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Wed Mar 11, 2015, 11:49 PM

Watching the repeat of Rachel Maddow. Wow she is ripping apart the State Department.

Apparently personnel are supposed to print out emails and forward them to be archived. Seriously? Printouts? Apparently it has something to do with them not having proper security yet.

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Reply Watching the repeat of Rachel Maddow. Wow she is ripping apart the State Department. (Original post)
Brigid Mar 2015 OP
BP2 Mar 2015 #1
still_one Mar 2015 #2
Rex Mar 2015 #3
frazzled Mar 2015 #4
Adrahil Mar 2015 #5
Lurks Often Mar 2015 #7
frazzled Mar 2015 #8
Adrahil Mar 2015 #9
meaculpa2011 Mar 2015 #6

Response to Brigid (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 12:14 AM

1. Printouts??! How is that even possible? That's a lot of paper to store. n/t

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Response to Brigid (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 01:03 AM

2. That is absolutely insane.

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Response to Brigid (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 01:30 AM

3. WTF!? I bet good money they still use dot matrix printers.

 

That's so fucked up, printouts? What the fuck is this? Office Space?

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Response to Brigid (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 05:26 AM

4. Or maybe it's about archival longevity and safety

If you think a digital record is timeless—something that people will be able to read 200 years from now—you're probably wrong. Moving-image preservationists are grappling with this problem: if you think film was an unstable medium, video and digital may prove much less so. They haven't figured it out yet. Neither have digital archivists who must store written records.

We know a piece of paper, if stored and maintained properly, lasts hundreds of years or more. You know from experience that something you wrote on some funky word-processing program in 1992 you can't even open on your computer now. Without constant migration to new platforms as old ones become obsolete (which is frequent) many things become unreadable and thus lost. (My husband needed to do research from a CD-ROM compendium published in the early 2000s; but he could no longer access it; we finally had to put find an old laptop from the era to be able to view it; think of the millions of formats and systems we've run through in just the past 20 years; think about 200 years from now).

The government now generates hundreds of millions of emails, tweets, spreadsheets, etc. every year. Maintaining these records for the duration of history is no easy task. Maybe State felt that until such preservation issues are figured out, paper copies are the safest means of ensuring the historical record will be safe. I don't know. But this is no small issue.

GIVEN THE CONVENIENCE and potential cost saving of digital delivery for both libraries and users, combined with the power digitization offers to search within texts, why not embrace the digital future now? The issue of preservation is one of the main obstacles.

Speaking from her experience as head of collection care for the British Library, Helen Shenton explains that “the greatest risks to printed material are the environment, wear and tear, security, and custodial neglect.” Facilities such as the Harvard Depository address most of those concerns, although wear and tear is an unavoidable consequence of use. On the digital side, on the other hand, use of the data is one of the best ways of preserving it, because “‘bit rot’ is one of the biggest risks.” A book left on the shelf for a hundred years might be fine, Shenton says, but digital data must be read and checked constantly to ensure their integrity.

For digital preservationists, a prime concern is that data might be kept perfectly secure and complete, but still be unreadable by machines and programs in the future. A New Yorker cover depicting an alien, come to post-apocalyptic Earth, sitting amid the detritus of modern civilization—discarded CDs, tapes, and computers—illustrates the point: the alien is reading a book, the only thing that still “works.” “You have to think about moving the content along as technology changes,” explains Andrea Goethals, digital-preservation and repository-services manager. In order to make this feasible, librarians try to limit the number of file formats they make use of, and store detailed technical metadata with every object so that in 10 years or 100 “it can be rendered again in a usable way.” Every few years, as the programs that created a text file or a PDF become obsolete, librarians must ensure that the contents of those files remain readable by the current generation of computers and software. But opening each file manually in order to save it in a current format is not feasible when there are millions of them. “Because of the enormous amount of digital material we hold, migrating content is done at scale, not one file at a time,” Goethals explains. “We have to be able to do it on a whole class of objects”—all Microsoft Word files, for example. This content management strategy should work, “but because digital preservation is a young science, we don’t have a lot of experience with it yet.

Objects that begin in an analog format—a book, a recording of a poetry reading, or a piece of music—are easiest to preserve digitally because librarians can choose the optimal file format for long-term access. Material that is born digital—e-mail, for example, which comes in many different, often proprietary, formats—is not so easy to preserve.

http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/05/digital-preservation-an-unsolved-problem


Maybe, just maybe, State determined that turning over paper copies of variously formatted materials will allow the technicians at the National Archives to put it into the most optimal, single format for future digital preservation.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #4)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 06:34 AM

5. I know you mean well here, but....

 

The sheers space and expense of archiving emails in this way is godawful Stoopid. Do you know how much carefully climate controlled space will be required to archive emails in paper? And how much time and expense would be related to printing out and forwarding such things to an archivist?

Not to mention that common copier and printer paper is not archival quality... It is cheap, heavily bleached, and acidic. It'll be lucky to last 30 years tops. And the inks are worse.

Yes, there are issues with digital archives, but archiving paper printouts is just NOT a solution. The problem of digital archiving will be overcome in relatively short order, I think. It's just a matter of developing more stable storage mediums, and developing error correction algorithms.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 07:16 AM

7. This is the Federal Government we are talking about here

 

Common sense and efficiency are rarely a priority and the bureaucracy rarely worries about money or space issues.

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Response to Adrahil (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 09:13 AM

8. I think you are well meaning too

But naive if you think the problem of digital archiving will be overcome shortly or that there is such a thing as a permanently stable storage medium. (And you perhaps forget that the National Archives has been storing paper for the past several hundred years.)

We don't know if the paper copies are merely an interim medium so that an optimal digital storage format can be made from them. We don't know squat frankly.

To me, the main problem with archiving today's multifarious communications is that a preponderance of tweets, texts, and even emails—even when you are doing serious business—are useless and/or redundant. In the old days, when you wrote something, it was laborious enough that you weren't going to send a letter that just said. "Fine, got it." Or "Cool." We generate way too much crap these days. I know. I just finished a project with an institution in Germany. The four months of emails exchanged between the eight or ten people involved are redundant (with all their cc'ing and responses), confusing, etc. For all the real content involved, there are a lot of "God, I hope we can meet this deadline" or "You are a saint" useless drivel. Thank goodness no one has to archive them.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 01:51 PM

9. OK... let's go over this.

 

Yes, it will be possible to develop permanent digital media. In fact, we already have it, it's just expensive to use, and not yet as space efficient as it needs to be.. That will change.

And no, I haven't forgotten that the archives has been storing paper for long time. That paper was often rag or linen/hemp fiber paper, which doesn't require harsh acids and wasn't bleached like modern common copier/printer paper made from wood pulp. Also, I've actually done research at the Library of Congress, and seen people reading archived books a hundred or so years old that are literally crumbling in their hands.

Not sure of the point of the last paragraph... yeah I agree, but that's just the nature of the medium.

Cheers!

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Response to Brigid (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2015, 06:45 AM

6. I have all of my important documents stored...

on Verbatim floppy discs.

I also notch them with a little gizmo I bought in 1979. It doubles their storage capacity.

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