Facebook’s Profile Download

As you may have heard, Facebook has been planning to allow all of its users to download all of their information.  At least for my account, that promise has now become a reality.  Not only is this good for people concerned with , but this is also good for archivists.  Now that people have control over getting their data out of Facebook, they can chose to donate it as a part of their personal papers, just like how someone would donate their letters or diaries.
So I decided to download my own Facebook profile, to see how long it took and in what formats the data was presented.  The first step was go to Account Settings; there is now a link there called “Download Your Information.”  When you click on it, a popup tells you that you’re going to have to verify your information before the download can begin.
First screen of Facebook Profile DownloadThe “Pending” button appears when you click to start the download of your information.  For my profile, it took somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour; I left to do some cleaning for awhile.  When it has finished, Facebook sends you and email.  You then re-enter your password and download the .zip file.  Mine was 44mb.
Second shot
Photos folder in Facebook Download
html folder from Facebook Download
This is what you find once you unzip the file.  The photos folder holds, obviously, all of the photographs, arranged by the album in which you put them.  The names of the photographs are the names that you give them in Facebook, not the original names, but that’s not a big concern.  There are html files for each of your albums, your list of friends, your wall, messages, etc. However, its through the “index.html” file that you navigate through most of your information.
Third ShotWhat you see is basically a stripped down version of your profile.  It has all the posts on my wall going back to August 2006, even though I joined Facebook in October 2004.  Looking at my posts from around that time, it seems like that was when the first “New Facebook” was created.  However, my received and sent messages go all the way back to 2004.  There is also a list of all your current friends as just a static text list.  Under the events tab, it shows all of the events that you have said yes, maybe, or no to but it doesn’t say which response you gave to each individual event.
As you can see, this information is easily downloadable and easily able to be browsed.  For all the flak that Facebook has taken for privacy concerns over the year, this is a step in the right direction.  As an archivist, it also makes me happy that people now have the ability to download, preserve, and even donate this part of their digital life.  Google has already started to document how their users can get their data out of their various services with the Data Liberation Front.  I hope that other social networks will follow suit and allow their users to start having more control over the information that they put in.

Moving Domains

The summary:

  • If you subscribe using my Feedburner feed, this won’t affect you at all.
  • If you just pop through on Twitter, this won’t affect you at all.
  • If you subscribe to some sort of other feed, subscribe to the Feedburner feed instead.
  • If you have this blog bookmarked, update your bookmarks to http://amongotheritems.org

The details:
I am moving this blog from http://amongotheritems.org to http://amongotheritems.org.  I first registered this domain name in 2006 when I was a junior in college and I wanted to play around with having my own server and my own domain name.  It changed names, changed formats, and changed purposes over the course of time.  I think I used it as three different kinds of wikis, multiple different kinds and topics of blogs, a Drupal instance, and an exercise in writing html by hand.
But recently, I finally decided on a name and a purpose.  This is my place to talk, primarily, about archival matters and is my more or less professional page.  And while I’m happy with the name of the blog, the domain name is a remnant of when this was just a place for me to experiment.  And so, the final (hopefully) change of my ever changing blog will happen.  I like the name of the blog, Among Other Items, and have no plans on changing it; it follows that I should have the domain name match.
The old shadeball.org domain will redirect to the new site for about a year and then I’m just going to let it expire. I think I thought of this possibility when I changed everything over to a Feedburner feed; if you subscribe to that or just come here via Twitter, then you probably won’t notice any differences.  I hope to take care of this tonight and have the new domain up and running by tomorrow.  Then, less talking about the mechanics of running a blog and more talking about issues.  As a teaser, I think I’m going to start doing a roundup of links that are of interest to me and possible to the rest of you.

Archives and Open Content

(I originally wrote this a week ago, before this article was posted, but they dovetail well.)
In the course of my work I did a brief survey of the copyright policies of some academic libraries and their archives, specifically focusing on websites and finding aids.  I found that most libraries and archives claim copyright over their websites, almost all archives claim copyright over their finding aids, and some claim copyright over digital content while others license it under some sort of Creative Commons license.
Why don’t more archives license their finding aids using Creative Commons? Many archives already link finding aids to the Wikipedia pages of that person, so why not allow them to be used as source material for Wikipedia?  I would guess that, for most repositories, it simply comes down to the fact that no one has ever thought about it and people don’t think its worthwhile to spend time trying to change it.  However, having people use your materials in any public way can serve as advertising. With photographs its a little trickier, because you have to figure out who owns the copyright and/or the rights of publicity, but the general principle still remains.  That is why many archives include the non-commercial clause when licensing their materials under a Creative Commons license: it still allows them to limit their liability while still letting people use the images.  If someone needs that image for a book or some other commercial venture, they can then come to an agreement with the archive on an individual basis.
Archives are never going to make any real money through licensing fees, reproduction fees, and the like. I bet many archives don’t even break even on those kinds of fees when you take into account the staff time needed for reproductions, time hunting down materials, and the like.  But archives should be getting their materials out there, into digital repositories and onto Wikipedia, not to make money transactionally but to show everyone what we are doing and why we are important.  Hopefully then the grant funding agencies, our own institutions, and the general public will realize how important we are, what awesome materials we have, and that we are not scary and imposing places.  Putting this content out there allows the very bodies that fund us to see what we are doing, what materials we are maintaining, and that we are a laboratory for the humanities.  Putting our materials under Creative Commons licenses allows people to take our material and do cool things with it that we would never have dreamed.  While it might not change anything, it has a better chance of curing our funding woes than fees.

Workflows and Archives

My systems analysis class, taught by the amazing Stephanie Haas, was all about workflows, both physical and technical.  This could be something as simple as the process for checking out at a supermarket or something technical like a system for managing all the aspects of a cohousing community, and all sorts of other matters.  Our assignments involved creating diagrams of how these systems work and then analyzing ways to make them more efficient.  We were then organized into groups, and my group had the task of creating a unified system that managed aspects of life at a cohousing community in Carborro. (I actually just looked at their website now, and they did actually implement the Plone system that we designed for them. Cool.)
I am going to make some of these same sorts of diagrams for processes that we do here at the Special Collections Research Center and (eventually) share them with you all.  I want to make one for our system of answering reference requests (including making copies, ordering research time, and our part of billing) and the process for getting classes to come into the SCRC.  Hopefully we can discover ways to make the processes more efficient, saving us time, energy, and sanity.  But even if that doesn’t happen, it will allow us to reflect on what we are currently doing in a more general way, allowing us to approach our daily tasks in way that we don’t normally.
If any of you have any suggestions for other workflows that we could be analyzing, how to go about this process, or workflow stories of your own, please let me know.

My First Week in the Real World

I have just started my second full week of work at the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.  I am the Public Services Archives Specialist, and so I’ve been (unsurprisingly) doing a lot of things that face the public, in addition to my training.  My primary task, so far, has been to answer all of the email reference questions that come into our general special collections account.  These have primarily been genealogical requests so far, which is different than the kinds of requests I was getting at UNC.  For example, one person specifically mentioned the DAR in her request.
I’ve also been getting my hands into the social media tools used by the SCRC.  We have a Twitter account, a Flickr page, a Youtube page, and I just created our Facebook page.  I’m currently trying to post a today in history from our collections type post every day as well as mentioning all the classes that come in and use the SCRC.
I’ve also been participating in a lot of classes.  Well, participating may be a strong word.  What I’ve been primarily doing so far has been to make sure that the students don’t break anything while the other staff member conducts the class.  But I will have classes of my own to teach in the spring.
Finally, I’ve just started to learn how to accession new materials that we purchase or are donated.  Here at the SCRC, accessioning means that we take the materials, create a basic record for them, and put that record on the web.  For some collections, especially ones that are single items, that might be enough.  Other collections that will eventually need processing go into a spreadsheet to be worked on by undergrads, grad students, or volunteers.
So that’s what I’ve basically been doing so far.  We’re also working on ways to create a better workflow for dealing with reference requests (in the pondering stage) as well as the workflow for how we recruit, prepare for, and execute classes.  I’ll keep you all updated.

I Enjoy Archives Vendor Spam

I enjoy getting spam from archives vendors. I’m not really sure how they get my contact information (does SAA sell it or is it unknowingly harvested?), but its still enjoyable nonetheless.  Here is another one for your consideration:
Dear Benjamin S. Bromley,
Below is some quick information about how our complementary Wantlist program is helping archivists and Fortune 500 collection managers handle their collections smarter.
I know that your time is precious. You probably spend a number of hours tracking auction results and looking for appropriate new purchases.
Simply reply to this email with the names of the artists and keywords you most often track, and I’ll send you a regular email that will link you to relevant items currently going up for auction. You’ll stay current on major sales without the hassle of constantly monitoring the auctions.
Heritage Auctions is the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer with over $650mm in annual sales. We also have over 120 specialists on staff, available to assist the archival community with formal appraisals in over 30 areas of expertise.
My office deals specifically with the needs of Corporate and Institutional Collections. Please let me know how I can be of service. I can be reached directly (214-409-1279) or via email (Jared@HA.com).
Again, I encourage you to reply with your list of keywords so that you can have the immediate benefit of regular Wantlist results.
Regards,

Jared Green
Vice President, Corporate Art & ArchivesHeritage Auctions Galleries
3500 Maple Avenue
Dallas Texas, 75219
Email :: Jared@HA.com
Office (Direct) :: 214-409-1279
Fax :: 214-409-1101
Dallas | New York | Beverly Hills | Paris | Geneva

Why I Don't Post to Archives & Archivists

There’s been a lot of talk about the use of the Archives and Archivists listserv, #thatdarnlist, and blogs rather than listservs as fora for discussion by SAA members.  I’m only going to address one small part of this larger debate: why I don’t post to the Archives and Archivists listserv.
1. Difficult to access: Although this has been made easier with the advent of the new website, A&A has always been difficult to sign up for.  It is located on a part of the website away from anything else, meaning that you would have to go to that page specifically wanting to sign up for “Email Discussion Lists.”  You also need a separate login and password from the credentials that govern your SAA profile to be able to sign into the listserv system.  In an age where integration of web services is becoming the norm, a separate system is just not something to which people want to go.
2. Intimidating personae: Once you get people to subscribe to A&A, however, many aren’t posting.  In any forum of communication, there are going to be people who are more active than others.  But when those people dominate the conversation to the exclusion of others, then it becomes a problem.  Is it entirely their fault? Of course not.  People also need to just plunge into the conversation.  However, if they feel that posting something to the list is not worth the resulting conversation, they won’t do it.
3. Listservs are Web 1.0 technology in a Web 2.0 world: As has been mentioned on A&A, it has been in existence since 1989; listservs themselves have been around since 1986, making them one of the first methods of communication over the internet.  They have an important place in the communication of some organizations, but those are primarily more technical ones.  Most of the lists to which I subscribe that have actual discussion are in the Linux community.  More and more, people today aren’t thinking of listservs as locations of discussion; even fora, that staple of mid-1990s Internet life, are being pushed aside.  Discussions have moved to blogs, to Twitter, to Facebook, and to other social networking sites.  I personally read A&A through an RSS feed in my Google Reader, so that it can be with the rest of the information I regularly consume.  However, I didn’t know that was possible for the longest time, having to search through the back messages to find it.  Perhaps if this was made more public, more people would sign up and perhaps some of those people would contribute.  I understand the need for a place of discussion sanctioned officially by SAA; I just don’t think people should be surprised when conversations happen in more than one location.
Finally, I welcome any discussion about this topic that may occur.  I, like most blog owners, would never delete comments that simply disagrees with my opinions.

Australia to ban certain websites

The federal government of Australia is considering banning its citizens from viewing a list of 10,000 websites that it deems objectionable. Specifically, the the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said that the list of banned websites will include:

sites containing child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and/or material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Now, I’m all for getting rid of child pornography.  But banning a list of 10,000 websites will not do a thing to stop the child pornography industry.  People in Australia who want to view it will still do so, either using proxy servers or visiting any of the multitude of websites that aren’t on the banned list.  It is really just a stunt, aimed to convince people that their government is trying to do something to prevent child pornography without actually doing anything.  Instead of trying to really address the situation, by prosecuting those who create, distribute, or view child pornography, their merely assuaging their own guilt and scoring political points while doing so.  Whipping up a list with some websites on it and blocking them is easy; actually doing something about the problem of child pornography in the world is very hard, requiring the cooperation of the entire world, and apparently not something the Australian government wants to do.
It also sets a dangerous precedent. An older list, obtained by Wikileaks and containing 2,000 websites, included such things as “the websites of a dentist from Queensland, a pet-care facility in Queensland, and a site belonging to a school cafeteria consultant.” Not only does this blocklist carry the risk of accidentally banning perfectly legitimate sites, but it could also lead to the government banning other sites in the public’s interest.  It is a slippery slope to full on censorship, and not one we want to get even close to.

Final master's paper

I’m finally finished with my master’s paper!  The title ended up being “‘Finding What, You Know?’: A Content Analysis of the Websites of Archival Repositories for Markers of Archival Intelligence.”  Here’s the abstract if anyone wants to read it; it will be available online from the SILS website sometime over the summer.  I’ll link to it when it is available.

This study is a content analysis that investigates whether the user education resources available on the websites of archival repositories reflect an understanding of Archival Intelligence. This was done by analyzing the websites of thirty archival repositories, selected from the list of the member institutions of the Association of Research Libraries. The findings of the study indicate that the websites of most archival repositories do not reflect an understanding of Archival Intelligence. The study also suggests that archival repositories are not currently taking advantage of the Internet as a medium for user education, which is necessary in a time where the only interaction many users have with an archival repository is through its website.

I’ve also attached it to this post, if anyone wants to read it.  I’m also going to maybe start posting here again more often, but I’ve said that before.
“Finding What, You Know?”: A Content Analysis of the Websites of Archival Repositories for Markers of Archival Intelligence
Update: Now updated with actual working link to my paper.

Master's paper update

I’m chugging along on my master’s paper, which is due three weeks from today.  I am finishing up the data collection as we speak, and I want to have a draft finished by next Monday.  What I’ve found so far is that there is a decent amount of archival intelligence material on these websites; however, the information is scattered all across various pages.  Only 3 out of the 14 websites I’ve looked at so far have a dedicated page for user education; for the rest, I’ve had to scour their websites hoping to find information.
We’ll see what the rest of the data collection finds.  Also, sad to say that I never got a reply from the Eloquent Systems people about the email I sent them… oh well.