Follow up on Open Source Hangout

Beth Cron and I had a good conversation with Seth Shaw and Jeremy Gibson about open source records management tools.  If you didn’t have a chance to join us last week, you can still view it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GRQBUjtOT8.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Open source tools can be very valuable when they have a strong community around them.  This support leads to active development, which makes for a sustainable tool.  Being able to see other people’s work also provides more entry points to solving your own problem.
  • The potential downside to open source tools is that they tend to have less documentation, and there’s the potential for projects to be abandoned.
  • Seth mentioned an interview on The SIgnal about using open source tools in cultural heritage institutions.  You can find it at https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2013/01/when-is-open-source-software-the-right-choice-for-cultural-heritage-organizations-an-interview-with-peter-murray/.
  • Seth has a report pending publication as part of OCLC’s Demystifying Born Digital series (http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/born-digital-reports.html).
  • Jeremy pointed out that one of the benefits of open source tools is that you can more easily find tools that do one thing very well — and then stitch those solutions together to accomplish all of your RM needs.
  • In answer to a query about extracting metadata from media files, Jeremy pointed to MediaInfo and JHOVE.
  • One of the particular gaps identified in existing open source tools is one to handle redactions.
  • Before adopting a records management tool, it’s important to document your functional requirements and your organizational requirements (e.g., budget, IT support).  Only then can you make sure you’re choosing the right tool for your purposes.
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Open Source Tools

To round out this year’s look at open source tools, I want to provide an overview that can serve as a primer to the Hangout we intend to host early in 2017.  Open source software is “software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.”  Opensource.com goes on to provide a more expansive explanation of the purpose of open source software:

“Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.”

As I noted in previous posts, NARA published a report in 2015 entitled “Open Source Tools for Records Management.”  This report points to the generally free cost of open source software and the “very robust user and developer communities that are actively working to report bugs and improve the tools” as advantages of its use.  However, this report also acknowledges (1) care must be taken to guarantee adequate security when deploying open source software and (2) customization may be required — which will probably also necessitate time and IT know-how.

Open source software differs from closed source, or proprietary, software because its code is open to all to see and change.  Although open source software is often times provided free of charge, it is not the same as freeware, which may be closed source software.  Notable open source technologies include the Linux operating system and the Apache web server application.  The Linux OS is a good example of the practice where the software is open source but the support comes with a price — such as that provided by Red Hat.  Opensource.com lists a number of reasons why developers prefer open source software:

  • control over what the software does
  • training by being able to see the source code
  • greater security due to quicker updates to address vulnerabilities
  • stability even after the original creators discontinue their work on the software

In August 2016, Wired released an article entitled “Open Source Won.  So Now What?”  This article points to the first official federal source code policy, which requires government agencies to release at least 20% of any new code as open source software.  It also acknowledges that open source development can be challenging due to lack of funding and because it’s hard to break into the field, which is increasingly being dominated by big companies.

If you’re interested in open source software, stay tuned for more blog posts and our Hangout in 2017.

Save the dates for two upcoming RMRT events!

The Records Management Roundtable (RMRT) is pleased to share with you two upcoming events.

Save the date for the next installment of RMRT’s Virtual Hangout series, airing Wednesday, May 4 at 10:00AM PDT (1:00PM EDT).

Join the project team from ePADD as they talk about their open source and freely downloadable software that harnesses machine learning, including natural language processing and named entity recognition, to support the appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives.

Watch the ePADD for Email Archives broadcast live here. We’ll also update the blog with links to the archived YouTube video.

The RMRT Steering Committee is also hosting a webinar with the Sacramento State and San Jose State University SAA student chapters. Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist/Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati, will be talking about support and careers in records management. Eira is also the Student Committee coordinator for the RMRT Steering Committee.

Join the live discussion Sunday, May 1 at 4:00 PM PDT (7:00 PM EDT): https://goo.gl/udrNoe

Listen to the recording: https://goo.gl/yX2CTa

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Hope you will be able to tune in!