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8am on Saturday morning, and those hardy souls who have not yet fled to beat Hurricane Irene home or who are stranded in Chicago, plus other assorted insomniacs, were presented with a veritable smörgåsbord of digital preservation goodness.  The programme has many of the digital sessions scheduled at the same time, and today I decided not to session-hop but stick it out in one session in each of the morning’s two hour-long slots.

My first choice was session 502, Born-Digital archives in Collecting Repositories: Turning Challenges into Byte-Size Opportunities, primarily an end-of-project report on the AIMS Project.  It’s been great to see many such practical digital preservation sessions at this conference, although I do slightly wonder what it will take before working with born-digital truly becomes part of the professional mainstream.  Despite the efforts of all the speakers at sessions like this (and in the UK, colleagues at the Digital Preservation Roadshows with which I was involved, and more recent similar events), there still appears to be a significant mental barrier which stops many archivists from giving it a go.  As the session chair began her opening remarks this morning, a woman behind me remarked “I’m lost already”.

There may be some clues in the content of this morning’s presentations: in amongst my other work (as would be the case for most archivists, I guess) I try to keep reasonably up-to-date with recent developments in practical digital preservation.  For instance, I was already well aware of the AIMS Project, although I’d not had a previous opportunity to hear about their work in any detail, but here were yet more new suggested tools for digital preservation: I happen to know of FTK Imager, having used it with the MLA Yorkshire archive accession, although what wasn’t stated was that the full FTK forensics package is damn expensive and the free FTK Imager Lite (scroll down the page for links) is an adequate and more realistic proposition for many cash-strapped archives.  BagIt is familiar too, but Bagger, a graphical user interface to the BagIt Library is new since I last looked (I’ll add links later – the Library of Congress site is down for maintenance”).  Sleuthkit was mentioned at the research forum earlier this week, but fiwalk (“a program that processes a disk image using the SleuthKit library and outputs its results in Digital Forensics XML”) was another new one on me, and there was even talk in this session of hardware write-blockers.  All this variety is hugely confusing for anybody who has to fit digital preservation around another day job, not to mention potentially expensive when it comes to buying hardware and software, and the skills necessary to install and maintain such a jigsaw puzzle system.  As the project team outlined their wish list for yet another application, Hypathia, I couldn’t help wondering whether we can’t promote a little more convergence between all these different tools both digital preservation specific and more general.  For instance, the requirement for a graphical drag ‘n’ drop interface to help archivists create the intellectual arrangement of a digital collection and add metadata reminded me very much of recent work at Simmons College on a graphical tool to help teach archival arrangement and description (whose name I forget, but will add it when it comes back to me!*).  I was interested particularly in the ‘access’ part of this session, particularly the idea that FTK’s bookmark and label functions could be transformed into user generated content tools, to enable researchers to annotate and tag records, and in the use of network graphs as a visual finding aid for email collections.

The rabbit-caught-in-headlights issue seems less of an issue for archivists jumping on the Web2.0 bandwagon, which was the theme of session 605, Acquiring Organizational Records in a Social Media World: Documentation Strategies in the Facebook Era, where we heard about the use of social media, primarily facebook, to contact and document student activities and student societies in a number of university settings, and from a university archivist just beginning to dip her toe into Twitter.  As a strategy of working directly with student organisations and providing training to ‘student archivists’ was outlined, as a method of enabling the capturing of social media content (both simultaneously with upload and by web-crawling sites afterwards), I was reminded of my own presentation at this conference: surely here is another example of real-life community development? The archivist is deliberately ‘going out to where the community is’ and adapting to the community norms and schedules of the students themselves, rather than expecting the students themselves to comply with archival rules and expectations.

This afternoon I went to learn about SNAC: the social networks and archival context project (session 710), something I’ve been hearing other people mention for a long time now but knew little about.  SNAC is extracting names (corporate, personal, family) from Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids as EAC-CPF and then matching these together and with pre-existing authority records to create a single archival authorities prototype.  The hope is to then extend this authorities cooperative both nationally and potentially internationally.

My sincere thanks to the Society of American Archivists for their hospitality during the conference, and once again to those who generously funded my trip – the Archives and Records Association, University College London Graduate Conference Fund, UCL Faculty of Arts and UCL Department of Information Studies.

* UPDATE: the name of the Simmons’ archival arrangement platform is Archivopteryx (not to be confused with the Internet mail server Archiveopteryx which has an additional ‘e’ in the name)

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Reading about the Foreign Office and the Treasury’s use of YouTube (see http://www.youtube.com/hmtreasuryuk and http://www.youtube.com/user/ukforeignoffice), government department bloggers, use of RSS and Flickr (for example, http://www.flickr.com/photos/foreignoffice/) in the 30 Year Rule Review got me wondering about the use of Web 2.0 services in West Yorkshire’s local authorities.

So I decided to find out!  The results of my search are, I think, quite interesting. 

All of the five Metropolitan Councils in West Yorkshire make use of RSS on their websites, except, apparently, Bradford.  The Council Press departments are getting into Twitter too, to keep local people up to date with current events in Wakefield, Kirklees and Leeds

Blogs were harder to track down – I’m sure there must be plenty of bloggers working in local government, but it seems they don’t want to identify themselves!  http://www.newgarforthlibrary.blogspot.com/ is an example of a blog being used to generate support and give updates on a council building project.  http://www.avhlblog.com/, is written by four members of staff at Aire Valley Homes, one of the arms-length management organisations (ALMOs) in Leeds, managing housing on behalf of the Council.  Blogging doesn’t appear yet to have had the take-up amongst local councillors as it has amongst MPs, although Councillor Clive Hudson’s Cleaner Greener blog is an interesting example, hosted by blogspot under the wakefield.gov.uk domain.  Local councillors’ websites (for instance, the Kirkstall Councillors in Leeds) are usually viewed as political activity, and separated from the ‘official’ council website, so this is an unusual development, which potentially raises all sorts of questions about responsibilties for the comments posted and for the longer-term maintenance of the content.

YouTube doesn’t seem too popular at present, although I did track down a Leeds Initiative channel.  What I did find were plenty of YouTube videos posted by members of the public which were highly critical of the local councils.  Perhaps the councils themselves should consider raising their YouTube presence?

There were a few examples of council Flickr sites, although not as many as I was expecting to find.  One of the most extensive is Kirklees Council’s Economic Development Service’s photostream, although Leeds cultural services departments are also experimenting – but not much content yet – see http://www.flickr.com/groups/leedsmuseumsandgalleries/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/30193899@N04/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/leedslibraries/.  Aire Valley Homes again showed up their Web 2.0 credentials with http://www.flickr.com/photos/avhl

There are also a few dabblings with facebook groups – though you could hardly say that the official facebook groups have taken off in a big way.  Kirklees Council apparently has an overwhelming 24 fans (though, to be fair, I did find also find a posting which intimated it had not been properly advertised as yet), Calderdale Council just 9 fans!  As with YouTube, there were plenty of external groups in evidence with some kind of grudge to bear against the various councils.  There were a few examples of council staff facebook groups – Kirklees Council staff with 91 fans, or Pugneys Country Park in Wakefield, for ‘staff new and old’.  Most of these staff groups seem to be unofficial.  Occasionally the messages they give out leave something to be desired, as with one (closed) council staff group profile which reads “you don’t need to be paranoid and leave the group if you think all facebookers can see it and what we are talking about.  The group can ONLY be viewed by us members.”  Hmm…

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