AVP is excited to announce that we are releasing Fixity Pro in the summer of 2020 with lots of new updates and features. The application will be released using a low-cost paid subscription model.
Why paid? For sustainability so we can continue to fix bugs and make Fixity better. Stay tuned for sneak peaks and more specific information in the weeks ahead. If you want to sign up to receive Fixity announcements so you can be sure to get the latest and greatest info, fill out this form.
Just over seven years ago we began developing the prototype for an application that came to be known as Fixity. The application was named after the principle of fixity, a term used in digital preservation to mean that something is fixed or unchanged. In other words, the process of ensuring fixity is akin to ensuring data integrity. The word and the principle became used in just about every discussion of digital preservation principles and practices. The challenge was that the ability to track and monitor the fixity of files was really only available to organizations with people that could create and implement scripts, using command line tools, running on centralized servers. This usually meant very well resourced organizations only.
We certainly work with many large, well resourced organizations but we have always also worked with lots of smaller organizations with lean budgets that are largely dependent on grant funding. With these smaller, less-resourced organizations in mind we asked “How are they supposed to implement fixity?”. When pondering the question we realized that we could create a simple tool that would give people the ability to monitor and report on fixity in all of the ways that digital preservation standards and best practices said that they should be able to. And so we did.
What Makes the Fixity Application Special?
There are three main points I would like to emphasize here:
- Broadening the definition of fixity: Fixity, even today, is often defined as the fixed state of a file. People tend to think of using checksums as the sole tool to practice fixity. We believe this definition of fixity falls short of the intent, which is often to monitor the fixity of collections, and not individual files. With this in mind, we added the concept of file attendance to the Fixity application so that in addition to knowing if a given file has changed, within a collection of files you also know which files are new, removed, moved or renamed.
- Democratization of practice: As mentioned above, most organizations were unable to perform a practice that was universally agreed upon as a foundational element of digital preservation. Fixity made this practice available to everyone.
- Policy creation vs policy enactment: There is a historic gap in organizations between those who create policy and those who enact policy. Those who created policy in organizations often were in the dark about how it was being implemented, or even if it was being implemented. Fixity bridges that gap, giving the information needed by policy creators to ensure that their policy is being implemented correctly.
Who Uses Fixity?
In October of 2013, we released our first version of Fixity. Since then we have had over 10,000 downloads of Fixity and the application has been used by just about every type of organization regardless of size or resources. Organizations using Fixity consist of universities, government, media and entertainment, corporations, not-for profits, historical societies, arts organizations, and more. It has also been adopted by a lot of individuals for home use and groups such as professional photographers who want to monitor the fixity of their digital collections. In short, the audience for the Fixity application has been much broader than we originally anticipated and we were thrilled to find that out!
What is New in Fixity Pro?
Fixity Pro will offer lots of improvements and new features in addition to addressing bugs. These include:
- Significantly faster processing times
- A progress bar with reporting on time and files remaining
- Better support for managing external and network storage locations
- Support for managing partial and incomplete scans
- Improved user interface design
Why Create a Paid Version?
In short, it is because we are trying to create a sustainable model for being able to continue updating and maintaining Fixity.
We tried the open source model. In five years we had one person contribute a minor piece of code. We tried the sponsored model. We have lots of organizations who use Fixity and want additional features and updates but none that were willing to sponsor such updates to subsidize the investment. These past models leave AVP with 100% of the burden to perform updates and maintain the application. Since 2013, we have put over 2500 hours of work into Fixity. Even still, we have been unhappy with our ability to address bugs in a timely manner, not to mention the fact that we’re itching to create a better user interface and add new features. The reality is that this is simply not a sustainable model (darn you, budget!).
One option would be to sunset the application and bid it farewell. However, a healthy rate of continued downloads, feature requests, and bug fix requests tell us that demand is still strong for Fixity. So, the question that hangs in the balance is “How do we create a sustainable model to continue meeting the need for the Fixity application?”. Our bet in this go around is by creating a low-cost paid application.
In the weeks ahead, prior to the official launch, we will be releasing sneak peaks and more details on the Fixity Pro application. Stay tuned and let us know if you have questions or comments in the meantime.