting went pretty well, in my opinion. We put forward our concerns--chiefly among them, email management--and recommended some concrete solutions, such as classification schemes, which had been fleshed out and made into a clear Visio diagram.

In turn, the IT director, as a sign of his understanding and willingness to cooperate further, offered resources (mainly human, for now) and the novel idea of tagging emails for classification purposes. Sounds like a good start to something hopefully bigger.

I'm hesitantly glad things turned out like this. Hesistant? Well, let's hope this small but concrete pilot project gets legs and moves forward. It's been a long long time since we had such a opportunity.

Blogger for Word works...sort of (Off Topic)

Using Blogger for Word worked OK. I still have to figure out some functions (or maybe Google ought to clarify its tool a little)….and figure out why I receive an error message yet my message still posts here - in draft mode.

Anyone else blogging using this tool?

Using Blogger for Word (Off-Topic)

Testing new technology is always fun. So now that I have the chance to try Blogger for Word by Google, let’s see how it works.

If all goes well, this little post, which I am writing using Word 2003, will soon appear in this blog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Email Management Migraines

The digitalpermanence (2.0) initiative is looking at emails and email management and preservation.

Nowadays, it's becoming increasingly clear that emails are replacing office memos as the primary means of distributing institutional policies and procedures. Of course, the paper memos still exist. But the reality is that records of transaction are being carried out via email.

As records managers and archivists, how do we deal with this?

Our dp team has come up with, and will be proposing, the following plan: the development and implementation of a classification scheme, built within an email client as a set of folders and sub-folders. We want administrative staff to become more cognizant of the role emails have in conducting official business. Our plan is to have staff file their business emails in email folders and apply rules to folders so that emails are eventually moved to their appropriate spot.

For preservation purposes, our plan is to migrate emails from their native file format to a file format that is not dependent on a particular application. One such file format that comes to mind is XML.

The problems arise when so many disciplines and departments are required to be part of the overall solution. It's very difficult to get everyone at the table on the same page.

Is anyone else out there tackling the email management issue? I'm getting a headache.

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.