Saturday, May 13, 2017

Design Requirements for Better Open Source Tools

OSS4Pres 2.0: Design Requirements for Better Open Source Tools. Heidi Elaine Kelly. bloggERS! April 25, 2017.
     Free and Open Source Software need to "integrate easily with digital preservation institutional systems and processes.” The FOSS Development Requirements Group created a design guide for to ensure easier adoption of open-source tools and their integration with other software and tools.

Minimum Necessary Requirements for FOSS Digital Preservation Tool Development. The premise is that "digital preservation is an operating system-agnostic field."

  • Provide publicly accessible documentation and an issue tracker
  • Have a documented process so people can contribute to development, report bugs, and suggest new documentation
  • Every tool should do the smallest possible task really well; if you are developing an end-to-end system, develop it in a modular way in keeping with this principle
  • Follow established standards and practices for development and use of the tool
  • Keep documentation up-to-date and versioned
  • Follow test-driven development philosophy
  • Don’t develop a tool without use cases, and stakeholders willing to validate those use cases
  • Use an open and permissive software license to allow for integrations and broader use
  • Have a mailing list or other means for community interaction
  • Establish community guidelines
  • Provide a well-documented mechanism for integration with other tools/systems
  • Provide functionality of tool as a library, separate UI from the actual functions
  • Package tool in an easy-to-use way, that supports any dependencies
  • Provide examples of functionality for potential users
  • Consider the long-term sustainability of the tool
  • Consider a way for internationalization of the tool  

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Using Open-Source Tools to Fulfill Digital Preservation Requirements

OSS4EVA: Using Open-Source Tools to Fulfill Digital Preservation Requirements. Marty Gengenbach, et al. Code4Lib. 2016-10-25.
     Open-source software has played an increasingly prominent role in digital preservation, such as LOCKSS, DSpace, and DROID. The number and variety of such tools has increased, there was a growing need among preservationists to assess how and when to adopt particular tools so that they could better support their institutions’ specific requirements and workflows.  Open-source projects allows the user community to contribute by developing and documenting tools.

There are some challenges with open source programming.
  • Perceptions of instability:  One challenge is the perception that these tools are "inherently unstable and therefore present a risk". 
  • Resources and funding: Administrators often are reluctant to commit resources to an open source project. Funding problems can threaten the long-term sustainability of open source tools.
  • System updates: Open source tools require regular patches, updates, and upkeep. Without this, the tool would be outdated, and open to security holes. "The choice to maintain an unsupported version of a particular open-source tool simply because it meets (or has been customized to meet) an organization’s needs is problematic. For what an institution may stand to gain from this tool in terms of functionality and local integration, it may stand to lose in terms of the stability of a mainstream code release, the risk to information security, and the likelihood that the tool in question will become increasingly less functional and reliable as it ages".
  • Integration. Integrating open-source tools into institutional workflows can be a challenge, taking into account software dependencies, system requirements, and local configuration to put the tools into a production environment. This can require a considerable time and resources. 
One of the possible benefits is that institutions can customize open source tools for use within a specific context, but that comes with its own hurdles, such as reducing the ability to draw on the user community.  The digital preservation open source landscape has evolved from a scattered set of standalone tools designed to complex software environments. "Nevertheless, these tools still are not watertight." There are real concerns about open-source tools that can pose serious risks to collections.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Personal Digital Archiving Guide Part 1: Preservation Planning

Personal Digital Archiving Guide Part 1: Preservation Planning. Scott Witmer. Bits and Pieces. April 26, 2017.
      Digital materials require active intervention to be usable over time, since technology is constantly changing. "The more we use these files or transfer them from one technology to another, the greater the potential for data corruption. Digital files also run the risk of deletion due to accident or disaster. Having a preservation plan can mitigate the risks of obsolescence, erasure, or other forms of data loss." This post lists some simple suggestions for organizing digital files for long-term preservation, although everyone will have their own methods. Some digital preservation is better than none.

Preservation Steps for Personal Digital Collections:
  • Identify digital materials to save. Make a list or inventory
  • Gather the files you want to save into one place
  • Select what you really want to safe; define the scope of your digital collection
  • Organize your digital files and add descriptive information to the file name, or other important information
  • Give your files short, meaningful names, preferable when creating the files
  • Use a meaningful directory structure to organize the files 
  • Back-up the files and have multiple copies:  
    • 3 copies 
    • 2 of the copies on 2 different types of storage media 
    • 1 copy in a different location  
Digital preservation is an ongoing process, so files and storage technology should be checked periodically.