Thursday, December 18, 2014

In an All-Digital Future, It’s the New Movies That Will Be in Trouble.

In an All-Digital Future, It’s the New Movies That Will Be in Trouble. Bilge Ebiri. New York Media. December 16, 2014.
In 2007, researchers forecast that around 50 percent of the world’s movie screens would be digital by 2013. By the end of 2013, the figure was closer to 90 percent. In a short time, film has gone from an industry standard to a novelty.
Digital seemed by far the best option, but for long term preservation it has turned into "something of a catastrophe". “At this time, the longevity of digital files of moving images is anybody’s guess. We do know that it is much, much shorter than the longevity of photochemical film. If hard drives aren’t occasionally turned on, he notes, they start to become unusable."

Two famous examples of the perils of digital preservation:
  1. when the makers of Toy Story attempted to put their film out on DVD a few years after its release, they discovered that much of the original digital files of the film had been corrupted. 
  2. A similar fate came close to befalling Toy Story 2 when someone accidentally hit a “delete” button.
The irony of the digital revolution: It’s the newer movies that are in trouble. For content that was born in digital form, "all we can do is migrate the digital files as often as possible.” That requires technology and resources that go beyond what most organizations are able to handle.

The physical deterioration of drives and discs and chips isn’t the only thing digital filmmakers need to worry about. Digital files are also prone to become outdated, with software upgrades and new programs that render previous ones obsolete or unusable. Formats may be changing every 18 months to two years and may not be compatible with each other.

Part of the problem is that preservation isn’t a for-profit endeavor endeavor, so many do not want to spend a lot of money and space to preserve resources. But it becomes more important when considering the long term view.  “There’s this notion, which is not true, that digital is very inexpensive. Filmmakers and studios are saving a lot of money in production and post-production costs because of digital, and that’s a good thing. But because of that, many people don’t really understand that they’re putting their assets at risk by wholesale transferring to digital and then not keeping the originals.”

“This is not a new problem. In the 1970s and '80s, some film companies took all of their motion-picture film and transferred it to ¾-inch video, which was thought of as a preservation medium. They threw away their originals! And ¾-inch video was not a good format. In fact, it was a terrible format! This is happening with digital now. They’ve already sloughed off their nitrate collections, and there are actually discussions in some of the studios to get rid of their 35mm collections as well.”

However, film may not be as dead as some seem to think. Some archives have discussed manufacturing film themselves, if and when companies like Kodak or Agfa or Fuji go out of business. Sooner or later, there will be other strategies for the long-term preservation of digital material. “I even saw someone discussing the idea of shooting it all up into space and then waiting for it to come back around again,” he says. “That sounded like pure science-fiction, but who knows?”

Large studios are making sure that all the digital files associated with a multi-billion-dollar movie will be duplicated many times and securely placed in multiple locations. Others may not have the resources to preserve the content. Some relevant questions to ask:
  •  What will happen to them over the course of what is sure to be multiple format changes? 
  • Is somebody making sure their hard drives and the files are still usable? 
  • Have they been distributed into multiple locations? 
  • Will their producers and distributors remain solvent enough over the years to care for the content?
The story of cinema is the story of discovery. Movies once considered afterthoughts can, over time, become beloved classics. A print of a film long forgotten might turn up in a foreign archive and get revived. That may not be possible in an all-digital future, where moving-image files will need regular maintenance and upgrades to keep them viable. A forgotten movie, in other words, will be an extinct movie. 

Celluloid is far from a perfect medium, but it can survive even if some frames or reels are damaged or missing.  Not unlike with books, the simplicity of the physical medium held the key to its longevity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Aligning Customer Needs: Business Process Management (BPM) and Successful Change Management in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections

Aligning Customer Needs: Business Process Management (BPM) and Successful Change Management in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections. Joseph Gordon Daines III. Library Leadership & Management. November 2014. PDF
A lot of archival processing happens before an archival or manuscript collection can be made available for research use by patrons. It is central to the archival endeavor. This article looks at the role of business process management (BPM) in automating many of the workflows used to manage the manuscript and archival collections

BPM is a field of management focused on aligning organizations with the needs and wants of their customer bases. The Special Collections department identified its customer bases as its curatorial staff and its patrons. Enabling the curatorial staff to more efficiently prepare manuscript collections for research use would also enable better customer service. Several different BPM techniques were used to gain an understanding of the curatorial needs of  the department as it automated the  workflows. This enabled the department to successfully simplify and streamline its workflows during the course of automating them. The end result has been more efficient processing of archival collections and better service for our patrons.

A review of the requirements showed a need for two types of functionality:
  1. task management, and 
  2. archival content management.
Business process:
  • Systematic management, measurement and improvement of all company processes through cross-functional teamwork and employee empowerment.
  • Standardize activities and processes in order to improve organizational efficiency
  • Business process: “a series of interrelated activities, crossing functional boundaries, with specific inputs and outputs.”
  • The tools that will be examined are process mapping, process modeling, statements of work, and use cases. Processes are modeled using at least one of the following charts: general process charts, process flow diagrams, process activity charts, or flowcharts.
  • Flowcharts are useful in identifying decision points and parallel activities in a process.gain an understanding of the sequence of activities in the process
  • Statements of Work: A specific statement regarding the requirements needed in a service contract. The statement of work should include all aspects of job requirements, performance and assessment.
  • Use cases also help identify the actors involved in various activities and what they want from those activities. For the purposes of use cases, actors are defined as “anything that interfaces with your system—for example, people, other software, hardware devices, data stores, or networks. Each actor defines a particular role.” Use cases typically include two components—a diagram featuring the actor(s) and how they interact with the system and a flow of events statement. The flow of events statement is “a series of declarative statements listing the steps of a use case from the actor’s point of view.”
  • ProcessMaker provides a SOW template that aided the project in automating the workflow comprising the department’s implementation of the archival business process.
  • The use of BPM tools and techniques in the Perry Special Collections provided the department with a methodology to examine and improve the workflow used to provide access to archival materials.
  • Business processes enable leaders to make informed decisions that can improve library’s abilities to deliver their services. 
  • BPM tools are not difficult to use and provide a wide range of benefits. Library leaders should use BPM tools to lead successful change initiatives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand (coherent) words: building a natural description of images

A picture is worth a thousand (coherent) words: building a natural description of images. Google Research Blob.
Google has developed a machine-learning system that can automatically produce captions to accurately describe images the first time it sees them. It can describe a complex scene which requires a deeper representation of what’s going on in the scene, capturing how the various objects relate to one another and translating it all into natural-sounding language. The full paper "Show and Tell: A Neural Image Caption Generator" is here.

Quantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Culture and Sport.

Quantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Culture and Sport. Daniel Fujiwara, et al. UK Department for Culture, Media & Sport. April 2014. PDF

A study to develop the evidence base on the well-being impacts of cultural engagement that provides new evidence of the link between our policies and the social impacts of engagement in culture.This presents the results of an analysis of the association between culture, sport and measures of subjective well-being.

When allocating scarce public resources, we would ideally like to know the costs and benefits of different allocating decisions.

A significant association was also found between frequent library use and reported well being. Using libraries frequently was valued at £1,359 per person per year for library users, or £113 per person per month, the third highest value.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Agreement Elements for Outsourcing Transfer of Born Digital Content.

Agreement Elements for Outsourcing Transfer of Born Digital Content. Ricky Erway, Ben Goldman and Matthew McKinley. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. 2014. [PDF]
The article Swatting the Long Tail of Digital Media: A Call for Collaboration (2012) held that few institutions would be able to have the hardware, software, and expertise to be able to read all digital media types. A group of archival practitioners started a pilot project to test outsourcing of the transfer of content from physical media they couldn’t read in-house. They realized the need for agreements between repositories and service providers to spell out the terms of such collaboration. The group began compiling a list of elements that should be considered when creating these agreements.

This article suggests elements to consider when creating an agreement for outsourcing the transfer of born-digital content from a physical medium, while encouraging adherence to both archival principles and technical requirements. The main areas are:
  1. General Provisions: desired outcome, description of work, responsibilities and liabilities
  2. Information Supplied by Service Provider: handling instructions
  3. Information Supplied by Client: content, inventory,
  4. Statement of Work: processing, exceptions, documentation, delivery, acceptance
  5. Cost and Liability: schedule of costs and charges, responsibilities of each party
The parties should agree upon a clear set of requirements regarding the services that the Service Provider is to provide. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Want a 100TB disk drive? You'll have to wait 'til 2025

Want a 100TB disk drive? You'll have to wait 'til 2025. . Computerworld. Nov 25, 2014.

An industry consortium released a road map showing that new recording technologies could yield 100TB hard drives in about 10 years.

As disk drive densities increase, the potential for data errors also increases due to a phenomenon known as superparamagnetism, where the magnetic pull between bits on a platter's surface can randomly flip them, thus changing their value from one to zero or zero to one. "Thus higher storage capacities requires the introduction of new digital storage technology."

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Introducing the New Forever Flash: The Best Business Model in Storage Gets Even Better

Pure Storage has introduced a new approach to storage: a plan called Forever Flash. They view it as perpetual storage [in the business sense, not in the digital preservation sense]. It is intended to help customers get off of the expensive and disruptive 3-year tech refresh and replace cycle. It is maintenance coverage that proactively protects all hardware and software on the array with replacement parts and support as needed, including SSDs, for as long as a customer remains on maintenance and support.

- 11.20.2014