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Three Screens and a Cloud: Netflix’s Qwikster, Facebook & Amazon 2011/09/23

Posted by nydawg in Copyright, Curating, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Information Literacy, Information Technology (IT), Intellectual Property, Media.
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One of the most pressing and intimidating challenges digital archivists face today, is the fact that there is so much content offered in so many quick-changing distribution formats and accessible on short-lived storage media.  I found that the easiest way to describe this is “Three screens and a cloud” or as former Microsoft head Ray Ozzie put it: “how we consume IT is really shifting from a machine-centric viewpoint to what we refer to as three screens and a cloud:  the phone, the PC, and the TV ultimately, and how we deliver value to them.” [i would change that to IP, but hey, I’m not CEO of Microsoft.]

So as archivists who are concerned with the distribution and accessibility of our digital assets, it is important to ask early, “What format or what media will be required and who is the targeted end user on what appliance?”  In other words, you probably don’t want to send a hi-def Blu-Ray digital video stream meant for a big screen tv to a tiny smartphone!  Or you probably don’t want to stream a FlashVideo version to an iPad user.

But, on the other hand, archivists may not need to archive or preserve (for long-term functions) every possible variation of each format version (for smartphone or netbook (iPad) or television).   By articulating what is really needed, archivists can streamline processes and avoid making mountains where molehills are sufficient.  Archivists who can see the forest for the trees will be able to describe fewer assets more completely so that specific needles can be found within the haystacks.

This leads me to the real groundshifting news stories that happened this week.  The first one is that NetFlix is splitting its DVDs-by-mail service from its streaming.  According to Huffington Post: “In a post on The Netflix Blog that went up Sunday night, the company’s CEO, Reed Hastings, announced that Netflix would split its DVD-by-mail service and its streaming-video service into two companies. The new DVD-only company, called “Qwikster,” will be completely separate from the streaming business. Hastings also expressed contrition for the way the company rolled out its recent price hike, which alienated many customers. . . . “It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.”

Well, obviously, many people are up in arms and think this is the biggest boneheaded marketing move since Coke introduced New Coke! The NY Times’s David Pogue does a pretty good job of getting his gander up as he parses the Netflix apology without fully acknowledging the economics of the “streaming” game.  I won’t get too much into the legal issues (which I don’t fully understand), but I do remember when I was working in “streaming media” as Senior Encoder at SonicNet (and Streamland), licensing costs and marketing dollars generally shift from one medium (vhs, CD or radio) to another (DVD, streaming media or satellite radio).   It seems inevitable that NetFlix realizes, as Blockbuster did years ago, that physical media will soon be obsolete, . . .  so they’re trying to split themselves in order to have different licensing deals with different stakeholders and end users. . . . . and Blockbuster, long-ago doomed, seeks to get in on the action too!

But ultimately, “An issue that both Netflix and Dish face, even when they don’t want to admit it, is the inconsistency of broadband connectivity across the United States.”

Another huge news story from this week was at f8 where Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced major Facebook renovations. ““Millions of people curate stories of their lives on Facebook every day and have no way to share them once they fall off your profile page…we have been working on ‘timeline’ all year…it’s the story of your life and completely new way to express yourself.  “It has three pieces: all your stories, your apps and a new way to express who you are.”  Zuckerberg said he wanted people to be able to share “their entire lives” on Facebook and have “total control” over how their content appeared online.”

Zuckerberg “also announced a series of partnerships with music, media and games companies –including Spotify, Netflix, Zynga [the maker of Farmville] and The Washington Post.”  So this brings us back to the idea of Netflix which  “announced it is integrating its video streaming service with Facebook — allowing users to watch videos on either site and see what people on their friends lists are viewing.  It will be available in 44 countries except in Netflix’s biggest market — the United States, because of the 1998 Video Privacy Protection Act that prohibits the disclosure of video sales or rental records, the company explained.”

So what does this all mean for “Three Screens and a Cloud?”  Well, it’s important to remember that “Netflix is the biggest driver of U.S. Internet traffic, according to one study. As Internet service providers begin capping or tiering their data plans, that could cause consumers to watch fewer streaming videos on Netflix, analysts say.”  So as phone companies begin capping data plans for distribution (streaming), then another part of the archival equation is the storage medium. . . . and, as many people know, the battle is in the Clouds!


Curating Google Doodle Highlights incl. Freddie Mercury’s Tribute 2011/09/06

Posted by nydawg in Curating, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation, Information Technology (IT), Intellectual Property, Media.
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Hi everyone: Maybe this isn’t totally an archival or curatorial issue, but in some ways, these GoogleDoodles do what a good archive strives to do: provide easy access to available information and resources.  So pump up the volume, click on today’s GoogleDoodle, look for the cc [closed-captioning] button for lyrics to sing-along as you watch an animated music video tribute to the late great Queen singer Freddie Mercury.  http://www.google.com/

and check out Queen guitarist Brian May’s blog tribute here.

But if you want more of those awesome GoogleDoodles, don’t forget some of my favorites including: Alex Calder’s moving mobiles;  playable and recordable Les Paul guitar; John Lennon’s hand-drawn Imagine (animation); Martha’ Graham’s “Thought of You” dance; Mr. Men and Little Miss; Charlie Chaplin’s 122nd Birthday; and who can forget GoogleDoodle Dots, Jules Verne or the Google PacMan?

Those are some of my favorites, but I can probably think of a dozen more if i put my head to it. . . .If you’re interested in learning about the doodle history, check it out here.  And if i’m missing any good ones, please let me know!

Digital New York: Still a Few Bugs in the System 2011/09/05

Posted by nydawg in Curating, Digital Archiving, Education, Electronic Records, Information Technology (IT), Media.
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Hurricane Irene (not to scale)

Many of you know that I missed all the excitement last week as Hurricane Irene bore down on the New York area.  I was in Chicago for the 75th Annual Meeting of the SAA (Society of American Archivists) and it got so bad that I received warning emails from my mother and my oldest brother.  [I assume they had received but not read my itinerary which clearly showed that I was heading to Minneapolis/St Paul after the meeting.]  So I figured I was in the clear until I realized sometime on Friday, “Whoops! I forgot to close my windows!”  So I guess I can say I was tangentially affected (by guilt caused) by Tropical Storm Irene. . . .

But as the story was developing, I was in touch with friends back East and learned that some who live in my neighborhood were advised to evacuate!  My ex-girlfriend evacuated our two (Brooklyn) cats to Manhattan, and sent me pictures!  Well, I live close enough to the East River to start to worry about my (second floor) apartment. .  With a little research, I learned that I could find the evacuation areas from nyc.gov.  But on Saturday, I didn’t have any luck accessing the PDF or whatever it was.

So this morning, I stopped for a cup of coffee in Champion, and happened to read an article that “The New York Times reported that the city’s official website, www.nyc.gov, was down on the morning of Friday, Aug. 26.  The news outlet suggested that the site was overwhelmed by people looking for information about the hurricane. As of 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, however, the site was back online.   The timing couldn’t have been worse. In what New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called a “first time” for the city, he ordered a mandatory evacuation of various coastal areas of the city’s five boroughs, covering roughly 250,000 people.”  So this is dysfunctional modern-day disaster planning.

From the TimesCity Learns Lessons From the Storm, Many of Them the Hard Way” we learn that “For example, the mayor’s office had predicted a surge in Web traffic on nyc.gov when it issued the evacuation order. But nobody expected five times the normal volume of traffic. By Friday afternoon, computer servers had become severely overloaded. The Web site sputtered and crashed for hours, when New Yorkers needed it most.  In the future, the city will try to modify the Web site so that it can be quickly stripped down to a few essential features  —  like an evacuation map, searchable by ZIP code —  that are in highest demand during an emergency.”

Hurricane Irene: NYC Evacuation Zones

I’m curious about what is the “normal volume” of traffic on that webpage?  But it seems to me that this is ultimately a problem wit making information accessible, but not thinking it through to the extent that an end-user (who may have to evacuate his/her house!) has to first click on the PDF, then download it, wait for it to finish downloading, launch it, and then search for the data needed. . . . .  The fact that this is not an integrated system where a person can easily plug his/her zip code into an online system to find out if his house is in an evacuation zone  suggests that the system is not very functional, best practices are not in use, and further, that perhaps the metrics used to show how vital Digital New York is, are the wrong metrics to use.

Why wouldn’t the IT staff at DoITTT consider creating mirror sites for downloading the PDFs?  So the first victim of Hurricane Irene was NYC.gov.  “In a tweet earlier this morning the city’s Chief Digital Officer apologized for the outage while giving specific links (which were also frequently down) to find the city’shurricane evacuation map (we’ve included it below for your convenience). And the city’s main Twitter feed just put out a similar tweet. Which means, damn, a LOT of people must be trying to access the city’s website. We’ve e-mailed to find out just how many users it takes to take down nyc.gov but have yet to hear back.”

Well, fortunately, they’ve probably learned some lessons from this hysteria, and it seems like no one suffered much damage in this area and, ironically (or fortunately) September is a good time to Get Prepared: “National Preparedness Month . .  . a nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism.”  To learn more about NYC’s Digital Strategy and the Chief Digital Officer check here for the Road Map. (more…)

Errol Morris and Photo Archives 2011/09/04

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Curating, Information Literacy, Information Technology (IT), Intellectual Property, Media.
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Filmmaker Errol Morris has been thinking about collecting, describing and using photographs in many different formats including one of my favorite documentary films “The Thin Blue Line” from 1988.  His book, Believing Is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art, was reviewed in the NYTimes and is now available at bookstores everywhere (well, maybe not borders).  The NYTimes review starts out: “Likewise, “Believing Is Seeing,” though perceptive about photography, is fundamentally concerned with something very different: epistemology. Morris is chiefly interested in the nature of knowledge, in figuring out where the truth — in both senses — lies.

As that suggests, Morris believes in objective truth, and believes that people can grasp it — “even though,” as he has written elsewhere, “the world is unutterably insane.” The question then becomes how to coax an insane world into yielding up its truths, and “Believing Is Seeing” amounts to a provisional, ­pastiche-y, deeply interesting attempt at an answer.”

If you’re interested in getting a glimpse of some of those chapters and thoughts, you might want to check out some of his The Opinionator blogs including “It Was All Started by a Mouse (part 1)“, “Did My Brother Invent E-Mail with Tom Van Vleck?“, “The Ashtray“, ‘The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is’” and pretty much anything he has written, spoken, shot, edited, made or shared ever!  And then check out this book review podcast too.

Whither Appraisal?: David Bearman’s “Archival Strategies” 2011/08/22

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Best Practices, Curating, Digital Archives, Digital Preservation, Education, Electronic Records, Information Technology (IT), Media, Records Management.
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Back in Fall 1995, American Archivist published one of the most controversial and debate-inspiring essays written by archival bad-boy David Bearman of Archives & Museum Informatics from Pittsburgh (now living in Canada).  The essay, “Archival Strategies” pointed to several problems (challenges/obstacles) in archival methods and strategies which, at the time, threatened to make the profession obsolete.   The piece was a follow-up to his “Archival Methods” from 1989 and showed “time and again that archivists have themselves documented order of magnitude and greater discrepancies between our approaches and our aims, they call for a redefinition of the problems, the objectives, the methods or the technologies appropriate to the archival endeavor.”  As he points out in Archival Strategies, “In Archival Methods, I argued that “most potential users of archives don’t,” and that “those who do use archives are not the users we prefer.””

This disconnect between archives and their future users led Bearman to write “I urged that we seek justification in use, and that we become indispensable to corporate functioning as the source of information pertaining to what the organization does, and as the locus of accountability.”  With his well-stated pithy aphorisms like “most potential users of archives don’t,” and that “those who do use archives are not the users we prefer,” he was able to point to the serious problem facing us today: past practices have led us to preserve the wrong stuff for our unprefered users!  Of course Information Technology has led us down this road since computer storage is marketed as so cheap (and always getting cheaper),  and it seems much easier to store everything than to let an archivist do his job starting with selection and appraisal, retention and preservation, arrangement and description, and access and use.

Ultimately, his essay is a clarion call for archivists to establish a clear goal for the profession, namely to accept their role in risk management and providing accountability for the greater societal goal.  The role of an archivist, in my opinion, is to serve as an institution’s conscience!  Perhaps that is the reason why library science and archival studies are considered science.   He suggests that strategic thinking is required “Because strategic thinking focuses on end results, it demands “outcome” oriented, rather than “output” oriented, success measures. For example, instead of measuring the number of cubic feet of accessions (an output of the accessioning process), we might measure the percentage of requests for records satisfied (which comes closer to reflecting the purpose of accessioning).”

This seminal essay is a fascinating read and groundbreaking analysis of the sorry state of appraisal.  “What we have actually been doing is scheduling records to assure that nothing valuable is thrown away, but this is not at all equivalent to assuring that everything valuable is kept.  Instead, these methods reduce the overall quantity of documentation; presumably we have felt that if the chaff was separated from the wheat it would be easier to identify what was truly important.  The effect, however, is to direct most records management and archival energy into
controlling the destruction of the 99 percent of records which are of only temporary value, rather than into identifying the 1 percent we want, and making efforts to secure them.”

Using incendiary language, Bearman goes on to state the obvious:  “Appraisal, which is the method we have
employed to select or identify records, is bankrupt.  Not only is it hopeless to try to sort out the cascade of “values” that can be found in records and to develop a formula by which these are applied to records, 16 it wastes resources and rarely even encounters the evidence of those business functions which we most want to document.”

2D lifecycle or 3D continuum

This is a revolutionary essay, and I strongly encourage every archivist to read it and think about it deeply.  The ideas have mostly languished and been ignored in this country as we continue to use the life cycle model, but Bearman’s ideas are written in the international standards for records management (ISO 15489) and  widely embraced in Australia (and China) where, over the last two decades, they have conceptualized and implemented the “Australian records continuum” model to great effect and, in doing so, they are looking at born-digital assets and electronic records from perspectives of all users, functions, and needs.  In my opinion, it seems like the continuum model is a 3D version of the lifecycle, which reminds me of this image from A Wrinkle in Time in which Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatsit explain time travel to Meg and Charles Wallace by showing how an ant can quickly move across a string if the two ends are brought closer together.   In other words, if archivists look at the desired end result, they can appraise and process accordingly.


After reading the Bearman essay for the first time and seeing how it has caused such dramatic changes in archival conceptualizations, methods, strategies and processes elsewhere, but is still not taught in any depth in US library or archival studies schools, I spoke with other nydawg members, and we decided to use it as the text as for our next discussion group on Tuesday August 23.   I hope to revisit this topic later.

One last point.  Because of the deluge of materials accessioned by archives, “uncataloged backlog among manuscripts collections was a mean of nearly one-third repository holdings”, leading the authors to claim “Cataloging is  function that is not working.”  With budgets cut and small staffs unable to make progress, Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner wrote another revolutionary piece titled “More Product, Less Process: Pragmatically Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal with Late 20th-Century Collections” [MPLP] which was a plea for minimal processing.

Unlike Bearman’s “Archival Strategies”, MPLP leads archivists to believe that we must remain passive filers or describers or catalogers or undertakers.  But without a better understanding of appraisal and how to do it, we are doomed with analog, paper, born-digital or electronic records!  The clearest example of this is the National Archives and Records Administration’s Electronic Records Archive (ERA) which, according to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero “At the moment, most of the electronic records in ERA are Presidential records from the George W. Bush White House.  This important collection includes more than 200 million e-mail messages and more than 3 million digital photographs, as well as more than 30 million additional electronic records in other formats. ”

A few weeks ago, I actually crunched the numbers and figured out that 200 million emails over the course of eight years works out to nearly one email a second!  (365 days a year x 8 years = 2920 days plus 2 (leap year days)  2922 x 24 hours a day = 70,128 hours x 60 mins in an hour = 4,207,680 x 60 seconds per minute = 252,460,800. )
After doing the math, my first thought was, “if we’re trying to process and preserve every email sent every second by the George W. Bush Administration, we must be doing something wrong.”  And now, I think I understand the problem: we’re not doing effective appraisal.  Although we still have to wait for public access to the emails, I am fairly confident that researchers will find that nearly 90 percent of the collection are duplicates, or that they are keeping copies of the sent email, the different received emails, plus backups of all of them.  With better appraisal, this task should not be so difficult, and would leave more time for catalogers to do more detailed descriptions (which will be more important later, especially with different formats of “moving images” which are not compatible  with newer versions of hardware (e.g. iPads don’t play Flash Video).


Photo Curating Google Street View (GSV) for Kicks & Laughs 2011/08/20

Posted by nydawg in Copyright, Curating, Intellectual Property, Media.
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An interesting article, “Navigating the Puzzle of Google Street View ‘Authorship‘”
from Wired looks at the idea of copyright, authorship, photo licensing exhibition, distribution and curation, selection and appraisal (and cropping) by two artists using Google Street View.

from Wired

“I decided to explore how a casual observer who hasn’t spent years
thinking about authorship, photography and the nature of art and
artist may dismiss the images as obviously identical, but an art
history buff could fall down the conceptual rabbit hole lurking in
that assumption. If you’re as intrigued as I was, take the red pill
with me and read on. (Warning: No intellectual lifeguard on duty.)
Rafman’s Nine Eyes and Wolf’s A Series of Unfortunate Events are the
two most well-known and most circulated projects of the Google Street
View (GSV) ilk. Rafman continues to add images to Nine Eyes, while
Wolf has since ventured into newer sets with a geographical focus on
Paris and New York.

. . . “For traditionalists, the problem with GSV projects is one of
engagement. Documentary photographer Alan Chin, speaking of Mishka
Henner’s No Man’s Land expresses a view that can be applied to GSV
projects in general.  “Google Street View is a navigational tool, an
educational resource, and sure, it can reveal a lot about a place and
a scene at a given moment in time,” says Chin. “But if you, the
artist, are really so interested, then go there and take some pictures
yourself. Postmodern, post-structuralist, post-whatever denizens of
the art world and academia love this shit. But it has little to do
with actual reporting and actual documentary work in the field.”


Can IP Save Kodak?! 2011/08/17

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Curating, Digital Archives, Intellectual Property.
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All these rapid changes in the wireles, mobile world, seem to suggest a new paradigm emerging.  Which leads some to wonder about Kodak, George Eastman’s beloved photographic cash cow.
“The intellectual property hustle used to be so simple: purer, even. Patent holders extracted licensing fees, lump-sum settlements or cross-licensing agreements from nonholders, who paid up to avoid messy lawsuits or injunctions. It was a drag for almost everyone involved, but the stakes were comparatively small. Now, multibillion-dollar portfolio sales have put blood in the water, attracting an entirely different kind of shark.

We’ve already seen this play out once with Motorola. It’s easy to forget now that just a few weeks before Google stepped in to buy the company, investor Carl Icahn publicly and privately urged Motorola to sell off its patents, either for cash or by (again) splitting up the company. . . . Now we have the formula. It’s playing out with RIM, which is getting pressure to sell, license or spin off itspatent portfolio. Never mind that RIM’s intellectual property, or IP, might not actually be as intrinsically valuable as Nortel’s, Novell’s or Motorola’s. . . .

Right now, it looks like a seller’s market. Because nobody seems to be kicking the tires to see exactly what they’re buying, the conventional wisdom is to sell. Like Motorola a few weeks ago, RIM is in a tough spot, so this pressure is hard to resist. If RIM were to publicly announce that it wasn’t for sale, its already-weakened stock, temporarily buoyant from acquisition rumors, would fall to the ground.

It’s even harder for Kodak, which really does have a substantial patent portfolio and is in an even weaker market position. On Wednesday, Bloomberg ran an analyst-driven story titled “Kodak Worth Five Times More in Breakup With $3 Billion Patents“: . . . A company that’s lost billions of dollars over the decade, sporting a market cap of less than $700 million, begins to look like a much better buy if you think it’s sitting on $3 billion in assets. It looks even better if you think it might win a billion-dollar infringement suit against Apple and RIM, which has been dragging out in the International Trade Commission for years but may finally be decided soon.



and if yr interested, why not check out what’s doing at the George Eastman House – International Museum of Photography!