It’s been a great year for GCPEDIA so far. I only wish I had more time to engage with it personally. As you can see from the lapse between this post and my previous writings about my favourite wiki (or indeed, any blogging at all), I’ve been busy.
But the wiki has chugged along just fine without me. More users every month and increasingly more complex documents are making the Recent Changes log fly by faster than ever… so much so that I felt compelled to add a bit of code to the wiki to highlight the sysop names in the activity log, just to make sure that there were enough staff online to help the users. (For the record: no problems there.).
One of my very favourite collaborators, Jesse Good, returned to the fold back in January after finishing school, and promptly turned the wiki on its side with his simultaneous injections of content, culture, and fun. Meanwhile, another of my long-time favourite users, Catharine Au, was finally goaded into accepting a position as a sysop after humbly refusing it before, much to my disappointment.
The Government of Canada is currently reliant on proprietary file formats and proprietary software applications, which lock it into a licensing bind with a single software manufacturer — Microsoft. There is not only a question of cost — as we pay a monopoly corporation for per-seat licenses to run software that already dominates the market — but more importantly, there is the question of future access to our own data. In this post, I’d like to share my thoughts on both issues.
Before you dismiss the idea of a major institution losing access to its stored data as ludicrous, consider this quote from Natalie Ceeney, chief executive of the UK National Archives:
“If you put paper on shelves, it’s pretty certain it is going to be there in a hundred years. If you stored something on a floppy disc just three or four years ago [2003-04], you’d have a hard time finding a modern computer capable of opening it. Digital information is in fact inherently far more ephemeral than paper. The pace of software and hardware developments means we are living in the world of a ticking time bomb when it comes to digital preservation.”
The UK National Archives includes a collection of 900 years of written material. As of 2007 they estimated that 580 terabytes of their data (the equivalent of 580,000 encyclopedias) was stored in file formats which have since become extinct.