Roughly weekly news and opinions from the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Head of Research and Practice, Paul Wheatley. Opinions are the opinions of Paul and those featured. Not the DPC. They’re just opinions, ok?

Last week was all about iPRES2015. I had a few requests from my regular DP News readers to do a report on the conference. Despite there being literally truck loads of tweets, multiple conference streams, rooms and rooms of workshops and side meetings, and generally way too much for one person to take in, I thought I’d give it a go. As a consequence, I think it’s important to stress that what I describe below is a record of my conference highlights. There is of course already an excellent storify of iPRES by Mo Pennock (edit: and this post from Old Dominion folks), but that is largely missing my notorious opinions. And I assume you might want some of those, if you’re still reading this. So here we go…

It’s probably worth beginning with some general thoughts on the conference, and one thing that was in evidence was the preparation…

…which by all accounts was a lot less fun for the organisers than going skiing, because they clearly worked really hard on it. The team also did a great job in pulling out all the stops to keep things running during the week itself. The basics worked well – yes! a conference where there were no wifi problems (!) – the food was actually quite nice – and when it turned out that one of the conference receptions would be sans beer, Helen and Cal turned the clock back to their student days and did a beer run in a van. They even handed out google maps of micro breweries for the Thursday night social event. This is the dedication I look for in my conference hosts.

More importantly, the programme continued to develop in a very positive way from last year’s slightly more adventurous form. There were more interactive sessions, loads of workshops and satellite meetings, and a return of the excellent systems showcase, this time with a revamped format. The iPRES crowd seemed to embrace this more interactive spirit with gusto. The opening session, a twitter driven review of the last year in digital preservation, was slow to get going, but we had a poster session that stayed busy way past the advertised time, and had the unconference style “Get a Room” breakout sessions that had 20-30 people per session. Good topics as well. I had a hard time choosing between them.

This was great stuff, and I’d like to take this opportunity to both heap praise on the organisers, and lean on next year’s crew to keep up the momentum. This was my verdict by the end of the week:

Another simple but excellent idea for iPRES2015 was to have google docs ready for all the main sessions. This was exploited best, as you would expect, during the workshops and tutorials.

For me the conference began here, with some outstanding sideburns:

Trevor did a great job of coaxing a group of 30 odd participants into developing some detailed notes on how to do a better job of sustaining digital preservation tools.

Time allowing, I hope to write a dedicated blog post on this topic, so I won’t say more here. Suffice to say that the notes in the associated google docs linked from here were looking great by the end of the day, and I’m hoping they can be developed into a new chapter in the DPC Handbook. How about that for sustainability?

A number of other workshops were also well attended. I heard that the ISO16363 workshop pulled in a difficult to manage 70 attendees, and was followed up later in the week with a broader “Organisational Assessment” workshop at which I rocked up at and, predictably, caused trouble.

The massive interest shown by iPRES folks shows that we really need to get this audit and assessment stuff right, and I was encouraged by the gentle questioning of our approaches from several different quarters. As Emily Maemura of Benchmark DP put it during an earlier presentation “Who is evaluating the assessment models” themselves?

One complaint that I now feel slightly less concerned about (particularly after speaking to Nancy McGovern at length about it afterwards. Mental note to always speak to Nance after trying to deal with any complex topic) is the apparent disconnect between experience and practice and what’s in standards such as ISO16363. So much has gone into the development, but it’s not always clear to those outside of the process. Perhaps the main things we need are more transparency and better referencing. Benchmark DP (who’s presentation during the main part of the conference, was a real highlight) raised this graphically:

However, with the massive effort apparently required to audit against something like ISO16363, I don’t want us to fall into the trap of assuming that it provides all the audit answers. I’d love to see a resurgence in the kind of bottom up testing that projects such as AIHT championed many years back. This approach would I think be very complimentary to the top down audit.

A useful action Benchmark DP took away from the workshop is an intention to survey experiences of applying audits, and to look seriously at what the users are getting out of it. I’d like to see some evidence of some good catches, to be sure we’re asking the right questions.

Speaking of surveys, you should share and complete the BenchmarkDP survey here:

Obviously don’t tweet the wrong link, like I did to begin with….

Nevermind all this stuff, there were of course people talking about metadata at iPRES2015!

Apparently the METS2.0 model didn’t get that much love, but this may have been a scandalous rumour. Either way, it looked like they collected some valuable feedback so kudos to the organisers.

Despite some pretty critical metadata issues rearing their ugly heads during the breaks…

…the conference didn’t seem to go too overboard on metadata. And indeed (as a card carrying metadata disliker) I was chuffed when our Danish colleagues won the prize for best poster:

Yes we can set the bar lower for ingest. Lets make getting the bits into the repository a priority, rather than creating reams of metadata first. They also won the Wheatley prize (*which was a gushing tweet) for the best poster minute madness presentation, which tragically appeared not to have been captured by anyone on video.

I was so enamoured with their approach, and the method+terminology they have developed to sell it, that I invited them on the spot to speak at our upcoming DPC Metadata Briefing day. Of course the obvious downside of this ingest strategy is that you might never get round to going back to your digital objects and enhancing the metadata. I was delighted to discover that a participant sitting next to me in an Ingest workshop, later in the week, had already tried out this approach. So I asked the question, and, hallelujah, they did manage to go back and beef up their AIPs at a later date. Minimal Effort Ingest is, from now on, a thing. Please add to your digital preservation glossary of choice.

Most colleagues I talked to later in the week found it hard to pin down conference highlights (I can now back this up, as this blog is taking me a *long* time to put together and I keep going back and adding more) as there was simply a lot of good stuff to digest. I think it was Peter May of the BL who noted that Tuesday morning was the best bit. There were a host of really good presentations, and if you were on twitter you would have been hit with a torrent of tweets from yours truly.

I really enjoyed Kam Woods’ talk on emulation, while also being envious of his ability to make a whole load of complex and colliding issues seem so simple and easy to understand.

Practical (and just a little technical) kinda stuff gets a lot of attention these days, and it’s about time iPRES committees put some of this stuff on in the larger rooms. The Dogwood room was literally rammed, with iPRESers sat on the floor and standing all the way round the back by the end of the session. Which was great to see, if a little uncomfortable. This photo was taken before it got really busy.

The newest, and arguably, best bit from this session was from project EMIL:

Again noting for the emulation sceptics, this is really practical and access focused stuff.

Emulation continues to get a lot of DP air time, and this poster reinforced what a practical tool it has become. It also clearly reveals what a good idea it is to produce a poster in partnership with a modern art museum. Gorgeous:

Another Tuesday morning presentation I liked was from Harvard library team which began with a bunch of digital preservation examples that kicked off a lot of interesting thoughts from the presenters and twitters:

Such as…


Although I felt it was a shame they hadn’t made use of the Plato preservation planning model which has a few similarities to what they came up with:

One of the more dynamic sessions on the programme was the Policy & Practice Documentation Clinic.

It began with presentations from Mo Pennock and Nancy McGovern. Wow, Nance in particular really went off on an incredible improvised introduction taking in all the ins and outs of policy, planning, implementation and a collision of everything in between. It reminded me of a Dave Tarrant presentation except Nance wasn’t cheating by speaking twice as fast as normal people. It was just information dense (man). I hope to get her to speak into a computer for a DPC webinar on this topic sometime soon. Mainly so I can keep hitting pause on playback, so I can digest it all! Deffo a conference highlight. Anyway, this was more than enough to get the ball rolling and things ended up a lot like this:

There’s a good summary here, thanks Alice:

As you’re probably aware, I’m always banging on about collaboration, and of course there were lots of side meetings and get togethers going on throughout the event on this very topic.

For me, iPRES was a chance to get together with some colleagues and kick off a collaboration on the production of file format assessments. I hope to be reporting some more detailed news on this soon.

Along with Barbara Sierman we also launched a collaborative space for discussing and reviewing our preservation standards, beginning with that old favourite, the OAIS. Please join us…

There were of course some fun and also celebratory moments in the conference. This was my favourite pun, although these two were a bit too nice to deliver any of my favourite Malcolm Tucker lines to…

…these #dpc card games went like hot cakes…

…and one of my favourite projects won an NDSA award:

…and some people I no longer associate with on Twitter wound me up. It makes (slightly) more sense if you see the whole conversation:

And of course I missed some really cool stuff. This looked great…

…this annoyed me. Because I wasn’t at it…

…and I managed to miss all of the DP Showcase. Maybe we could have some video recordings next year, as there seems to be a lot of interest from those that can’t always make iPRES?

This left a new trio of stand ups to close the conference with a well attended (for a final session!) look forward:

There’s always one joker, of course:

Many highlighted upcoming work, but there were also some requests:

All that was left was another day of workshops, which I missed due to a near fatal combination of Bitcurator hospitality and having to fly home at lunchtime that day. I won’t make this mistake next year (at least not the early flight home bit)

Chapel Hill, with this conference you were spoiling us. Exchellente.


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