Questions and Answers for Digital Preservation

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The following is a guest post by Jefferson Bailey, Program Manager and Partner Specialist at Internet Archive and co-chair of the Innovation Working Group of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance.

At July’s Digital Preservation 2014 conference, hosted by the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., a team from the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Innovation Working Group held a session to formally launch the Digital Preservation Questions and Answers online forum. As the NDSA starts to engage with other associations to help spread the word about this resource, and having recently presented at the LIPA business meeting at AALL, we were glad when Margie invited us to write up a blog post for the LIPA site describing the Q&A project and website. LIPA is an active NDSA member and strong proponent of digital preservation and this is the perfect place to begin reaching out to NDSA members and affiliated organizations to promote this project and encourage use and participation. In this post, I’ll give a quick “who, what, when, where, and how” about the Digital Preservation Q&A site. For background on how the project originally came about, see this prior blog post: http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2014/07/digital-preservation-questions-meet-digital-preservation-answers/

What is the Digital Preservation Q&A site?

The Q&A site aims to provide a single, user-friendly forum for exchanging information, professional practices, and individual and institutional knowledge around all matters related to digital preservation. As a field that evolves alongside technological and social change, digital preservation is especially reliant upon professionals sharing their wisdom and practices with others; however, this information is often exchanged on listservs, Google Groups, social media, and other informal networks and channels that can be hard to find, search, or share, or preserve. The Digital Preservation Q&A forum was created to be a unified, public, searchable, place to share this information on a platform that is hosted and administered by groups dedicated to supporting digital preservation practice, education, and knowledge sharing.

Who participates in the site?

The forum currently is being used by a wide diversity of those interested in digital preservation. Credentials are not needed to participate! Already the site reflects a range of institution types, levels of expertise, and topical areas. As the site’s about page states, the forum is generally intended for “information technologists, archivists, engineers, librarians, computer scientists, curators, web developers and others to help each other make best use of tools, techniques, processes, workflows, practices and approaches to insuring long term access to digital information.”

What sort of Q&As are relevant?

Questions and answers can range from general advice seeking to highly technical recommendations — the site intends to be an open forum, friendly to the information-seeking and advice-giving general public as well as the experienced practitioner. Questions have covered topics as diverse as policy development, cost models and hardware prices, migration and emulation, file formats, web archiving, and digital forensics.  While the site does aim to mediate questions that strongly associate digitization with digital preservation, it is open to all question and answers that involve digital preservation. Questions about questions are welcome too and can be found via the “meta” tag. In the planning stages, the forum’s creators explicitly decided to take a free-wheeling, figure-it-out-as-we-go approach towards allowing questions, so interested users are encouraged not to feel daunted in asking their digital preservation questions. All questions and answers are welcomed!

Who administers the sites?

The site was started by a collaboration between the NDSA, the Open Planets Foundation (OPF), and interested practitioners. It is jointly managed by NDSA & OPF and hosted on servers maintained by the OPF. To mitigate against potential spam, creating a user account is required, but remember that the site is hosted on the infrastructure of OPF, an organization “established to provide practical solutions and expertise in digital preservation.” The site will not be bound to the whims of corporate profit-seeking.

How you can help

Asking and answering questions, or even commenting on specific questions and answers, is an obvious, easy way to contribute to helping build the site. But you can also contribute just by using the site as an informational resource. The “voting” feature allows to you recognize question and answers you find particularly informative or insightful. Though the forum is new and the vote counts currently appear to be low, as the pool of information grows, and use of the forum expands, the value of user voting will become more and more apparent as it helps filter the most relevant questions and answers to the top.

Be sure to bookmark and visit the Digital Preservation Questions and Answers site and start helping to build this vital digital preservation community resource!

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