Profit & Pleasure in Goat Keeping

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Two weeks ago, we officially announced the initial release of Krikri, our new metadata aggregation, mapping, and enrichment toolkit.

In light of its importance, we would like to take a moment for a more informal introduction to the newest members of DPLA’s herd. Krikri and Heiðrún (a.k.a. Heidrun; pronounced like hey-droon) are key to many of DPLA’s plans and serve as a critical piece of infrastructure for DPLA.

They are also names for, or types, of goats.

What DPLA and DLF Can Learn from Code4lib

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This post has been crossposted to the Digital Library Federation blog.

Code4lib 2015 was held last week from February 9-12, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. The Code4lib conferences have grown in the last ten years, both in terms of size and scope of topics. This growth is particularly impressive when you consider that much of the work of organizing the conference falls upon a circulating group of volunteers, with additional organizational support from organizations like the Digital Library Federation. It has become clear to me that the Code4lib community is interested in ensuring that it can develop and support compelling and useful conferences for everyone who chooses to participate.

A Helping Hand: Free Software and the DPLA

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As you probably know, DPLA is committed to making cultural heritage materials held in America's libraries, archives, and museums freely available to all, and we provide maximally open data to encourage transformative uses of those materials by developers. In addition, DPLA is also proud to distribute the software we produce to support our mission to the wider community.

The Greatest Adventure

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With apologies to Rankin/Bass and Glenn Yarbrough, the greatest adventure is what lies ahead. After almost four great years working for Manuscripts and Archives at the Yale University Library and two and a half rewarding years as the Technical Architect on ArchivesSpace, I am excited to announce that I’ve accepted a position as the Director of Technology for the Digital Public Library of America, a small but well-supported non-profit dedicated to free and open access to cultural heritage materials. More information about my new position can be found in the press release.

While I am sad to be leaving a great institution and a great project, both with fantastic colleagues, I look forward to contributing my time, energy and expertise to the addressing the huge challenges and encouraging the exciting possibilities of DPLA. If you’d like to join me in this adventure, I’m also happy to announce that DPLA will be hiring two Technology Specialists very soon, so if you’re interested or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Computer Anonymous New York

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In my previous post, I wrote about wanting to address issues of privilege in the space between archives and technology. As a first step, I mentioned organizing a New York group of Computer Anonymous. I’m pleased to announce that we’ve scheduled our first meeting:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 6:30 PM - ?, at Pacific Standard, 82 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

We have about seven people who have indicated that they’re planning on attending. If you’re interested, please comment here, contact me via Twitter or Email, or leave a comment on this Github issue.

I believe that a Computer Anonymous group in New York is a great chance to start having both tough and positive conversations. I realize that it won’t solve everything, and that our initial location may not be ideal, but I’m certainly amenable to other ideas and doing better outreach. I want to see both the technology and archives professions become more diverse, more equitable, and healther communities that in which I can encourage others to join.

Cha(lle)nging the dynamics of privilege in archives and technology

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Like others, I found the presidential address of Jackie Dooley last August’s Society of American Archivists annual meeting to be problematic. At the time, I had little more to add than what was articulated by others, such as Sam Winn’s post on professional privilege. As the dust settles, though I’ve gotten a lot more clarity.

The Society of American Archivists is not really an easy place to examine our privilege or our struggle. There are many ways in which we desperately need to examine privilege within the context of our profession as well as the overall organization, but for now, I’m going to limit this post to addressing an issue that has been racing through my head since the SAA annual meeting, which concern privilege and the intersection of archives and technology, the area in which I work.

I am nothing if not enthusiastic about open culture and open source software and their transformative potential. I release my own work (meaning software, presentations, writing, etc.) under an open source or Creative Commons license whenever possible, and I’ve spend the better part of the last three and a half years working on technology projects within archives that have developed open source software (ArchivesSpace and the AIMS project, which developed the requirements for and prototype of Hypatia). Yet I’m troubled when I am put in the position of having to encourage colleagues to participate in open source, knowing that only 1.5% of open source community members are women, that incidents of sexism (trigger warnings on links from that post) are so rampant that they merit being documented, and that women and people of color in my our profession can’t speak out for fear of having charges of snark or airing dirty laundry leveled against them. I also have my concerns that “digital archives” (whatever that may be) is becoming one of the least diverse and welcoming areas of our profession, despite there being a history of amazing women working in this field like Margaret Hedstrom and Nancy McGovern.

There are a few things that I want to do to start to fix this, to make this space of the profession to be more safe, welcoming, and supportive:

Restructuring the dynamic of continuing archival education and mentorship. I am not convinced that continuing archival education is really all that helpful beyond getting either a big picture view or focusing minutely on using specific tools. In many cases we presume that the level of expertise of the instructor far exceeds that of the student. Despite being a so-called “expert” in born digital records and software development for this profession, I disclaim this expertise by realizing that the process of learning for this stuff has to be continuous, and is largely driven by focusing on either relevance to a task at hand or personal curiosity. Satisfying the latter is usually only possible if you have some degree of privilege. What I’d like to see is a different type of educational dynamic where people with different backgrounds and strengths, types professional experience, and issues to solve come together with some regularity - to share skills, to look to each other for counsel, and to break bread together as equals as we progress forward on common goals. I think this absolutely has to happen at a smaller level than an organization like SAA, and perhaps locally is the best option.

Developing explicitly safe spaces for professional interaction. I’ve seen many definitions for safe space, but that developed by Advocates for Youth is by far one of the clearest:

a place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others

Despite my concerns about SAA’s efficacy for some of these issues, an actionable effort for SAA would be to develop a code of conduct for its events. I am happy to say that Code4lib adopted a code of conduct over the last year, as did the Digital Library Federation. Stanford University Libraries also have strongly encouraged their employees to only attend conferences with anti-harassment policies.

I’m also hoping to try out this educational model I mentioned above within the New York area some time soon, and I’d like to get together with others interested in getting a better understanding of applied technology and how we collaborate that values everyone’s expertise equally. In the short term, I’ve also decided to organize a Computer Anonymous group in New York with Alex Duryee. Computer Anonymous (which doesn’t have anything to do with Anonymous) describes itself as the following:

This might be the group for you if you want to meet socially conscious nerds to talk about interesting things. This is not an entrepreneurial meetup, nor is it networking: It is a support group, a place to meet good people and talk about good and bad things. … [T]he primary goal is to create a social group for people in and around tech, from all backgrounds, where they feel comfortable and welcome.

If you’re interested and have any feedback, be it concerns, suggestions, or encouragement, please comment here or reach out to me on Twitter.

Collaboration Before Preservation: Recovering Born Digital Records in the Stephen Gendin Papers

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For some, the phrase “born digital resources” may be unfamiliar, but Ricky Erway, Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research wrote a brief essay entitled Defining “Born Digital”, which provides a handy, working definition: “items created and managed in digital form.” Manuscripts and Archives, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Yale University Library overall have had a notable history of working with born digital resources over the past ten years.

Emotion, Archives, Interactive Fiction, and Linked Data

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[Edit (Feb 24, 2013): Thanks to the fantastic work of Tara Robertson, the video of my lightning talk is now available!]

I gave a lightning talk entitled “Wielding the Whip: Affect, Archives, and Ontological Fusion” at the 2013 Code4lib conference in Chicago, Illinois. This lightning talk was one of the most difficult presentations I’ve ever given for a number of reasons, including the emotional aspect of the content itself, as well as the fact that several of the ideas I was trying to articulate weren’t fully baked. I’ve been thinking about this for the four to six months in various capacities and with different focuses, especially as I read more interactive fiction and learn more about it (as well as about hypertext in general). This post serves as an expansion of some of the ideas in my lightning talk and as a way to further the discussion around the following question:

Can we write interactive fiction and (semi-/para-)fictional hypertext that leverages linked data to create an emotional connection to the “real world”?

24 Hours: The Day of Digital Archives

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Thursday, October 6 was the Day of Digital Archives, organized by friend and colleague Gretchen Gueguen at the University of Virginia. I missed the post deadline yesterday, but it's been a busy week, so I might as well walk through some of the highlights of my work related to digital archives that occurred during that 24 hours from 12 am Thursday to 12 am Friday.

12 AM: It's late, but I'm finishing the last bit of work of writing up lecture notes. This fall, I am teaching a class on digital preservation as an adjunct in the iSchool at Drexel University. The iSchool is on the quarter system, so we have only ten weeks to cover a wide variety of material. Last week the students got an introduction to the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System, and this week's topics (on which I am writing the lecture notes) are selection and appraisal, assessment, provenance, and authenticity. Some of the sources of the week's material include a forthcoming case study from the City of Vancouver Archives, the DCC Curation Manual's chapter on appraisal and selection, sections of the CLIR publication Authenticity in a Digital Environment, and the final report of the W3C Provenance Incubator Group. After this I head to bed.

7:30 AM: I've just gotten up and I'm using some downtime to catch up on mailing lists and blogs while I have my morning coffee. I have the chance to briefly look through the current draft of the Reference Model for Economic Sustainability of Digital Curation, currently under development by Chris Rusbridge and Brian Lavoie. I may incorporate part of this into my class as we're spending a week talking about resource allocation and sustainability. I also use this chance to look through the review of different storage and versioning options, including Git, Boar, and CDL Microservices, for digital curation, as written up by Richard Anderson at Stanford University.

8:15 AM: I'm walking up the hill from my hotel to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library for the second day of an ArchivesSpace technical planning meeting. ArchivesSpace is the project to merge the functionality of Archivists' Toolkit and Archon and to create a next-generation archival management system. On the walk up, I was talking to Joe Pawletko from NYU about case studies and other good literature to get an overview of electronic records issues. I give him the heads up about the forthcoming issue of Archivaria for which I was guest editor, our forthcoming whitepaper on the AIMS project Yale participated in with University of Virginia, Stanford University, and the University of Hull, and the CLIR report Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Institutions co-edited by Matthew Kirschenbaum, Richard Ovenden, and Gabby Redwine.

9 AM to 5 PM: The rest of the work day is booked solid with the ArchivesSpace meeting. We spend some time picking apart architectural requirements, data model issues, and look at the possibility of revising the data model to include an abstract notion of events. While not an intentional decision, several of us in the room realize that we're inadvertently approaching an object model that looks a lot like that of PREMIS.

7 PM to 9 PM: Most of the ArchivesSpace team goes out for a lovely project dinner at Berta's in Old Town San Diego. Over dinner we start discussing the issues - particularly in terms of flexibility - surrounding the implementation of METS.

9 PM to 10:30 PM: Brian Tingle from the California Digital Library and I meet up with our friend Declan Fleming from UCSD and his wife for good beer. We discuss the potential for organizing a CURATEcamp during SAA next year in San Diego and  possibility of organizing an off-the-grid unconference (possibly in the Pacific Northwest). We also talk a bit about UCSD's Digital Asset Management System and its flexibility provided by representing all of the metadata and relationships within the DAMS as RDF. We argue a bit about how librarians may not feel constrained enough when they have to think beyond implementation of a specific schema or set thereof.

11 PM: I'm back at the hotel and ready to pass out. It's been a long day, and I'm positive I'll start dreaming of electric sheep.

How to Hack SAA

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Inspired by my friend Declan Fleming's "How to Hack Code4lib," I have been motivated to put together a guide to surviving and enjoying the Annual Meeting. It can be a seemingly scary (and potentially lonely) experience if it's your first conference, and we archivists are not always known for our extrovertedness. So, without further ado, here is my brief list of suggestions - again, some of which have been shamelessly stolen adapted from Declan's guide.