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What is wrong with this picture?

The Executive Office of the President is looking for a private company to archive some of its presidential records. The records in question are those published by EOP on publicly-accessible web sites including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Does this strike anyone else as indicative of a major problem with how the government is approaching records retention and preservation? Will they just call it “outsourcing” and hope that magic word makes all the questions go away?

Wouldn’t it be easier, more comprehensive, and more authoritative for the government to capture its own records on the way to social networking sites? Its workflow of a) posting to commercial services, b) paying contractors to extract content from those servers and c) reformat it for preservation sounds like very bad planning to me.

Surely we need governments to start taking their own communications seriously and create preservable records rather than try to re-create records in order to preserve them. The idea of creating hard-to-preserve records using commercial services and having to go through extra steps to re-capture and re-format the information is doing two things wrong instead of one thing right.

By the way, the solicitation also asks for capturing “information posted by non-EOP persons on publicly-accessible web sites where the EOP maintains a presence both comments posted on pages created by EOP and messages sent to EOP accounts on those web sites” which brings up a different set of questions. Some of people are upset by the idea of capturing the public’s publicly-posted comments. I don’t really follow that train of reasoning. The comments are voluntarily posted as public comments, but the government shouldn’t save them? Archivists are faced with big challenges! (See also: Sustaining the Future of Archives. Hat tip to George!)

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