Preserving bits

Just as I posted that last post, including some stuff on preservation of the digital, this piece from Robert Scoble dropped into my Twitter stream. I thought a quick sharing of my approach to digital preservation (such as it is) might be interesting:

When we copy these from our digital camera, they go straight onto our NAS (networked attached storage), in date labelled folders (named as YYYYMMDD) – one for each day we do a download. I then copy them into iPhoto on our MacBook Pro – which is our primary tool for organising the photos – we might delete some of the pictures we import, but I don’t go back and remove these from the NAS. In iPhoto I take advantage of the various organisation tools to split the photos into ‘events’, and have recently started adding ‘place’ and ‘face’ information (where it was taken, and who is in the photo) using the built in tools.

We then may select some of these to be published on our website. We used to do this in custom software built into our then blogging platform, but now we use Flickr.

The photos on the NAS are backed up to online storage (using JungleDisk, which layers over Amazon S3) on a weekly basis. So that is essentially two local copies, and one remote.

Pictures are taken as JPEGs and stored in that format. I haven’t got a plan for what happens when the standard image format moves away from JPEG – I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Also on our NAS, and backed up online once a week. Organised by iTunes, but this time on our Mac Mini rather than the MacBook Pro. Files are a mix of AAC and MP3.

Also on the NAS and backed up online once a week. Organised by iMovie on the MacBook Pro again. I think this is an area I’m going to have to revisit, as neither the MBP or the Mac Mini really have enough disk space to comfortably store large amounts of video.

Sometimes I get round to producing some actual films from the video footage, and these are either published to our website (just as video files). I think I’ve only put one on YouTube. I have to admit I’m a bit fuzzy about the format – the camera records MPEG2, but I’m not sure what iMovie does to this on import. I tend to export any finished films as MPEG4.

Simply stored on the NAS with weekly online backups. Stuff obviously gets put on the MacBook Pro at various times, but I’m pretty good at making sure anything key goes back on the NAS.

I guess that this blog is the other key ‘document’ store – and at the moment I only have a very vague backup policy for this – I do have a snapshot from a couple of months ago stored as web pages on our NAS (and therefore backed up online).


In some ways the video and photos are our biggest problem. However the fact we are already doing some selection should actually make preservation easier I think. We are already ‘curating’ our collections when we decide what goes online, or in a film. It would make sense to focus preservation activities on these parts of the collection – and much cheaper to do as well.

Probably the least ‘curated’ part of our collection is Documents – this contains just about everything I’ve done over the last 10 years – including huge email archives, and documents on every project I’ve been involved in since about 1998. I haven’t deleted much, and everytime I think about pruning it, I realise I don’t know where to start, and besides, compared to the video it hardly takes up any space….

The areas I feel I need to look at are:

  • File formats – are we using the most sensible file formats, check what we use for video
  • Migration strategies – how would I move file formats in the future
  • Curation strategies – should we focus only on the parts of the collection we really care about?
  • What to do about blogs?

What I really don’t believe to be the answer is (as Robert Scoble suggests, and as came up in Giles Turnbull’s Bathcamp talk) ‘print it out’.

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