“If permanence of legal thought is important to legal scholarship then it must be preserved consciously.”
--Howard A. Denemark, "The Death of Law Reviews has Been Predicted: What Might be Lost When the Last Law Review Shuts Down?" 27 SETON HALL L. REV. 1, 12 (1996).
According to a new study by Jonathan Zittrain and Kendra Albert at the Harvard Law School (Zittrain also has affiliations with Harvard's Kennedy School, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society) "49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work. And more than 70% of the links in such journals as the Harvard Law Review (in that case measured from 1999 to 2012), currently don’t work. As time passes, the number of non-working links increases." The study builds off of other great link rot studies such those done annually since 2010 by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group and the more resent one by Raizel Liebler and June Liebert in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.
The following is a press release (PDF) from the Canadian Government Information Private LOCKSS Network (CGI-PLN). Questions and comments should be directed to Amanda Wakaruk, amanda.wakaruk AT ualberta DOT ca.
Media Release - please forward
Libraries Work Together to Preserve Canadian Federal Government Electronic Publications
Librarians at eleven organizations have formed a partnership to preserve Canadian electronic government information.
This partnership, known as the Canadian Government Information Private LOCKSS Network (CGI-PLN), has established a geographically distributed infrastructure to preserve government information in a secure environment, helping ensure access to digital content in the future.
David Rosenthal, in a post on his blog, gives a brief presentation on the principles behind the LOCKSS technology. In it, he explains some of the thought behind it (with useful links!). One of the key questions of digital preservation is "What are the causes of data loss?" David notes that most people would answer this question with the usual suspects: Media failure, Hardware failure, Software failure, Network failure, Obsolescence, Natural Disaster. But, David says, if you ask the people who run large data centers you get a different list:
While the report admits that "it has become increasingly difficult to adequately preserve valuable digital content because of a complex set of interrelated societal, technological, financial, and organizational pressures," it's great to see this call for community effort that especially speaks to the need to preserve digital government records.
Executive Summary (PDF, 889 KB)
Full Document (PDF, 1.07 MB)
Vint Cerf, Google's "Internet Evangelist," speaking at the Computer World Honors awards program on Monday, warned about the dangers and difficulties of long-term digital preservation. He said what's needed is a "digital vellum" to do long-term digital preservation in the same way as physical media has been preserved. Perhaps he needs to talk to libraries ;-)
Cerf warned that digital things created today -- spreadsheets, documents, presentations as well as mountains of scientific data -- won't be readable in the years and centuries ahead.
Cerf illustrated the problem in a simple way. He runs Microsoft Office 2011 on Macintosh, but it cannot read a 1997 PowerPoint file. "It doesn't know what it is," he said.
"I'm not blaming Microsoft," said Cerf, who is Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist. "What I'm saying is that backward compatibility is very hard to preserve over very long periods of time."
The data objects are only meaningful if the application software is available to interpret them, Cerf said. "We won't lose the disk, but we may lose the ability to understand the disk."
It's not just PowerPoint slides either, he said. The scientific community collects large amounts of data from simulations and instrument readings. But unless the metadata survives, which will tell under what conditions the data was collected, how the instruments were calibrated, and the correct interpretation of units, the information may be lost.
Unfortunately, there was a technological glitch and I didn't get to finish my presentation on digital preservation at the 2013 House Legislative Data and Transparency conference. I've attached my presentation notes (PDF) in case anyone is interested. I'd be interested to hear comments.
The 2nd annual House Legislative Data and Transparency conference is now streaming live. Here's the agenda and speaker bios for the conference. Note that I'll be on a panel on digital preservation at 2pm eastern/11am pacific with Lisa LaPlant from GPO and Marc Levitt, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies. Should be fun :-)
I had a good time yesterday on a panel about Web archiving and digital preservation at the Society of California Archivists General meeting 2013 (slides to be posted there soon). The panel was organized by Scott Reed at the Internet Archive, and included Scott, Claude Zachary (University of Southern California), myself and my Stanford colleague Henry Lowood.
One of the coolest things -- other than the fascinating keynote by Dr. Michael Cohen, who talked about "Culture Wars: Engaging Undergraduates in Documenting the Crisis in California Through the Historian's Eye Project" -- was learning about the site archiveready.com. This is a handy little tool to test your Website's archivability. Paste in your url, and it goes through and checks things like standards compliance, accessibility, CSS, site maps, external media and proprietary objects like flash or quicktime, and lastly whether or not your site is already being collected by the Internet Archive's Wayback machine. Freegovinfo did pretty well in the test with an overall rating of 78%. We lost points for having some external images and external scripts (google analytics and a facebook badge), but I don't consider those things critical to the site for the long-term. How does your site do? Are you ready to be archived?!
"The Digital-Surrogate Seal of Approval: a Consumer-oriented Standard." James A. Jacobs, University of California San Diego and James R. Jacobs, Stanford University. D-Lib Magazine, March/April 2013, Volume 19, Number 3/4. Also available in the Stanford Digital Repository and the University of California Escholarship Repository.
James and I are happy to announce that our new article appears in the current edition of D-Lib Magazine:
- The Digital-Surrogate Seal of Approval: a Consumer-oriented Standard. by James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. D-Lib Magazine, 2013, 19(3/4). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1045/march2013-jacobs
In the last few years, there have been a series of articles, reports and proposals that rely on the promises of digitization to address issues of physical space, cost control, access, and collection management for FDLP libraries. One of the reasons we created this Seal of Approval standard is to provide a clear, consistent way to help evaluate some of these promises of digitization.