[Originally published October 31, 2016 on the Society of American Archivists' blog, Off the Record: https://offtherecord.archivists.org/2016/10/31/try5-guest-blogger-bert-lyons/]
In August, I had the honor of joining SAA Council and beginning a three-year term serving the SAA membership. At our first meeting, I was excited to hear about Nance McGovern’s plans for the Try5 SAA initiative over the course of this year. I volunteered immediately to participate any way I could to share skills with SAA colleagues and to spread the word about the initiative.
As a consultant at AVPreserve, I work as a partner with archives, libraries, museums, and other organizations who place value in the efficient management of collected information, whether the information is analog, digital, 2-D, 3-D, for forever or for now. For more than 15 years, I have been working with information technologies, analog and digital, as a core component of my day-to-day professional responsibilities. Yet, learning new skills is an indispensable necessity. In these days of insatiable technological change, each new project brings a slate of new challenges and, often, some concepts with which I am unfamiliar.
As a way to grow in knowledge, confidence, and abilities, I find the ethos of “try five” to be a guiding principle that I cannot do without.
At AVP, capacity development and technological independence are central goals that are at the heart of every project we take on with our partners. Just as we are always learning and growing, our mission is to ensure that our partners grow in capacity and confidence, especially when it comes to digital preservation and data management. It is an ethic of promoting independence for our partners, rather than one of dependence. This is why we share all of our tools freely, and provide access to all of our training materials and white papers publicly on our website and with other portals, such as the Sustainable Heritage Network. And, this is why AVP staff members are active as trainers and workshop leaders at conferences and gatherings around the world. Because, as a community of information and material stewards, we can do more for our researchers and designated communities when we all have increased familiarity and confidence with technology.
To partake in the Try5 SAA initiative, AVP wants to share some resources that might help you as you look for new technologies to try. If we can be of any help or assistance as you try new skills, send an email to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet at us (@AVPreserve) and use the hashtag #try5saa.
Here are resources for 5 new technologies (or skills) that you could try out:
1) Command Line Interface: If you want to become more comfortable with the command line interface (CLI) of your computer, but need a kickstart (or, if you just could use a refresher), take a look at AVP’s CLI introductions for Windows and Mac OS. These documents provide an explanation of basic elements of the CLI, along with proposed activities to give you just enough experience to get started on your own. If you want more guidance, take a look at these other tutorials on CLI: CodeAcademy, Princeton Computer Science for Windows, and Lifehacker for Mac OS. Of course, there are many other great tutorials out there. These ought to get you started.
2) Checksums: Have you ever created a checksum? Would that help you understand what checksums are and how they are used? If you completed the CLI (#1 above) handout, you could now use this short handout to try your hand at creating a checksum for a file on your computer. The handout explains how to do so on Windows and Mac OS. Try it out on a text file. Then open the text file and change a letter and then save the text file again. Then create another checksum for the file and see if it matches the first checksum you created.
3) Digital File Packaging: Have you heard of BagIt and wondered what it really is? AVP’s free tool, Exactly, has a friendly user interface that can help you create and send digital files using the BagIt specification. The Exactly user guide has a quick and easy explanation of BagIt. Additionally, this BagIt activity provides an example of how to use another BagIt tool, called Bagger, and talks through the elements and purposes of using BagIt to package files for sharing between donors and archives, or within archives.
4) Embedded Metadata: You often hear about embedded metadata in some types of digital files, especially images, audio, video, and proprietary document formats. There are many tools out there that have been developed to extract this information from within specific file formats. One example is Exiftool, which is useful for a wide variety of formats, including TIFF, JPEG, PDF, WAV, MP3, AVI, MOV, etc. This worksheet (along with this set of sample files) will give you instructions on how to install Exiftool on your computer (for use in the CLI), and how to use it.
There are three activities that walk you through the various capabilities of Exiftool. We also have a tutorial series on Exiftool. If you like how it works, take a look at MediaInfo, which provides similar functionalities as Exiftool does, but has better support for audiovisual files.
5) Digital Video: In a different realm altogether, if you would like an overview of the underlying principles behind digital video files, AVP put together an overview of digital video formats that provides a foundation for understanding the ins and outs of video in the digital world. If you want to learn more after that the following groups provide useful information:
- Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) (see the Part 5 Narrative for an introduction to target files for video digitization)
- International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives: Keep your eyes open for the upcoming release of IASA-TC 06 Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Video Objects, to be released in early 2017. The release will be found here: http://iasa-web.org/iasa-publications.
To participate myself, I will spend time with 5 new technologies that I intend to try over the next few months. I will tweet about my experiences with these new technologies and hopefully that will inspire you to try some of these, too, for a grand total of 10!
Over the course of the next few months, I will study the following technologies about which I hope to learn more: EBML (Extensible Binary Meta Language), nosql data warehousing, digital video codec design (e.g., h264 [lossy], ffv1 [lossless]), virtual computing, and the internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). I have interacted in some way with all of these technologies in the past, yet I continue to side step true competence in them. I will use the Try5 initiative to challenge myself to intentionally focus on these technologies. I will share my experiences via Twitter using the #try5saa hashtag. If you try any of these, or any of the five above, share your experiences with colleagues on Twitter using #try5saa. And, if you have other technologies you want to try, or want others to try, share those as well! Let’s keep the conversation going. This is no competition; there are no winners and losers. As a community we can all share and grow together!