As we quickly approach the one-year anniversary of the last time I updated this blog, a couple things have become clear to me:
the best burger in West Hartford can be found at Park & Oak, don’t listen to any bullshit about Plan B
I do not currently have the mental/emotional/sleep capacity to continue researching and writing technical posts here while working extensively during the day on emulation and EaaSI-related documentation
I’m extremely proud of The Patch Bay back catalog, particularly the evergreen posts on time, color, and audio in analog video that I cranked out last year during the Summer O’ Unemployment. And I’m thrilled that the day job I stumbled into still gives me the space to tinker, explore, create new resources for archivists and share – to the point that, for now, there have just been better platforms to disseminate the things I’ve been working on than the Patch Bay.
(Check out the EaaSI blog on the Software Preservation Network’s site, or tune in to our ongoing webinar series, to get what I mean!)
But! It’s made me sad to watch The Patch Bay drift into dormancy (he says, letting Netflix roll over to the next episode of “GLOW”). So it is time to fulfill my destiny as a millennial and become a content aggregator.
In all seriousness, thanks to Kelly Haydon for originally suggesting some time ago that The Patch Bay start taking guest posts, and for kicking things off by pointing me in the direction of some amazing student work that will start this new phase. In essence, I hope to turn this site into more of an editorial project, soliciting guest posts and working with the submitter to create something in the Patch Bay spirit of connecting preservation and technology.
So, in addition to a “stay tuned”, consider this post also a call for submissions! Have you written (or do you want to write) about a topic related to audiovisual and/or digital preservation? Have no blog of your own on which to post it? Send it over! Based on past material covered by The Patch Bay, topics might include, but are in no way limited to:
tutorials for using a particular piece of software or toolchain (i.e. several applications together in a workflow)
the history of analog and/or digital audiovisual technology
personal narrative pieces on the experience of using or learning about technical concepts in preservation
tips for equipment maintenance or repair
and so on!
A few guidelines to keep in mind:
I’m willing to look at/edit/post anything between ~1,000-5,000 words (my posts have averaged around 2,500, but, whatever, it’s a blog and I’m flexible!)
Whether starting from something you already have written or from scratch, we’ll work together in an OnlyOffice doc to get your post ready for prime time (copy editing, adding images, fleshing out or cutting things down)
I run this site in my free time, so please be patient in awaiting responses, edits, posts!
Unless otherwise noted, all content on The Patch Bay is posted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC-BY 4.0). If you have any objections or would like your content posted under a different license, I am open to discussion, but strongly encourage the use of Creative Commons or compatible copyleft licensing.
Benefits of submitting or posting on The Patch Bay!
Free web archiving services for your writing: when your post goes up, I’ll both submit a snapshot of the page to the Wayback Machine, and if desired, create and send you a WARC file of your post (backup/storage is on you from there)
Social media promotion: will boost each post to my ~70 Mastodon and ~500 Twitter followers, it’s not that many but only cool people allowed
Sometimes other people link and even assign your posts to read in classes or workshops and it feels good to know you’ve contributed to the shared knowledge of the the community?
If any of this interests you, or if you have more questions, feel free to get in touch by emailing ethan.t.gates (at) gmail.com, or DM’ing me on Mastodon or Twitter.
And if you’re just a loyal reader – watch this space!!!! Seriously, we’ve got some cool stuff coming soon.
A little while back, I changed my display name on Twitter. Besides my actual name (all your anonymity is belong to us), I added on a second handle: @The_BFOOL@digipres.club.
(Not that anyone cares, but if you’ve ever wondered what the deal with the “BFOOL” handles is, it’s a reference to my well-hidden other blog, and a vestige of the brief moment I thought I might make an actual professional go of it as a film writer. I remain latched on to it now out of nostalgia for the anonymous days of internet yore, where signing up for a forum meant coming up with a cool hacker handle rather than providing a UUID that linked my secret enthusiasm for ASMR to my credit score)
What is digipres.club? And why are myself and some other, potentially familiar-to-you users promoting it on Twitter? I wanted to offer a brief primer, and perhaps a few thoughts on community-driven social media and what this platform potentially means to me (feel free to skip out before that part).
In the shortest, but perhaps not simplest, of terms, digipres.club is a Mastodon instance. What is Mastodon? In its own words, Mastodon is a “free, open-source, decentralized microblogging network.”
In its first surge of publicity back in the spring of 2017, most of the techie buzz around Mastodon billed it as “open-source Twitter.” And that’s still probably the quickest way to frame it – the interface looks and feels pretty much exactly like Tweetdeck or many other popular Twitter clients, so if you’ve spent any time around “the birdsite” (as it is not-so-fondly known in the Masto-verse), you’ll get the basic hang of Mastodon almost immediately. You’ll write and post relatively short status updates/posts (“toots” in Mastodon vocabulary, which may seem twee but look how quickly we all got used to literally “tweeting”), and share those posts, including links, photos, videos, etc. etc., among a group of followers who will see your thoughts pop up on their timeline.
Or, er, multiple timelines. This tends to be where people get thrown off with Mastodon, because it’s where the idea of a decentralized, “federated” social platform comes in.
In essence, anyone with access to a server can run Mastodon on it (that’s the free and open-source part). That server (“instance”) hosts “individual user accounts, the content they produce, and the content they subscribe to”: posts (toots), images, video. It’s the same model as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Snapchat – only instead of a tech company hosting and distributing your content, it’s likely one person or maybe a small group of people, working at a drastically reduced scale.
*But* – even if different people are hosting/administrating them, Mastodon instances can still talk to each other, because they’re running the same software, speaking the same language. That’s the idea of “federation”. Any user account on Mastodon thus has two components – it identifies both their handle/username, plus the name of the instance that account and its content are originally hosted on, e.g. @The_BFOOL@digipres.club. Each user is also then going to have three major timelines:
your “Home” timeline – only shows posts from other users that you have specifically subscribed to/followed
your “Local” timeline – all the public posts from the server/instance your user account is hosted on (e.g. all the posts on digipres.club)
your “Federated” timeline – all the public posts from all the Mastodon servers/instances your local instance is connected to
Again, that last one is the trickiest to understand exactly what it’s showing you. I believe that instances are not technically “federated” to another until a user on one instance – *any* user – follows a user on another instance. At that point, public posts from the second instance’s Local timeline start showing up in the first instance’s Federated timeline.
I’ll be honest, I don’t look at/use the Federated timeline much. I think the idea is you can use it to find other/new people by a sort of “friend-of-a-friend” recommendation – these are people followed by people YOU’VE chosen to follow, or that belong to your local community instance – so maybe you’ll be interested in what they have to say. It is super fascinating to occasionally take a peek – particularly if you’re federated with one of the bigger, general instances, like mastodon.social (the “flagship” server/instance, led and maintained by Mastodon’s creator, Eugen Gargron).
But most of the time, I find the strength of Mastodon is in the local timeline/instance. These are opportunities, like the web forums of old, for communities to build and define themselves – each host has to decide what their instance is for, what makes it unique enough for people to choose to make a user account on *this particular* Mastodon instance rather than another.
(To be clear, the whole federated angle also means you can easily sign up for multiple Mastodon accounts, on different instances, if you’re interested in different communities – for example, I regularly check @The_BFOOL@digipres.club, but I also have @The_BFOOL@octodon.social, another general-purpose social instance that was where I first tried out the platform. That means, in its infrastructure, Mastodon is a kind of cross between Twitter and email – any one of us could have both an @gmail.com account and an @yahoo.com account, which can talk to each other and everyone else on email despite being hosted in different places)
To me, this infrastructure combines the best parts of Twitter – self-determination (the ability to create your own gaggle of thought-provoking voices), and a network of professional questions posed and answered in a quick, informal setting, encouraging participation and leveling the playing field from the documented social biases of peer-reviewed publications and organizations – while eliminating the worst bits: ads, development priority on UI updates over functionality, uhhhhh Nazis (and/or people talking about Nazis, which to state the obvious is far far less immoral/unethical/illegal than *being* or *promoting* a Nazi, but is exhausting).
That last bit is actually kind of crucial – many users (esp., it seems, various minority communities) flocked to Mastodon because it has way more sophisticated settings for moderation than Twitter, both on the side of the administrator who hosts/runs the server (who can block users from their instance, close off federation from instances that host hateful or illegal content) and, critically, the user (there is a fantastic, easy “content-warning” system that lets users sensitively publicly post potentially traumatizing/triggering content “behind” a warning; allowing other users to choose to see that content rather than have it shoved in their faces; also, there’s multiple permissions available for every single post, beyond just direct messaging with one user and posting publicly for the entire world to see). The controls can, again, take a little getting used to – because of the way permissions are set up, it can be disconcerting to see posts intended as a private conversation with one other user appear in your timelines alongside totally public content (but rest assured, as long as you chose the right setting, you and the intended recipient are the only ones seeing it).
Like with so many other open-source projects, it’s about taking a good idea (online social networking is, removed from the many many problems it has come to be identified with in execution, not an inherently bad concept) and removing some degree of tech capitalism from the equation, giving more customization and control back to individual users and communities. This whole concept is nothing new: internet history is littered with similar projects that have come and gone based on the social technology/platform du jour – forums, instant message chat clients, etc. etc; what’s new is the current “microblogging” appeal, mixing text, links, images, etc., in quickly-digestible, constantly-updating fashion.
Here’s the thing: that does not mean, at all, that Mastodon instances/communities don’t or won’t have their own problems. Building a community – online or anywhere else – also should mean caring and protecting for that community. An enforceable Code of Conduct or at least community guidelines, people who are willing to take on the task of administrating not just technical systems and software, but *people* – I believe that wherever people come together in public conversation, some thought needs to be put into these things to create a truly lasting, fair, empathetic, and constructive community.
So, to circle back to the original question. Maybe now you better understand from a technical standpoint what a Mastodon instance is, but that doesn’t really answer…what is digipres.club?
I made the first attempt at digipres.club – a Mastodon instance for users who, in my head, wanted to have professional-but-informal conversations about digital preservation – last summer. It was only a week or two before I realized I was in over my head as a sysadmin (I wish I had taken screengrabs of some of my Terminal screens, but it wasn’t pretty). I’m a firm believer in learning-by-doing when it comes to tech, but just speaking for myself and my own ability, this was a step too far, considering the end goal. Administering a server/Mastodon instance means taking some responsibility for other people’s content. I recognized my technical ability/understanding wasn’t there yet to properly commit to that. And when I got the first monthly bill for the Digital Ocean server droplet I was hosting on, I realized that I really didn’t know what I was doing even in terms of choosing a sustainable hosting option.
So I shut down that whole instance (there were only a handful of users onboard at that point, but I do apologize for not giving more notice about that). But as more people in the Twitter digipres community seemed to hear about/get interested in Mastodon, Joshua Ng, who works in IT at the Asian Film Archives in Singapore, decided to take another crack at digipres.club. I gladly gave over the domain name. Joshua is and will be a far more talented sysadmin than I am – the site has been up for a month or two now, federation and authentication for logging in from mobile app clients are functioning properly, and there’s almost 100 users signed up for the instance – all way more than I could say about my aborted attempt!
That said – and I think Joshua would agree here – digipres.club is also very much a work in progress. There’s a great starter description for the instance, but I know some of the same people in this nebulous online-archives/libraries/information sphere have expressed interest in a more generalized Mastodon community for GLAM workers. Personally, my interpretation of “digital preservation” is that it’s a very very wide umbrella and can encompass pretty much literally everything GLAM workers do – it’s a digital world, so I feel like all preservation activities – and that includes access activities, because what is preservation without access – either is or leads to digital preservation. But, this is the whole point of decentralizing and community-building; some people can spin off into another instance if digipres.club is not what they’re looking for, and as a member of digipres.club I can choose to connect with them from a distance, move over and join them directly, join both, do whatever I want. Free as in libre!
If it’s really going to keep going, building a social online digipres community requires community support. That’ll mean things like finding ways to financially support Joshua (hosting costs money – we can’t completely remove ourselves from the global tech market here). It might mean things like establishing posting guidelines or a CoC, and finding people willing to be community managers and enforce those guidelines. Asking someone to be both sysadmin and community manager, solo, to have responsibility over tech *and* people, is a lot – it requires different skills, which one person may or may not have!
So the next and last question is….do you want to come help us figure it out? The DigiPres Club is waiting!
Earlier this month I attended the annual conference for the Association of Moving Image Archivists, this year held in Pittsburgh. MIAP sends a healthy contingent every year of students, staff and faculty (not to mention the alumni filling up panel after panel), so this was my fourth year at AMIA and every year it gets more and more valuable as a hub in our field for networking, debate, and, increasingly, opening up opportunities for collaboration and skill-sharing beyond the conference itself. I wanted to write a blog post summarizing and reflecting on some of my experiences there – partly as a shout-out to the people who form this amazing community, partly to process the marching orders I feel I received professionally with such force, vigor, and passion over the course of that week.
Including the pre-conference workshops, I was in Pittsburgh doing preservation-y things from Nov. 8-12, which, you will either remember or calculate, was the very week that life in the United States finally, irrevocably shifted. I do not consider it possible nor appropriate to discuss this conference or my profession without getting political anymore. I believe it is the obligation of those working in libraries, archives, or related fields to provide open access to information while maintaining the privacy of those who seek that information. I believe it is the duty of those who preserve the past to seek beyond traditional boundaries to include the voices of marginalized, forgotten, and repressed groups and protect them for the future. And I believe those responsibilities are about to become a personal and potentially dangerous challenge unlike anything we’ve seen in this country, certainly in my brief lifetime. To be suddenly faced, in a concrete way, with that kind of hate, risk, and violence, is disheartening and upsetting – and that is speaking as someone merely adjacent to the President-Elect’s targets, as a cishet white man never going to face a fraction of the trauma barreling down on others.
That was the weight that was dropped on us the night of November 8th. It very well could’ve kept us down for the whole week – I know I seriously contemplated fleeing the conference to family and other loved ones, terrified in that moment of the unfamiliar and unfeeling blank space of nondescript hotel rooms in a city I did not know (I was glad at least of the coincidence of my brother having just recently moved to Pittsburgh for grad school). What kept me going, and what still chokes me up to think about now weeks later, was first to realize that I was among a community of people who felt exactly as I did, and second, most importantly, to see so many of those peers respond immediately, unblinking, by pushing back up against that weight.
AMIA could’ve been a week of distracting ourselves with the quotidian aspects of our work: tech specs for film digitization, a new metadata standard for born-digital object cataloging, cute tales of fanciful discoveries from our collections. But instead of distraction – and a lot of praise here to the conference programming committee, which prepared a phenomenal lineup of panels and talks steering our discussion in ways they couldn’t have even foreseen – what followed was four days of integration and collaboration. Every session, from topics broad and openly political to more specific and observational, became infused with an urgent question, the only question that frankly matters anymore: what are we, together, going to do? I am not pleased, nor proud, that as moving image archivists and activists we must now work out of a sense of desperation and danger – but it is a fierce reminder of why that work, even in times of apparent calm and freedom, is so important, and why our greatest resource and skill is to talk with each other.
Tuesday, Nov. 8
A day spent in the pre-conference DigiPres 101 workshops, breaking down programming basics and digital tools for preservation, including sessions on:
basic use of the command line interface (Mac and Windows)
introduction to technical writing and Github
Mediainfo, Mediaconch, and file format identification/validation
Many of the specifics covered this day I was already familiar with from my MIAP courses or my own self-education in digital/tech matters – in fact, the basic command-line instruction session was more or less exactly the same as a class we had in Digital Preservation two years ago, perhaps unsurprising given that it was the same person teaching both.
But my reason for attending was more that I hope to start doing more, similar exercises and workshops for our students in the MIAP program. I wanted to observe, structurally, how people communicate concepts and tools related to digital preservation – and for that I couldn’t have had a better lineup of role models! So big thanks to, respectively, Kara Van Malssen, Erwin Verbruggen, Dave Rice, Reto Kromer, Ben Turkus and Sarah Romkey, who are all doing incredible work to not just build software and save digital A/V material, but teach others how to do so as well. Sarah’s presentation on Artefactual’s Archivematica system was particularly thorough and enlightening for me since I will be giving our second-year students an intro to that software next month – more on that, perhaps, along with advice and feedback from novice users, when that happens!
Wednesday, Nov. 9
The *thing* happened. It took us all a while to get going in the morning, understandably – but after a delayed start I took part in my first-ever AMIA/DLF Hack Day. Every year AMIA partners with the Digital Library Federation to sponsor a group of programmers, archivists, students and librarians of all skill levels to come together for a day of intensive development on digital preservation-related topics or tools. Projects are pitched, the attendees are split into small groups, and then spend 7-8 hours creating a piece of software, or creating documentation, or editing a wiki, etc. etc. You can see a summary of this year’s Hack Day here, including the Hack Day manifesto, summaries of the four completed projects, plus other ideas that were floated and roadmaps for how several of the projects can continue to move forward. (Hack Day projects often have far-reaching life cycles beyond the day itself, as previous projects like vrecord and ffmprovisr attest!)
Personally, I ended up working with a team of radical lumberjacks on a project called Loggr: a mini-metadata schema/template specifically designed for logging errors during analog and digital video quality control. It is our experience that archivists, vendors and catalogers tend to have wildly different ways of describing and recording video errors and artifacts, which leads to jumbled, un-parseable metadata lumped into free-text note fields, never to serve another useful purpose again. Building on Bay Area Video Coalition’s A/V Artifact Atlas (the most comprehensive, open resource available for identifying video errors) and compiling sample data from a number of actual vendors and in-house digitization efforts, we tried to build a controlled vocabulary for accurately describing and quantifying the frequency and severity of errors – the idea being, if vendors or catalogers all use this system, one could with a simple search discover, say, how many and which tapes in an institution’s collection have severe ghosting, or mild dropout, or moderate flagging. With such metadata, patterns could emerge that were previously obscured: similarities across tape formats or collections that could reveal origins in production, storage history, etc.
I say “we”, but I feel the need to specifically shout out the members of Team Loggr: Savannah Campbell, Kathryn Gronsbell, Charles Hosale, Kristin MacDonough, Erica Titkemeyer and Ben Turkus. Because while they were all furiously poring over sample data and piecing together possible terms and fields, I was mostly, well, tweeting.
In addition to participating in Hack Day I was also generously given the opportunity to be an AMIA/DLF Virtual Cross-Pollinator. Because archivists tend to schedule EVERYTHING in the fall, the AMIA conference this year head-butted right up against not only DLF’s annual forum but the DLF/National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Digital Preservation conference. So four cross-pollinators, including myself, Sarah Barsness, Rachel Mattson and Lorena Ramírez-López received fellowships to connect the three events by publicly reporting and discussing the various goings-on via the hashtag #AVhack16 on Twitter. My focus on the AMIA end was Hack Day and reporting the activities of Team Loggr and the other groups, but there were many relevant digital discussions throughout the three-day conference and it was my pleasure to keep the ball rolling the whole week, not least of which because the flurry of topics and ideas flying over the various conference hashtags kept me invigorated and passionate despite the overhanging doom and gloom. Whether it was the value of digital labor, open-source alternatives for common digital archiving/library tasks, or the state of job postings and employer desires for digital archivist positions, the cross-over discussion emphatically proved how the 21st century has brought librarianship and preservation closer than ever. (Thank you to AMIA and DLF for funding our fellowships!!!)
A common thread across the #AVhack16 scroll – certainly influenced by the election results, but, I’m sure, already present as a priority for the field – was the necessity of concrete strategies and language for discussing issues of diversity and inclusion in information science and archiving. A focus on user stories and widening our conception of the people who use archives was evident at both AMIA and Digital Preservation 2016. The very idea of archival neutrality was challenged – if not shattered. One of the first thoughts of the week, and one that defined the experience of not just AMIA and cross-pollinating for me but has re-contextualized my entire career and the work I strive to do, was this notion, passed along by Rachel but originally from Samantha Abrams of StoryCorps:
Digital preservation is people. Technology is people. Tools and records and objects and the machinery in place to preserve them (political, economic, cultural) are, at their core, people. People made them and they are thus nothing but extensions of ourselves. We lose sight of that a lot. My Hack Day experience, focused so much less on technical skill or wizardry than just on collaboration and discussion, drove this home for me. The title of Rachel’s own talk on a panel regarding tech and community sums it up:
For various reasons, AMIA critically needed to discuss inclusion before the election even hit. So the opening plenary (surprisingly well-attended for one of the brutal 8:30am sessions) addressing this issue head-on was a bracingly cathartic, frank confrontation that (as I’ve made abundantly clear by now) set the tone for the next three days. She has not yet made the full text of her talk available, but I can’t recommend enough looking over the slides for my fellow XFR Collective member and friend Carmel Curtis’ presentation. She points out some amazing resources and strategies for community building and inclusion – in one of the many instances at this conference of activist archivists not just raising important questions but going further to provide solid, instructive paths to getting some shit done.
A breakout session following this plenary provided an opportunity for us to discuss diversity in AMIA in smaller groups and suggest actionable items to the AMIA Diversity Committee, particularly regarding the drafting of a Statement of Diversity and Inclusion for the organization. I believe that statement is still in process but snaps to committee c0-chairs Jacqueline Stewart and Moriah Ulinskas for doing such amazing work in making this statement, and in-person discussion and collaboration on these topics, a top priority for AMIA.
Other topics/panels hit this day:
a panel on the scientific realities of climate change and the advocacy work of Project ARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change) – providing invaluable resources on how archivists can start working to reduce our carbon/ecological footprint (after all, what good is preserving our material for the future if our technological/energy strategies at the same time actively denigrate that future?)
a panel on Women in Technology (#AMIAwomen) – an opportunity for men such as myself to actively listen to the experiences of women struggling to be recognized in a field with a well-recognized pattern of misogyny (I was dreaming up a series of tech-related workshops for our students for this coming spring semester and as a direct result of this panel am brainstorming instead female techs/engineers/programmers/troubleshooters to come in and co-teach if not lead a workshop instead of myself – please contact me if you’re in the NYC area and interested!)
a meeting of the AMIA Open Source Committee – after contributing my Cable Bible to the committee’s Github page earlier this year, I am looking to be more actively involved in their work and expanding on the ever-growing list of open resources and tools provided by this group to the archival community. Stay tuned!
And finally, Thursday evening was AMIA’s annual Archival Screening Night, a chance for institutions from across the country to show off recent discoveries or restorations. This is always a treat, but particularly this year because it was preceded by organizational awards granted to a trio of personal heroes: Dave Rice of CUNY TV, Dennis Doros of Milestone Films and Jean-Louis Bigourdan of the Image Permanence Institute. Dave’s philosophy of addressing the daunting challenges of digital preservation by seizing our own flexible, open technology and tools to serve archival purposes rather than waiting for the dregs of traditional production and development communities is an inspiration every damn day, and has heavily influenced my movement in the past year to improve my knowledge of programming, code, software development, etc. Dennis and Amy Heller’s championing of under-appreciated filmmakers is a perfect model of how outside-the-box, boutique distribution can be both economically sustainable and culturally woke (please go watch their releases of the work of Shirley Clarke and Kathleen Collins immediately -FilmStruck subscribers, that means you!!!). And the impact of the scientific breakthroughs, and their accessible proliferation thanks to Bigourdan at IPI can’t be understated – I know I’ve already used the IPI Media Storage Quick Reference reference guide countless times, both as a student and in professional consulting. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, to all three of you for your innovation.
Friday, Nov. 11
The diversity/inclusion ball kept rolling Friday morning with reports back from the breakout session and various committee chairs during the morning plenary. That spirit rolled on into various panels for the day in the Do It Yourself & Community Archiving stream – all of which are available, for the first time ever, for view by the general public. I am so happy that AMIA is starting to make these conference talks more accessible and I hope the successful DIY&CA experiment this year will encourage even more live-streaming and accessibility at the next conference – even for those of us able to take on the considerable travel/lodging/food/registration cost of attending, the ability to go back and refresh/reference these talks is invaluable!
On Friday I also presented a poster on a personal project, The Cable Bible, an idea which got rolling on this very blog! The feedback I received, from other archivists, students and even professional vendors/technicians, was nothing but positive. I hope to get moving on some planned edits and expansion soon, but in the meantime, please feel free to hop in and edit it yourself on Github, or just send me pictures of weird cables you’ve found! I’m happy to figure it out together. This experience of building the Cable Bible has also motivated me to help on other resources and documentation for quick archival reference – Ben Turkus, myself and the rest of Team Loggr batted around ideas for both improving BAVC’s A/V Artifact Atlas and designing a “Video Test Pattern Bible” (I guess that’s my niche now), which are both projects I’m setting a personal goal to advance by this time next year – hold me to it!
The day wrapped up with Hack Day judging – after some fine-tuning and tweaking over Thursday and Friday, the four teams from Wednesday’s event got to present their work to an esteemed panel of expert judges in competition for two prizes: Best Solution to the Stated Problem, and Most Appropriate to the Spirit of the Hack Day Manifesto. Thanks to our judges: Snowden Becker, Ashley Blewer, Jack Brighton, Carmel Curtis and Chris Lacinak, for a series of lively, fun, and engaging conversations!
Saturday, Nov. 12
Phew. One last day. A series of lightning talks in the morning gave updates on various small individual projects going on around AMIA – although I admit I was stressing too much about personally announcing the time and location of the Hack Day judging results to absorb much of it. The morning plenary continued with the membership business meeting, at which an open mic allowed AMIA members to present their concerns to the newly-elected board of directors. This meeting has turned, um, contentious in past years, but I have to say the conversation this year between the board and the membership felt two-sided and productive. The issue of the affordability of the conference was raised yet again, and I feel that is a huge concern that AMIA needs to continue pushing to improve, but I feel more confident than I have in my three previous years that this is an actual high priority for the board.
I’d like to highlight two panels from the final day of the conference that I attended: first, a roundup from employees of the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian (Julia Kim, Crystal Sanchez, Walter Forsberg and Blake McDowell – MIAP alumni all!) discuss a real-life “FAIL” scenario in which the files for a large-scale oral history project were discovered to have corrupted. Discussions of failure, troubleshooting and work-arounds can be absolutely invaluable for our field – mistakes are frequently more illuminating and educational at a practical level than best practices – but many institutions, for whatever reasons of professional or personal humility, are loathe to talk about them publicly. So kudos to this group for opening up – file fixity is oft-discussed in our classrooms, but actually hearing how digital tools and strategies played out in a real-life crisis scenario was incredibly engaging.
The other panel I’d like to mention was the NDSR roundup. The National Digital Stewardship Residency program, this year sponsored by the American Archive for Public Broadcasting, aims to build a network of professionals capable of managing and preserving digital cultural collections by placing recent graduates in, again, real-life consulting/development scenarios. Like so many of us, they are figuring out how to “do” digital preservation on the fly, learning by simply doing the thing – only much more publicly exposed than most of us are in our work. They are brave, awesome, smart people, and you should all be following their blog posts and twitter musings from: Selena Chau, Eddy Colloton, Tressa Graves, Adam Lott, Kate McManus, Lorena Ramírez-López, and Andrew Weaver!
And because everything has to come back around to Hack Day, the conference wrapped up for me with the presentation of the awards, as judged the night before. As it turned out, all the actual Hack Day organizers fled Pittsburgh earlier that day, so they foolishly left Lorena and I in charge of emceeing:
Team Loggr unfortunately got shut out, but congrats to Team Checksumthing for winning both Best Solution to the Stated Problem and the coveted audience award (as voted by the approximately ~10 non-Hackers in attendance) and to Team WikiData for Digital Preservation for staying truest to the spirit of Hack Day!
As you can tell, this was a roller coaster of a week. Ultimately I am so glad that I got to spend it among this community of incredible, dedicated professionals, who have, in just the three years I’ve known them, evolved in my eyes from a somewhat intimidating cabal armed with super-secret-archive-knowledge into a collaborative group of mentors, peers and friends. I can’t wait to see you all again next year in New Orleans -but in the meantime, let’s get to work!