The following is a guest post by Jefferson Bailey, Partner Specialist at Internet Archive and co-chair of the NDSA Innovation Working Group.
Continuing in our series previewing sessions at the Digital Preservation 2014 conference, the NDSA Innovation Working Group will host the session “Digital Preservation Questions and Answers” on Day 2 (Wednesday July 23, 2014) of the conference from 9:00-10:15am ET. What does “Digital Preservation Questions and Answers” mean, as far as a conference session, you ask? Good question! Now on to the answers!
Back in 2012, the Innovation Working Group explored ways to better capture and make accessible the anecdotal wisdom and knowledge sharing of the digital preservation community. Communication channels like listservs can be hard to search for specific, half-remembered emails within threads and digests. Tips and recommendations shared on social media channels can have similar discoverability and access issues. Also, it’s just a matter of time until Google Groups goes the way of Google Reader. Yet these informal exchanges of advice contain a wealth of wisdom regarding methods of practice within all aspects of digital preservation from recommendations on floppy drives to staffing and hiring advice, from terminology clarifications (or debates) to tips on identifying file format signatures.
In an attempt to leverage existing question-and-answer platforms instead of starting anew in 2012 the Innovation WG proposed a new board on the Stack Exchange network, which hosts question-and-answer (Q&A) forums on a variety of topics. Though our proposal made it out of the staging zone, and got great use and attention, our Digital Preservation forum did not meet the traffic and usage statistics needed to become an active forum, as the Stack Exchange network is intended for more popular, high-traffic topics, such as Programming and Beer. Indeed, a concurrently proposed Libraries and Information Science forum also failed to meet the usage necessary to become a full-fledged site. The invaluable Andy Jackson managed to save both forums before they were taken down and they can now be found, in static form, at his Zombie Stack Exchange (ZOMBSE) site.
Dismayed but undaunted, we continued to explore hosts and platforms. Luckily enough, our friends at Open Planets Foundation offered server space to host a Q&A forum and, after some testing and many emails, a new forum site was born, a product of the collaboration of the NDSA and OPF. The new site was “soft-launched” a few weeks ago and is currently active under the stewardship of the preservation-minded individuals in NDSA, OPF, and the broader digital preservation community. Please take a moment and check it out. We don’t pretend to know exactly what questions are or aren’t in scope (note the “meta” tag for questions about questions) but it at least offers a searchable, community site where digital preservation knowledge can be shared. It’s a start.
Though the new forum is live, many excellent questions and answers were posed on the defunct Stack Exchange and also exist in other still-hard-to-find lists, groups and sites. Also, many great questions remain to be asked! This is where you can help. “Digital Preservation Questions and Answers” will be an interactive session where staff from NDIIPP and NDSA member organizations will field questions in an open forum. Session participants are encouraged to ask and help answer digital preservation questions both live and in the online forum itself.
Other participants will have the chance to help move some (or all, or the most valuable) questions and answers from the Stack Exchange archive (and, potentially, other relevant channels) into the new online forum. The session also serves to formally launch the Digital Preservation Questions and Answers site. We hope to have coffee and bagels available during the session and remote, online participation is very much encouraged.
So if you are attending #digpres14 or are interested in helping build a community-driven question and answer site on a topic we all know and love, then consider attending this session or joining in online. Will you participate, dear reader? Only you can answer that!