ARA Conference Round up: Day 1

These are some excerpts from Lee’s detailed conference report on the 2016 ARA Conference in London. It ran from 31 August to 2 September and included two full days of sessions devoted to conversations on digital preservation. His full conference report is available for download at the end of this blog post.

It has been three weeks since the last cup of tea was self-served, the last morsel of cake consumed and the sincere goodbyes to fellow colleagues said at the annual ARA Conference, held at Wembley. Many delegates left with minds crammed with new ideas, innovations and practical lessons to use back at work. I left with the strong impression that digital preservation within the recordkeeping community in the UK and Ireland has become part of the ‘mainstream’ in recordkeeping practice across a variety of sectors. The recordkeeping community has moved on from wanting to know what digital preservation is to how it get involved and preserve digital collections for future generations.

Some highlights from the sessions on Day 1 are:

  • Mike Quinn reminded delegates that they needed to remain flexible in relation to digital preservation challenges, nothing is guaranteed: Apple ending support for the .MOV file format demonstrated that.
  • Matthew Addis noted that “apathy is the digital record killer,” so starting from somewhere simple and working from there is the best way to tackle the digital preservation ‘problem’. Addis observed that lots of organisations seem to suffer from a “digital preservation paralysis” and fear getting it wrong. However, he advised those assembled that “doing nothing is the worst choice”.
  • Kristy Lee’s “simple but vital” advice was to understand where your organisation is in terms of digital preservation work and work out what it is you want to do with digital preservation. She found Adrian Brown’s maturity models quite useful for that.
  • The E-ARK project is coming to an end, but has done interesting open source tool development for implementation of specifications that are scalable, modular, robust and adaptable. Find out more about the project and its December conference here.

The afternoon panel session, “Would like to know more” – Digital preservation training and professional development, was a particularly interesting discussion for the Outreach and Training Fellows. It summarised the findings of the ‘Digital Archiving and Preservation Training Needs Survey’ led by the University of London’s Computer Centre (ULCC) in collaboration the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). Ed Pinsent also neatly presented the findings of the needs survey:

  1. People want to learn about strategy and planning, not exclusively DP theory, not exclusively IT;
  2. People are clear that Digital Preservation training will bring them benefits directly related to their job/organisation/collections;
  3. People want to learn by doing;
  4. Everybody wants to know more; and
  5. Everyone wants to feel confident about digital preservation. ‘Confidence’ was not a word that was used in the wording of the survey, but looking through the qualitative data it was a reoccurring word.

To conclude the session, Stephanie Taylor advised that for digital preservation training, there was no ‘magic answer’ or a ‘right path’ in providing training. You do have to accept that ongoing review and starting from anew is a part of the practice.

For the Digital Preservation at Oxford and Cambridge project, these conclusions and lessons from the ULCC led survey will certainly be interesting to compare once the initial Training Needs Survey has been carried out at the two respective institutions.

Lee’s full ARA Conference write-up can be read here.

“What’s in a name?” Selecting a name for a collaborative project

Selecting the name Digital Preservation at Oxford and Cambridge took a bit of time. Actually, it was the first suggestion since DPOC just seem to roll off the tongue. But, in a collaborative project most suggestions get vetoed in the hope of finding something better. After all, when project names exist out in the Digital Preservation community like Pericles or LOCKSS, you have high expectations; you spend a lot of time researching Greek mythology or Roman history in the hopes that a name will turn up that will meet the project’s naming requirements.

So what were the losers in the race to name DPOC? Well, here are a few favourites that the team considered for a bit:

PADLOC: Preserving Assets at the Digital Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge
Creative use of an acronym, but it was vetoed because the concern of the message given by envisioning a padlock. We’re not here to lock down our digital objects in this project! We’re trying to allow for the long-term access of our digital collections through implementing sound preservation practices.

This is open to a fair bit of interpretation. (Cyber Security, by Blue Coat Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is open to a fair bit of interpretation. (Cyber Security, by Blue Coat Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0)

CODPiece: Cambridge and Oxford Digital Preservation
This one came from third party suggestions and the acronym generators. It didn’t make the official name title, but the project is still affectionately referred to as CODPiece among the project team.

Romance of Alexander, MS. Bodl. 264, pt. I

DR@CO: Digital pReservation @ Cambridge and Oxford
I would have allowed for some great use of dragon imagery. But then there was also the option of using images like this:

Concept image for Project DR@CO. Courtesy of Edith.

Concept image for Project DR@CO. Courtesy of Edith.

That didn’t seem to generate enough enthusiasm.

In the end, DPOC seemed to make for a nice, short neutral domain name. And while not the name of a Greek statesmen or a famous Slytherin, it still rolls off the tongue. When it came to Twitter there was a slight snag. #DPOC is already used by the Democratic Party of Orange County and we didn’t really want to confuse anyone by mixing the two.


Note the zero – a little hashtag workaround

So, some takeaways when developing a collaborative project name:

  • Simple and short is always best. If you can’t settle on the name of a mythological creature or some catchy random word (I’m looking at you, PREMIS), then an acronym that is pronounceable works just as well.
  • Getting a group consensus takes time. Plan accordingly. Think how long it will take you to come up with a name and then do all the work involved and then double it. At the very least. When there are multiples institutions and departments involved there are a lot of people that must agree and sign off.
  • August is the worst month to start a project at a UK university. Everyone is taking holiday and no one is around. Get very good at emailing 10 people for the same thing. Be sure to have a lot of patience and tea on hand.
  • Ask anyone and everyone for suggestions. Someone, somewhere will have a brainwave for the project name. Keep a list, make flashcards of the words you want to use or draw a mind map. Whatever helps inspire you. When all else fails, use Google and

Any project names you think we missed? Share them in the comments below or tweet them using #DP0C (remember: zeros are for digital preservation heroes).