From its inception it has been part of the OPF’s vision that meaningful discussions around Digital Preservation problems are key to finding solutions, tools and ultimately improving digital preservation practices.
A granular understanding of today’s actual challenges, rather than looking at hypothetical problems is our preferred approach. The OPF promotes interaction between Practitioners and Techies through events. During these mixed events we ask practitioners to bring practical problems from their organisations and to document these in the OPF wiki as issues. At the same, the technical community will hack or search for solutions to these specific problems.
Funding support from JISC for the AQuA project events in the UK was important and the continuous engagement and invaluable contribution from the Digital Preservation team at the British Library (Paul Wheatley, Andy Jackson and Carl Wilson) helped to shape an event program with a output-driven agenda.
These events did produce results and yes we will continue with these in 2012 both in the UK and on the continent. In the coming weeks the OPF will publish its 2012 event agenda with dates, locations and themes.
So what worked and what didn’t?
–During these events we have meaningful interaction between practitioners and developers/techies
-Practitioners present their problematic collections and document their requirements and practical issues in the wiki
-Developer/techies discuss issues, and search for existing solutions
-All solutions are connected to a practitioner issue
What didn’t work so well
-Continuing the momentum and collaboration once the events finished
-Support to practitioner community with online communication (Blogging, Forums, IRC)
Using events as a collaboration and communication vehicle we were able to move forward. Unfortunately, events are labour intensive, time-consuming and, above all, events require participants to have sufficient travel budget. For these reasons, it is my personal, very strong belief that we must take serious steps forward to drive continuous collaboration, and sharing experiences online.
The OPF always had and will always have the ambition to facilitate and moderate an online digital preservation community for its members and beyond. This needs to be driven by content issues, practical solutions and above all meaningful discussions between all stakeholders. Not to our surprise, the techie part of our community has adopted the existing online methods and they are already actively publishing, blogging, subscribing via RSS, tweeting etc. Is this enough? NO – this is exactly where we are in danger of “barking up the wrong tree” due to relative absence of online presence of the practitioner community. Digital Preservation might be a technology challenge but it is definitely not for the sake technology, it is about keeping our digital content save and accessible. Technology serves digital content users and curators
The next question is “who are digital preservation practitioners”? Our practitioner/hackathon events taught us that for small to medium institutes where people have multiple roles this is more or less defined. The collection owner is clearly the digital preservation practitioner. As for bigger and often national institutes who have already undertaken digital preservation activities for many years, this is more complicated. Over the years these organisations distributed DP responsibilities and tasks into several roles stretching from R&D to production. Ideally we would like input, contributions and requirements from big and small institutes. We can take benefit from a R&D view of bigger institutes and plan for tomorrow’s infrastructures and at the same time we can often take actions on today’s problems as experienced by practitioners of medium/small institutes.
We already mash-up relevant Digital Preservation publications to facilitate easy reading in one place. One of the strengths of the OPF site and Knowledge Wiki is that we can configure and manage functionality and features ourselves. We want it to be community-driven. It needs to be informative, interactive and easy to navigate for all. Please give us your feedback on the website and wiki and let us know your needs and your preferred methods of how you would like to share and collaborate (for example: blogging, forums with special interest groups, e-mail lists, IRC, etc. etc.). We look forward to receiving feedback either as a comment to this blog or by e-mail.