Category Archives: Case studies

Wiki Management

This contribution to a thread about management of wikis, posted by the Records management section at the University of Edinburgh, was submitted to the Archive listerv recently:

Below is an outline of the ‘wiki’ situation at the University of Edinburgh:

At Edinburgh University our main effort to date has been making sure that wikis are retention scheduled, and considering what the ideal retention period for a wiki should be. As part of setting up any new wiki space the University records details such as space owner and proposed use, but due to the wide variety of uses it is difficult to specify a generic retention period. There is the option for the space owner to delete a wiki space; however the most likely scenario is that a space atrophies over time, the owner stops engaging, and it is therefore then up to the University to be proactive in identifying and pruning out dead spaces.

At present the service policy talks about a default retention period of 1 year, which is primarily to make space owners aware that if not used their space may be deleted. If we have anything that requires long term migration we would look into outward migration; either to a new system or to an archive.

I found it very encouraging to see this pro-active and practical-minded approach to the management of wikis. In many ways Edinburgh’s RM approach vindicates a lot of the RM advice which we have recommended in the PoWR Handbook; as we say early on, we must manage resources in order to preserve them. It is also encouraging that in Edinburgh’s case at least the wiki problem is considered primarily in terms of information and staff management, and not exclusively in terms of the technological solutions that might be applied.

In particular:

1) Edinburgh: “Make sure wikis are retention scheduled”.

  • PoWR: “Deciding which aspects of your web resources to capture can be informed to a large extent by your Institutional drivers, and the agreed policies for retention and preservation.”  (p 22)

2) Edinburgh: “Consider the ideal retention period for a wiki”.

  • PoWR: “The attraction of bringing a website in line with an established retention and disposal programme is that it will work to defined business rules and retention schedules to enable the efficient destruction of materials, and also enable the protection and maintenance of records that need to be kept for business reasons.”  (p 93)

3) Edinburgh: “Make space owners aware that if not used their space may be deleted”.

  • PoWR: “Quite often in an academic context these applications rely on the individual to create and manage their own resources. A likely scenario is that the academic, staff member or student creates and manages his or her own external accounts in Flickr, Slideshare or; but they are not Institutional accounts. It is thus possible with Web 2.0 application for academics to conduct a significant amount of Institutional business outside of any known Institution network. The Institution either doesn’t know this activity is taking place, or ownership of the resources is not recognised officially. In such a scenario, it is likely the resources are at risk.”  (p 42)

4) Edinburgh: “The service policy talks about a default retention period.” This approach seems to incorporate rules as part of setting up any new wiki space, starting to manage the resource at the very beginning of the record’s lifecyle.

  • PoWR: “If  we can apply a lifecycle model to web resources, they will be created, managed, stored and disposed of in a more efficient and consistent way; it can assist with the process of identifying what should and should not be retained, and why; and that in turn will help with making preservation decisions.” (p 34)

5) Edinburgh: “If we have anything that requires long term migration we would look into outward migration; either to a new system or to an archive.”

  • PoWR: “Migration of resources is a form of preservation. Migration means moving resources from one operating system to another, or from one storage/management system to another. This may raise questions about emulation and performance. Can the resource be successfully extracted from its old system, and behave in an acceptable way in the new system?”  (p 33)
  • “The usual aim of archival appraisal has been to identify and select records for permanent preservation. Quite often appraisal has taken place at the very end of the lifecycle process (although records managers intervene where possible at the beginning of the process, enabling records of importance to be identified early).”  (p 36)

History of the First UK Institutional Web Service

It was 15 years ago, the first week back at work after the Christmas break (I think) when I was part of the team which set up the Web service at the University of Leeds. This was, I believe, the UK’s first institutional Web service, with contributions made shortly afterwards from several academic departments, including not only the usual suspects (the Computing Service, Computer Science, Chemistry and Physics) but also the School of Music.

Various people at the University of Leeds were active in Web development activities back then. My role was in promoting its use (and I’ve discovered a copy of a special issue of the University Computing Service newsletter on the theme on online information services – in particular the Web – which is available on the Internet Archive). But in addition the Chemistry Department were, in conjunction with Imperial College, developing services which provided access to molecules on the Web; a colleague in the Computing Service provided access to the University Libraruy catalogue and Nikos Drakos, a researcher in the Computer Based Learning Unit, wrote the Latex2HTML conversion software (which was first announced in May 1993).

Fifteen years later my memories of our early involvement with the Web are beginning to fade. But as I knew this would happen I write a history of the various activities of colleagues at the University, which was published on the University”s Web site. Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, over time this resource was deleted, no doubt following a reorganisation of the Web site.

But this does not necessarily mean that the information is no longer available. As well as being an early adopter of the Web, the Computing Service had also had long standing involvement in digital preservation. And so the file should still be available on the University’s archive service. But although the bits and bytes may still be available, what are the processes needed for this resource to be retrieved?  Is this a service which the University offers? And is it a service which can be provided to a former member of staff, who left the University over 13 years ago?

As JISC PoWR project team members have commented previously, digital preservation isn’t just about the technical aspects of preservating bits in a format suitable for processing in the future – it’s also about the policies and the procedures.  And I think it’s time I send an email to my former colleagues to see ifthis resource can be retrieved.  I’ll provide details of my experiences in a future post.

The History Of the University of Bath Home Page

How has your institutional home page changed over time? And have you kept records of the changes and the decisions which were made?

In order to illustrate how an institution’s home page may change over a period of over 11 years the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine was used to view the first occurrence of the University of Bath home page in every year from 1997 until 2007. (Note that in browsers which support Flash you can interact with the display and a more interactive access can be obtained if your install the PicLens plugin, although there are also links to the static images and an automated rolling display of the pages in the Internet Archive).

In addition to this display a 4 minute video with accompanying commentary has also been created, which discusses some of the changes to the home page over the 11 years. A screenshot of the video is given below:


Is this example of interest to other institutions? Would it be helpful if tools could be provided to assist the creation of a similar visualisation of the history of your institutional home page?

[Note image of video replaced by embedded YouTube video on 20 July 2009.]

Web Resource Preservation Case Studies

The JISC-PoWR project would like to publish a number of case studies highlighting best practice regarding Web resource preservation.

Has your institution has recently deployed a Web resource preservation strategy or embarked on Web resource preservation work? Would you be willing to share your experiences and discuss solutions to problem areas by submitting a brief case study? If so then please contact Marieke Guy.

Further details are available on the suggested format for case studies.