By Sam Meister
This is the third post in the bloggERS series describing outcomes of the #OSS4Pres 2.0 workshop at iPRES 2016, addressing open source tool and software development for digital preservation. This post outlines the work of the group tasked with “developing requirements for an online community space for sharing workflows, OSS tool integrations, and implementation experiences” See our other posts for information on the groups that focused on feature development and design requirements for FOSS tools.
Cultural heritage institutions, from small museums to large academic libraries, have made significant progress developing and implementing workflows to manage local digital curation and preservation activities. Many institutions are at different stages in the maturity of these workflows. Some are just getting started, and others have had established workflows for many years. Documentation assists institutions in representing current practices and functions as a benchmark for future organizational decision-making and improvements. Additionally, sharing documentation assists in creating cross-institutional understanding of digital curation and preservation activities and can facilitate collaborations amongst institutions around shared needs.
One of the most commonly voiced recommendations from iPRES 2015 OSS4PRES workshop attendees was the desire for a centralized location for technical and instructional documentation, end-to-end workflows, case studies, and other resources related to the installation, implementation, and use of OSS tools. This resource could serve as a hub that would enable practitioners to freely and openly exchange information, user requirements, and anecdotal accounts of OSS initiatives and implementations.
At the OSS4Pres 2.0 workshop, the group of folks looking at developing an online space for sharing workflows and implementation experience started by defining a simple goal and deliverable for the two hour session:
Develop a list of minimal levels of content that should be included in an open online community space for sharing workflows and other documentation
The group the began a discussion on developing this list of minimal levels by thinking about the potential value of user stories in informing these levels. We spent a bit of time proposing a short list of user stories, just enough to provide some insight into the basic structures that would be needed for sharing workflow documentation.
- I am using tool 1 and tool 2 and want to know how others have joined them together into a workflow
- I have a certain type of data to preserve and want to see what workflows other institutions have in place to preserve this data
- There is a gap in my workflow — a function that we are not carrying out — and I want to see how others have filled this gap
- I am starting from scratch and need to see some example workflows for inspiration
- I would like to document my workflow and want to find out how to do this in a way that is useful for others
- I would like to know why people are using particular tools – is there evidence that they tried another tool, for example, that wasn’t successful?
The group then proceeded to define a workflow object as a series of workflow steps with its own attributes, a visual representation, and organizational context:
Title / name
Tools / resources
Position / role
Visual workflow diagrams / model
Next, we started to draft out the different elements that would be part of an initial minimal level for workflow objects:
Institution / organization type
Link to external resources
Download workflow diagram objects
Workflow concerns / reflections / gaps
After this effort the group focused on discussing next steps and how an online community space for sharing workflows could be realized. This discuss led towards pursuing the expansion of COPTR to support sharing of workflow documentation. We outlined a roadmap for next steps toward pursuing this goal:
- Propose / approach COPTR steering group on adding workflows space to COPTR
- Develop home page and workflow template
- Add examples
- Group review
- Promote / launch
The group has continued this work post-workshop and has made good progress setting up a Community Owned Workflows section to COPTR and developing an initial workflow template. We are in the midst of creating and evaluating sample workflows to help with revising and tweaking as needed. Based on this process we hope to launch and start promoting this new online space for sharing workflows in the months ahead. So stay tuned!
Sam Meister is the Preservation Communities Manager, working with the MetaArchive Cooperative and BitCurator Consortium communities. Previously, he worked as Digital Archivist and Assistant Professor at the University of Montana. Sam holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University and a B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of California San Diego. Sam is also an Instructor in the Library of Congress Digital Preservation Education and Outreach Program.