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“Supply Side” Digital Preservation

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chaos by user nickwheeleroz on flickr
chaos by user nickwheeleroz on flickr

Most people working with digital information are on the “supply side.” You know, the beginning of the digital information lifecycle where you create and “supply” great stuff like photos, music, TPS reports and the like. In fact, most people are on the supply side. The technology consulting firm IDC noted in their Extracting Value from Chaos report (PDF) that 75% of the information in the digital universe is generated by individuals.

But they also offered the sobering thought that less than a third of the information being created has at least minimal security or protection, and only about half the information that should be protected is protected.

They also note that:

The number of “files,” or containers that encapsulate the information in the digital universe, is growing even faster than the information itself as more and more embedded systems pump their bits into the digital cosmos. In the next five years, these files will grow by a factor of 8, while the pool of IT staff available to manage them will grow only slightly.

Creating digital stuff is easy and fun! Managing and preserving it can be hard and unfun!

We know from experience that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming to manage digital information, but it is helpful to have some simple guidelines. Whenever possible we like to get out in the community to talk about the challenges of digital stewardship and propose ways we can help.

We had such a chance last week when we joined the regularly scheduled GeoDC meetup group and gave a lightning talk (PDF) about preserving geospatial information.

untitled by user incanus on flickr
untitled by user incanus on flickr

GeoDC is a monthly gathering for those in the DC area who like maps, GIS, OpenStreetMap, cartography and anything in between. It grew out of the June 2011 WhereCamp DC and offers an opportunity for geospatial professionals in the Washington, D.C. area to stay connected.

As you might well guess, most of the GeoDC participants are on the “supply side:” geospatial application developers, geographers, digital cartographers, data managers. They’re too busy doing other things to spend much time thinking about ensuring that the digital data they work with is available for the long-term. That’s where we come in.

NDIIPP has long been thinking about the preservation of geospatial data. In our past work we’ve largely worked with our traditional constituency of libraries and archives on tools and approaches to help them tackle a preservation task that fits into their established responsibilities.

As NDIIPP evolves we want engage more with data creators to get them to start thinking about incorporating digital preservation planning at the beginning of the digital information lifecycle. There’s lot of activity on this front that we follow and support, including the National Science Foundation data management plans and the UC3 DMPTool to help users create them.

We’re also interested in working more deeply with the developers of geospatial tools to get them to incorporate digital stewardship processes directly in the tools. What if you could push a “preserve me” button on your favorite software creation tool and have it automagically send a copy to the long-term repository of your choice? This scenario is not as far-fetched and futuristic as you might think.

We had a lot of fun with our talk at GeoDC and we hope to do more like it in the future. Look for us out and about and we’ll do our best to “supply” you with useful digital stewardship information.

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