The disappearance of the Secret Service’s text messages from January 6, 2021 is a data preservation issue, so I’m briefly reviving this blog from its long sleep to analyze it the best I can.
What we know
“Text messages” sent between Secret Service phones on January 6, 2021, during the unrest in Washington, DC, became unavailable within the bureau. News reporting has gotten so bad that it’s hard to find out just what this means; this CNN article contains more detail than most of the reports I’ve found.
Files that Last: Digital Preservation for Everygeek has been out for quite a few years. While the relevant technology has changed in many ways, especially with the explosive growth in cloud storage, I think most of its advice is still useful. I’ve permanently dropped its price to $1.99, no discount code required. The price drop is immediate on Smashwords. It may take longer to percolate to other sources supplied by Smashwords.
We’ve abruptly become a nation of homeschoolers. People are figuring out how to do it with no preparation. They have to face a lot of issues, most of which I’m not helpful with. One of them is finding good material on the Internet. There’s no lack of well-written, informative pages; the hard part is sorting them out from all the garbage. Many of us can help in our fields of expertise by providing pointers to the best material.
On Twitter I saw a call for “expert sniffers,” people who can find the experts. We can do that where we’re specialists if not experts. We need to find articles that are good from an educational standpoint. Presenting all the knowledge isn’t enough; the hard part is presenting it in a way that learners can understand.
Yahoo is sending out alerts on the transformation of Yahoo Groups into a list server. The spin is ridiculous. The changes “better align with user habits,” and “we are making adjustments to ultimately serve you better.” It’s as if users had been protesting against the existence of public groups and Web-hosted discussions and Yahoo were complying with the demand.
Yahoo, in case you haven’t been keeping track (I hadn’t), now belongs to Verizon. It makes economic decisions, and one was that running public Yahoo Groups was no longer worth the cost and effort. This is the result of changing user preferences, as well as stupid policy decisions over the years that drove people away. The attempts to correct those blunders may be part of the current problem.
An ABC News Australia article calls attention to the problem of archives on magnetic tape. Author James Elton clearly knows something about digital preservation issues, as the article goes beyond the usual generalities and hand-wringing.
Tapes, on the other hand, can only be read by format-specific machines.
And dozens of formats of magnetic tape were created through the last century — one-inch, two-inch, various versions of Betamax.
I’m participating in Smashwords’ “Read an Ebook Week Sale,” from March 3 to March 9, 2019. During that time, Files that Last will be available for 50% off! Don’t miss your chance to learn about “digital preservation for everygeek” at a low price.
I recently got an email reminding me that my Google+ account will go away on April 2. My first reaction was a yawn. Google has made the service steadily less attractive over the years. I just checked my feed for the first time in months, and it consists entirely of posts by people I don’t follow, on topics I don’t care about. Posts from this blog and my writing blog get links automatically posted to Google+, but otherwise I haven’t posted in a long time.
One of my posts got two comments from people I know, so it’s not totally dead, but it’s close. Google made the service as unattractive as they could. Posts by strangers keep showing up. Comments appear and disappear as you’re trying to read them. But there was a time when Google+ was somewhat useful. You might have material there which you want to save. Fortunately, Google provides a way to do this.
JHOVE is still alive and active! The Open Preservation Foundation is holding a workshop on “Getting Started with JHOVE” on January 25, 2019 in the Hague, Netherlands. The announcement says, “This workshop is aimed at beginners, or anyone who is new to JHOVE.”
OPF members get priority for registration.
Should there be songs about digital preservation? This is just a special case of the question, “Should there be songs about X?” For nearly all X, the answer is “Yes, and there probably are!” (Even — perhaps especially — if there shouldn’t be, there are.)
Someone in the Australiasian preservation community asked if AusPreserves needed a theme song. The first responses were existing popular songs, but then people started getting more creative. This led to the Digital Preservation Song Challenge!
One response was the Beyonce parody, “All the Corrupt Files” (“Put a checksum on it”). I think it’s the first song ever to mention JHOVE!
Naturally, I already have my own song on digital preservation, called Files that Last. I wrote it to promote my book of the same title, but it stands (or falls) by itself.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth singing about, and that certainly applies to digital preservation!
For years I wrote most of the code for JHOVE. With each format, I wrote tests for whether a file is “well-formed” and “valid.” With most formats, I never knew exactly what these terms meant. They come from XML, where they have clear meanings. A well-formed XML file has correct syntax. Angle brackets and quote marks match. Closing tags match opening tags. A valid file is well-formed and follows its schema. A file can be well-formed but not valid, but it can’t be valid without being well-formed.
With most other formats, there’s no definition of these terms. JHOVE applies them anyway. (I wrote the code, but I didn’t design JHOVE’s architecture. Not my fault.) I approached them by treating “well-formed” as meaning syntactically correct, and “valid” as meaning semantically correct. Drawing the line wasn’t always easy. If a required date field is missing, is the file not well-formed or just not valid? What if the date is supposed to be in ISO 8601 format but isn’t? How much does it matter?