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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Lunchtime Listen: Born Digital Government Information

Back in April I gave a brief (18 minutes!) talk at the Center for Research Libraries Forum, Leviathan: Libraries and Government Information in the Era of Big Data. Here are the slides and the audio recording of that presentation:

The presentation gave me an opportunity to give some historical context to and draw some conclusions from the paper (Born-Digital U.S. Federal Government Information: Preservation and Access) I wrote for the CRL forum. Also see my speaker notes, additional links, examples, and accompanying material where all the really cool stuff is!

Born-Digital U.S. Federal Government Information: Preservation and Access

The paper that I prepared under contract for the Center for Research Libraries is now available:

This is one of several background readings recommended by CRL for attendees of the CRL Forum Leviathan: Libraries and Government Information in the Era of Big Data, which is part of the CRL Council of Voting Members Meeting and Collections Forum, which will be held in Chicago on Apr 24 2014 – Apr 25 2014.

Blue Leviathan

Crazy born digital content

One of the best things that could happen for digital preservation is for producers of digital content to understand that they need to produce preservable content. If producers and publishers created digital content in neutral, preservable formats, we would not have to spin our wheels with the Sisyphean task of constantly trying to fix un-preservable content with techniques such as emulation and format migration.

For publishers (and of course this includes government agencies) to create preservable content, they would have to understand that their essential role in the information lifecyle includes creating information that is preservable — not just instantaneously deliverable in the short-term. Although there are efforts to develop this understanding and to create appropriate formats and processes, most born-digital information seems to be generated with only the most short-term utility in mind. A lot of born digital content is badly-formed and uses non-standard, proprietary, and closed formats.

All that brings me to this example of what looks to be shoddy content creation.

What is interesting about this publication? It has no periods at the ends of sentences. Really! No punctuation at all at the end of sentences, in fact. I searched for them and only found a few and those were all on page 51 in bullet-points.

The publication does use periods in “U.S.” and in URLs and in things like “version 3.0” but never at the end of sentences. (The appendices have periods, but, presumably, they were prepared separately and just pasted in.)

Here is a sample from the Introduction (in this example, even “U.S.” becomes “U S”):

In June 2010, the Administration, through the IPEC‘s Joint Strategic Plan, emphasized the protection and enforcement of U S intellectual property rights These rights drive the economy, create jobs for American workers, promote innovation, and secure America’s position as the world’s leader for creativity and ingenuity The 2011 Annual Report provides an illustration of the coordinated efforts that the U S Government is undertaking to address the challenges of enforcing intellectual property of U S rightholders abroad, securing supply chains, pursuing sources of counterfeit and pirated goods, and meeting the challenges posed by emerging criminal trends such as the online sales of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, economic espionage, and targeted theft of trade secrets

This is probably just some odd, unique production mistake. But that is the point: When an agency cannot even take the time to make sure its born digital text has periods at the end of sentences, how can we expect agencies to produce digital content that conforms to preservation technology requirements? There is a lot of work to be done before we can ensure the public that we can preserve digital government information!

(Hat tip to Mike Masnick who, in a highly critical review of the report, says, with tongue in cheek, that the reason the report “seems to do away with the grammatical icon known as ‘the period’ at the end of sentences” might be that the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator found it “too expensive to license.”)