Help Identify News Sites for the IIPC Online News Around the World Project!

By Sabine Schostag, Statsbiblioteket, Aarhus

What?

iipc_onlinenewsThe IIPC’s Content Development Working Group, which is leading an effort to build collaborative, global, web archives on a variety of topics of interest to our members, is kicking off a new project that we are calling “Online News Around the World: A Snapshot in Time” Our goal is to document online news websites during one week of the year from ALL of the countries in the world.


Why?

You read that right – ONLINE NEWS FROM ALL OF THE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. We never said IIPC members were entirely sane, did we? We know this is a lofty goal, but we have a few reasons for doing this:

  • raise global awareness of the critical need for the web archiving;raise awareness of the importance of preserving born-digital news;
  • create a cohesive and comprehensive collection that will engage researchers;
  • archive content from countries and regions not currently being archived by IIPC members.

When?

“Week 46” November 14, 2017 – November 20, 2017. Strange idea? Maybe not… Week 46 was appointed “ordinary news week” back in the end of the 1990s, by Anker Brink Lund, philosophical doctor and professor at Copenhagen Business School. He wrote in 2014:

The project News week has it origin in an old dream I tried to realize for many years. My burning desire was not only to be able to analyze spectacular news cases, but also to map the journalistic feeding chain in general by registering ALL news in a specific period. This kind of projects needed lots of money and many expert resources. In autumn 1999, I was given both, because the newly opened journalist studies in Odense needed trainee places for their students and because a parliamentary analysis group on the political power wanted to know more about the journalistic power in Denmark. Ever since, I have used week 46 for all kinds of media analyses, together with national and international research colleagues…1

The World Wide Web is more than twenty years old. The IIPC thinks it is time to include web news in this “extraordinary ordinary news week.”

Who?

We know we might not reach our lofty goal instantly, and that it will take some time to identify news sites from around the world. We plan to start gradually with a goal of news sites from IIPC member countries, at first.  But, here is where you fit in. The Content Development Group needs your help! Please nominate 10 news sites from your country to our nomination tool: http://digital2.library.unt.edu/nomination/iipc-news/. Once we receive nominations, the Content Development Group will review the list to determine what set will be archived.

For more information about the project and to find out more about how to help, please contact the Project Team at online-news-project@iipc.simplelists.com or reply to this blog post with your questions!

References:

1 Citation from: Anker Brink Lund: Analysis – An extraordinary ordinary news week. In: Journalisten.dk, 2014-11-14.

IIPC Hackathon at the British Library: Laying a New Foundation

By Tom Cramer, Stanford University

This past week, 22-23 September 2016, members of the IIPC gathered at the British Library for a hackathon focused on web crawling technologies and techniques. The event saw 14 technologists from 12 institutions near (the UK, Netherlands, France) and far (Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, the US and Australia). The event provided a rare opportunity for an intensive, two-day, uninterrupted deep dive into how institutions are capturing web content, and to explore opportunities for advancing the state of the art.

I was struck by the breadth and depth of topics. In particular…

  • Heritrix nuts and bolts. Everything from small tricks and known issues for optimizing captures with Heritrix 3, to how people were innovating around its edges, to the history of the crawler, to a wishlist for improving it (including better documentation).
  • Brozzler and browser-based capture. Noah Levitt from the Internet Archive, and the engineer behind Brozzler, gave a mini-workshop on the latest developments, and how to get it up and running. This was one of the biggest points of interest as institutions look to enhance their ability to capture dynamic content and social media. About ⅓ of the workshop attendees went home with fresh installs on their laptops. (Also note, per Noah, pull requests welcome!)
  • Technical training. Web archiving is a relatively esoteric domain without a huge community; how have institutions trained new staff or fractionally assigned staff to engaged effectively with web archiving systems? This appears to be a major, common need, and also one that is approachable. Watch this space for developments…
  • QA of web captures: as Andy Jackson of the British Library put it, how can we tip the scales of mostly manual QA with some automated processes, to mostly automated QA with some manual training and intervention?
  • An up-to-date registry of web archiving tools. The IIPC currently maintains a list of web archiving tools, but it’s a bit dated (as these sites tend to become). Just to get the list in a place where tool users and developers can update it, a working copy of this list is now in the IIPC Github organization. Importantly, the group decided that it might be just as valuable to create a list of dead or deprecated tools, as these can often be dead ends for new adopters. See (and contribute to) https://github.com/iipc/iipc.github.io/wiki  Updates welcome!
  • System & storage architectures for web archiving. How institutions are storing, preserving and computing on the bits. There was a great diversity of approaches here, and this is likely good fodder for a future event and more structured knowledge sharing.

The biggest outcome of the event may have been the energy and inherent value in having engineers and technical program managers spending lightly structured face time exchanging information and collaborating. The event was a significant step forward in building awareness of approaches and people doing web archiving.

IIPC Hackathon, Day 1.

This validates one of the main focal points for the IIPC’s portfolio on Tools Development, which is to foster more grassroots exchange among web archiving practitioners.

The participants committed to keeping the dialogue going, and to expanding the number of participants within and beyond IIPC. Slack is emerging as one of the main channels for technical communication; if you’d like to join in, let us know. We also expect to run multiple, smaller face-to-face events in the next year: 3 in Europe and another 2-3 in North America with several delving into APIs, archiving time-based media, and access. (These are all in addition to the IIPC General Assembly and Web Archiving Conference in 27-30 March 2017, in Lisbon.) If you have an idea for a specific topic or would like to host an event, please let us know!

Many thanks to all the participants at the hackathon last week, and to the British Library (especially Andy Jackson and Olga Holownia) for hosting last week’s hackathon. It provided exactly the kind of forum needed by the web archiving community to share knowledge among practitioners and to advance the state of the art.

Signing Off

Colleagues,

Today marks my final day as Chair of our Consortium. It has been an exciting and busy 17 months since I took on this role. I leave my post with a sense of accomplishment and pride in how the organization ‎has evolved.

When I took over the role in January 2015, I made the commitment to work with the Steering Committee to ensure we modernized the governance and management structure of the IIPC to create a foundation that would allow us to grow and extend our reach.  I am happy to say that we have accomplished just that.

As most of you know I am not a career Archivist or Librarian but I have been privileged to work with and learn from professionals within my home organization (Library and Archives Canada) as well as many of you from across the globe. I am pleased to hand over the reins to Emmanuelle Bermès from the National Library of France. She will bring not only deep management and leadership skills to the role, but also (and maybe more importantly) significant experience in the business of the IIPC.  I think this balance of experience and competencies is what we need now.

I had the privilege of being involved in three General Assemblies (GA) and the associated conferences. I was continuously amazed with the level of engagement and interaction between the members. Based on the feedback I have received, this last GA and WAC set the bar – this is in no small part to the leadership of Kristinn Sigurðsson.

As with any organization, the goal is to keep that level of engagement going virtually after the face-to-face meetings have ended. We still have much work to do on that front, but I am pleased that our new portfolio structure ensures that there will be dedicated resources and leadership for Birgit Nordsmark Henriksen (Netarchive.dk) and the Membership and Engagement Portfolio.  Stay tuned for some steps to facilitate that year-long engagement.

The ecosystem that our respective organizations work in, and the one that the IIPC is trying to foster, is  very complex  and continues to include new players. Working alongside of other organizations and associations will be key in delivering our mandate. Again we have ensured that we leverage ‎partnerships with complimentary organizations. Listen out for more from Hansueli Locher (Swiss National Library) and the group supporting the Partnership and Outreach Portfolio.

‎One of the areas that we heard loud and clear was that our members wanted help with tools. At some point I am sure that there will be more and more commercially available solutions for Web harvesting and archiving, but for now it is up to us as a community to rally together to build the tools to support our work led by Tom Cramer (Stanford University Libraries) and the Tools Development Portfolio.

I can say that one of the best ways to support our organization is to get involved. Whether you decide to apply for a position on the Steering Committee, or if you support one of the portfolios, or if you simply ‘lean in’ on some of the discussions that circulate via email –  the goal is the same: get involved!

‎I want to thank my colleagues on the Steering Committee for supporting me  (and putting up with me) over the past year and a half. As IIPC members, you can be confident that you have a steering committee which has your best interest at heart. Many excellent and passionate discussions have brought us to where we are today.

I also want to thank the Program and Communications team. In particular, I want to thank Jason Webber from the British Library. He and I worked closely together and spoke almost weekly in an effort to move the agenda forward. Jason (and now Olga) are the glue between the various activities of the Steering Committee and it is often a thankless job.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you – from the emails I received to the one-on-one discussions you have made sure that we heard your needs and expectations.

As they say, the best is yet to come…. so let’s step forward together.

Regards.

PnW
Paul N. Wagner
Chair, International Internet Preservation Consortium

What can IIPC do to advance tools development?

By Tom Cramer, Stanford University

The International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) renewed its consortial agreement at the end of 2015. In the process, it affirmed its longstanding mission to work collaboratively to foster the implementation of solutions to collect, preserve and provide access to Internet content. To achieve this aim, the Consortium is committed to “facilitate the development of appropriate and interoperable, preferably Open Source, software and tools.”

As the IIPC sets its strategic direction for 2016 and beyond, Tools Development will feature as one of three main portfolios of activity (along with Member Engagement, and Partnerships & Outreach). At its General Assembly in Reykjavik, IIPC members held a series of break out meetings to discuss Tools Development. This blog post presents some of that discussion, and lays out the beginnings of a direction for IIPC, and perhaps the web archiving community at large, to pursue in order to build a richer toolscape.

The Current State of Tools Development within the IIPC

The IIPC has always emphasized tool development. Per its website, one of the main objectives “has been to develop a high-quality, easy-to-use open source tools for setting up a web archiving chain.” And the registry of software lists an impressive array tools for everything from acquisition and curation to storage and access. And coming from the 2016 General Assembly and Web Archiving conference, it’s clear that there is actually quite a lot of development going on among and beyond member institutions. Despite all this, the reality may be slightly less rosy than the multitude of listings for tools for web archiving might indicate…

  • Many are deprecated, or worse, abandoned
  • Much of the local development is kept local, and not accessible to others for reuse or enhancement
  • There is a high degree of redundancy among development efforts, due to lack of visibility, lack of understanding, or lack of an effective collaborative framework for code exchange or coordinated development
  • Many of the tools are not interoperable with each other due to differences in approach in policy, data models or workflows (sometimes intentional, many times not)
  • Many of the big tools which serve as mainstays for the community (e.g., Heritrix for crawling, Open Wayback for replay) are large, monolithic, complex pieces of software that have multiple forks and less-than-optimal documentation

Given all this, one wonders if IIPC members really believe that coordinated tool development is important; perhaps instead it’s better to let a thousand flowers bloom? The answer to this last question was, refreshingly, a resounding NO. When discussed among members at Reykjavik, support for tools development as a top priority was unanimous, and enthusiastic. The world of the Web and web archiving is vast, yet the number of participants relatively small; the more we can foster a rich (and interoperable) tool environment, the more everyone can benefit in any part of the web archiving chain. Many members in fact said they joined IIPC expressly because they sought a collaboratively defined and community-supported set of tools to support their institutional programs.

In the words of Daniel Gomes from the Portuguese Web Archive: of course tool development is a priority for IIPC; if we don’t develop these tools, who will?

A Brighter Future for Collaborative Tool Development

Several possibilities and principles presented themselves as ways to enhance the way the web archiving community pursues tool development in the future. Interestingly, many of these were more about how the community can work together rather than specific projects.  The main principles were:

  • Interoperability | modularity | APIs are key. The web archiving community needs a bigger suite of smaller, simpler tools that connect together. This promotes reuse of tools, as well as ease of maintenance; allows for institutions to converge on common flows but differentiate where it matters; enables smaller development projects which are more likely to be successful; and provides on ramps for new developers and institutions to take up (and add back to) code. Developing a consensus set of APIs for the web archiving chain is a clear priority and prerequisite here.
  • Design and development needs to be driven by use cases. Many times, the biggest stumbling block to effective collaboration is differing goals or assumptions. Much of the lack of interoperability comes from differences in institutional models and workflows that makes it difficult for code or data to connect with other systems. Doing the analysis work upfront to clarify not just what a tool might be doing but why, can bring institutional models and developers onto the same page, and facilitate collaborative development.
  • We need collaborative platforms & social engineering for the web archiving technical community. It’s clear from events like the IIPC Web Archiving Conference and reports such as Helen Hockx-Yu’s of the Internet Archive that a lot of uncoordinated and largely invisible development is happening locally at institutions. Why? Not because people don’t want to collaborate, but because it’s less expensive and more expedient. IIPC and its members need to reduce the friction of exchanging information and code to the point that, as Barbara Sierman of the National Library of the Netherlands said, “collaboration becomes a habit.” Or as Ian Milligan of the University of Waterloo put it, we need the right balance between “hacking” and “yacking”.
  • IIPC better development of tools both large and small. Collaboration on small tools development is a clear opportunity; innovation is happening at the edges and by working together individual programs can advance their end-to-end workflows in compelling new ways (social media, browser-based capture and new forms of visualization and analysis are all striking examples here). But it’s also clear that there is appetite and need for collaboration on the traditional “big” things that are beyond any single member’s capacity to engineer unilaterally (e.g., Heritrix, WayBack, full text search). As IIPC hasn’t been as successful as anyone might like in terms of directed, top-down development of larger projects, what can be done to carve these larger efforts up into smaller pieces that have a greater chance of success? How can IIPC take on the role of facilitator and matchmaker rather than director & do-er?

Next Steps

The stage is set for revisiting and revitalizing how IIPC works together to build high quality, use case-driven, interoperable tools. Over the next few months (and years!) we will begin translating these needs and strategies into concrete actions. What can we do? Several possibilities suggested themselves in Reykjavik.

  1. Convene web archiving “hack fests”. The web archiving technical community needs face time. As Andy Jackson of the British Library opined in Reykjavik, “How can we collaborate with each other if we don’t know who we are, or what we’re doing?” Face time fuels collaboration in a way that no amount of WebEx’ing or GitHub comments can. Let’s begin to engineer the social ties that will lead to stronger software ties. A couple of three-day unconferences per year would go a long way to accelerating collaboration and diffusion of local innovation.
  2. Convene meetings on key technical topics. It’s clear that IIPC members are beginning to tackle major efforts that would benefit from some early and intensive coordination: Heritrix & browser-based crawling, elaborations on WARC, next steps for Open Wayback, full text search and visualization, use of proxies for enhanced capture, dashboards and metrics for curators and crawl engineers. All of these are likely to see significant development (sometimes at as many as 4-5 different institutions) in the next year. Bringing implementers together early offers the promise of coordinated activity.
  3. Coordinate on API identification and specification. There is clear interest in specifying APIs and more modular interactions across the entire web archiving tool chain. IIPC holds a privileged place as a coordinating body across the sites and players interested in this work. IIPC should structure some way to track, communicate, and help systematize this work, leading to a consortium-based reference architecture (based on APIs rather than specific tools) for the web archiving tool chain.
  4. Use cases. Reykjavik saw a number of excellent presentations on user centered design and use case-driven development. This work should be captured and exposed to the web archiving community to let each participate learn from each other’s work, and to generate a consensus reference architecture based on demonstrated (not just theoretical) needs.

Note that all of these potential steps focus as much on how IIPC can work together as on any specific project, and they all seem to fall into the “small steps” category. In this they have the twin benefits of being both feasible accomplish in the next year, as well as having a good chance to succeed. And if they do succeed, they promise to lay the groundwork for more and larger efforts in the coming years.

What do you think IIPC can do in the next year to advance tools development? Post a comment in this blog or send an email.

New Report on Web Archiving Available

By Andrea Goethals, Harvard Library

HarvardLibraryReport-Jan2016This is an expanded version of a post to the Library of Congress’ Signal blog.

Harvard Library recently released a report that is the result of a five-month environmental scan of the landscape of web archiving, made possible by the generous support of the Arcadia Fund. The purpose of the study was to explore and document current web archiving programs to identify common practices, needs, and expectations in the collection and provision of web archives to users; the provision and maintenance of web archiving infrastructure and services; and the use of web archives by researchers. The findings will inform Harvard Library’s strategy for scaling up its web archiving activities, and are also being shared broadly to help inform research and development priorities in the global web archiving community.

The heart of the study was a series of interviews with web archiving practitioners from archives, museums and libraries worldwide; web archiving service providers; and researchers who use web archives. The interviewees were selected from the membership of several organizations, including the IIPC of course, but also the Web Archiving Roundtable at the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the Internet Archive’s Archive-It Partner Community, the Ivy Plus institutions, Working with Internet archives for REsearch (Reuters/WIRE Group), and the Research infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web materials (RESAW).

The interviews of web archiving practitioners covered a wide range of areas, everything from how the institution is maintaining their web archiving infrastructure (e.g. outsourcing, staffing, location in the organization), to how they are (or aren’t) integrating their web archives with their other collections. From this data, profiles were created for 23 institutions, and the data was aggregated and analyzed to look for common themes, challenges and opportunities.

Opportunities for Research & Development

In the end, the environmental scan revealed 22 opportunities for future research and development. These opportunities are listed below and described in more detail in the report. At a high level, these opportunities fall under four themes: (1) increase communication and collaboration, (2) focus on “smart” technical development, (3) focus on training and skills development, and (4) build local capacity.

22 Opportunities to Address Common Challenges

(the order has no significance)

  1. Dedicate full-time staff to work in web archiving so that institutions can stay abreast of latest developments, best practices and fully engage in the web archiving community.
  2. Conduct outreach, training and professional development for existing staff, particularly those working with more traditional collections, such as print, who are being asked to collect web archives.
  3. Increase communication and collaboration across types of collectors since they might collect in different areas or for different reasons.
  4. A funded collaboration program (bursary award, for example) to support researcher use of web archives by gathering feedback on requirements and impediments to the use of web archives.
  5. Leverage the membership overlap between RESAW and European IIPC membership to facilitate formal researcher/librarian/archivist collaboration projects.
  6. Institutional web archiving programs become transparent about holdings, indicating what material each has, terms of use, preservation commitment, plus curatorial decisions made for each capture.
  7. Develop a collection development tool (e.g. registry or directory) to expose holdings information to researchers and other collecting institutions even if the content is viewable only in on-site reading rooms.
  8. Conduct outreach and education to website developers to provide guidance on creating sites that can be more easily archived and described by web archiving practitioners.
  9. IIPC, or similar large international organization, attempts to educate and influence tech company content hosting sites (e.g. Google/YouTube) on the importance of supporting libraries and archives in their efforts to archive their content (even if the content cannot be made immediately available to researchers).
  10. Investigate Memento further, for example conduct user studies, to see if more web archiving institutions should adopt it as part of their discovery infrastructure.
  11. Fund a collection development, nomination tool that can enable rapid collection development decisions, possibly building on one or more of the current tools that are targeted for open source deployment.
  12. Gather requirements across institutions and among web researchers for next generation of tools that need to be developed.
  13. Develop specifications for a web archiving API that would allow web archiving tools and services to be used interchangeably.
  14. Train researchers with the skills they need to be able to analyze big data found in web archives.
  15. Provide tools to make researcher analysis of big data found in web archives easier, leveraging existing tools where possible.
  16. Establish a standard for describing the curatorial decisions behind collecting web archives so that there is consistent (and machine-actionable) information for researchers.
  17. Establish a feedback loop between researchers and the librarians/archivists.
  18. Explore how institutions can augment the Archive-It service and provide local support to researchers, possibly using a collaborative model.
  19. Increase interaction with users, and develop deep collaborations with computer scientists.
  20. Explore what, and how, a service might support running computing and software tools and infrastructure for institutions that lack their own onsite infrastructure to do so.
  21. Service providers develop more offerings around the available tools to lower the barrier to entry and make them accessible to those lacking programming skills and/or IT support.
  22. Work with service providers to help reduce any risks of reliance on them (e.g. support for APIs so that service providers could more easily be changed and content exported if needed).

Communication & Collaboration are Key!

One of the biggest takeaways is that the first theme, the need to radically increase communication and collaboration, among all individuals and organizations involved in some way in web archiving, was the most prevalent theme found by the scan. Thirteen of the 22 opportunities fell under this theme. Clearly much more communication and collaboration is needed between those collecting web content, but also between those who are collecting it and researchers who would like to use it.

This environmental scan has given us a great deal of insight into how other institutions are approaching web archiving, which will inform our own web archiving strategy at Harvard Library in the coming years. We hope that it has also highlighted key areas for research and development that need to be addressed if we are to build efficient and sustainable web archiving programs that result in complementary and rich collections that are truly useful to researchers.

A Note about the Tools

There is a section in the report (Appendix C) that lists all the current web archiving tools that were identified during the environmental scan. The IIPC Tools and Software web page was one of the resources used to construct this list, along with what was learned through interviews, conferences and independent research. The tools are organized according to the various activities needed throughout the lifecycle of acquiring, processing, preserving and providing web archive collections. Many of the tools discovered are fairly new, especially the ones associated with the analysis of web archives. The state of the tools will continue to change rapidly so this list will quickly become out of date unless a group like the IIPC decides to maintain it.  I will be at the GA in April if any IIPC member would like to talk about maintaining this list or other parts of the report.

Five Takeaways from AOIR 2015

aoirI recently attended the annual Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR) conference in
Phoenix, AZ. It was a great conference that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning first hand about research questions, methods, and studies broadly related to the Internet.

Researchers presented on a wide range of topics, across a wide range of media, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. You can get an idea of the range of topics by looking at the conference schedule.

I’d like to briefly share some of my key takeaways. I apologize in advance for oversimplifying what was a rich and deep array of research work, my goal here is to provide a quick summary and not an in-depth review of the conference.

  1. Digital Methods Are Where It’s At

I attended an all-day, pre-conference digital methods workshop. As a testament to the interest in this subject, the workshop was so overbooked they had to run three concurrent sessions. The workshops were organized by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Tim Highfield, Ben Light, and Patrik Wikstrom (Queensland University of Technology), and Tama Leaver (Curtin University).

Researchers are recognizing that digital research skills are essential. And, if you have some basic coding knowledge, all the better.

At the digital methods workshop, we learned about the “Walkthrough” method for studying software apps, tools for “web scraping” to gather data for analysis, Tableau to conduct social media analysis, and “instagrammatics,” analyzing Instagram.

FYI: The Digital Methods Initiative from Europe has tons of great information, including an amazing list of tools.

  1. Twitter API Is also Very Popular

There were many Twitter studies, and they all used the Twitter API to download tweets for analysis. Although researchers are widely using the Twitter API, they expressed a lot of frustration over its limitation. For example, you can only download for free up to 1% of the total Twitter volume. If you’re studying something obscure, you are probably okay, but if you’re studying a topic like #jesuischarlie, you’ll have to pay to get the entire output. Many researchers don’t have the funds for that. One person pointed out that it would be ideal to have access to the Library of Congress’s Twitter archive. Yes, agreed!

  1. Social Media over Web Archives

Researchers presented conclusions and provided commentary on our social behavior through studies of social media such as Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. There were only a handful of presentations using web archived materials. If a researcher used websites, they viewed them live or conducted “web scraping” with tools such as Outwit and Kimono. Many also used custom Python scripts to gather the data from the sites.

  1. Fair Use Needs a PR Movement

There’s still much misunderstanding about what researchers can and cannot do with digital materials. I attended a session where the presenter shared findings from surveys conducted with communication scholars about their knowledge of fair use. The results showed that there was (very!) limited understanding of fair use. Even worse, the findings showed that those scholars who had previously attended a fair use workshop were even more unlikely to understand fair use! Moreover, many admitted that they did not conduct particular studies because of a (misguided) fear of violating copyright. These findings were corroborated by the scholars from a variety of fields who were in the room.

  1. Opportunities for Collaboration

I asked many researchers if they were concerned that they were not saving a snapshot of websites or Apps at the time of their studies. The answer was a resounding “yes!” They recognize that sites and tools change rapidly, but they are unaware of tools or services they can use and/or that their librarians/archivists have solutions.

Clearly there is room for librarians/archivists to conduct more outreach to researchers to inform them about our rich web archive collections and to talk with them about preservation solutions, good data management practices and copyright.

Who knew?

Let me end with sharing one tidbit that really blew my mind. In her research on “Dead Online: Practices of Post-Mortem Digital Interaction,” Paula Kiel presented on the “digital platforms designed to enable post-mortem interactions.” Yes, she was talking about websites where you can send posthumous messages via Facebook and email! For example, https://www.safebeyond.com/, “Life continues when you pass… Ensure your presence – be there when it counts. Leave messages for your loved ones – for FREE!”

RosalieLack

 

By Rosalie Lack, Product Manager, California Digital Library

Being a Small-Time Software Contributor–Non-Developers Included

OpenWayback

At the IIPC General Assembly 2015, we
heard a call for contributors to IIPC relevant software projects (e.g. OpenWayback and Heritrix). We imagined what we could accomplish if every member institution could contribute half a developer’s heritrix-logotime to work on these tools. As individuals though, we are part of the IIPC because of the institutions for which we work. The tasks dealt by our employers come first, not always leaving an abundance of time for external projects. However, there are several ways to contribute on a smaller scale (not just committing code).

How To Help

1. Provide user support for OpenWayback and Heritrix

Join the openwayback-dev list and/or the Heritrix list, and answer questions when you can.

2. Log issues for software problems

github-social-codingAnytime you notice something isn’t working as expected in a piece of software, report the issue. For projects like OpenWayback and Heritrix that are on GitHub, creating an account to enable reporting issues is easy. If you aren’t sure if the problem warrants opening an issue, send a message to the relevant mailing list.

3. Follow issues on the OpenWayback and Heritrix GitHub repositories

Check issue trackers regularly or “Watch” GitHub repositories to receive issue updates via email. If you see an issue for a bug or new feature relevant to your institution, comment on it, even if only to say that it is relevant. This helps the developers prioritize which issues to work on.

watch_github_repo
https://github.com/iipc/openwayback

4. Test release candidates

When a new distribution of OpenWayback is about to be released, the development group sends out emails asking for people to test the release distribution candidates. Verify whether the deployment works in your environment and use cases. Then report back.

5. Contribute to documentation

For any web archiving project, if you find documentation that is lacking or unclear, report it to the maintainers, and if possible, volunteer to fix it.

6. Contribute to code

OpenWayback currently has several open issues for bugs and enhancements. If you find an issue of interest to you and/or your institution, notify others with a comment that you want to work on it. View the contribution guidelines, and start contributing. OpenWayback and Heritrix are happy to get pull requests.

7. Review codeBinary code

When others submit code for potential inclusion into a project’s master code branch, volunteer to review the code and test it by deploying the software with the changes in place to verify everything works as expected.

 8. Join the OpenWayback Developer calls

If you are interested in contributing to OpenWayback, these calls keep you informed on the current state of development. The group is always looking for help with testing release candidates, prioritizing issues, writing documentation, reviewing pull requests, and writing code. Calls take place approximately every three weeks at 4PM London time, there is also a Google Groups list, email the IIPC PCO to join.

9. Solicit development support from your institution

Non-developers have a great role in the development effort. Encourage technical staff you work with to contribute to software projects and help them build time into their schedules for it. If you are not in a position to do this, lobby the people who can grant some of your institution’s developer time to web archiving projects.

What You Get Back

Collaborating on web archiving projects isn’t just about what you contribute. The more you follow mailing lists and issue trackers and the more you work with code and its deployment, the better your institution can utilize the software and keep current on the direction of its development.

If your institution doesn’t use OpenWayback or Heritrix, the above ways of helping apply to many other web archiving software projects. So get involved where you can; you don’t have to fix everything.

lauren_koLauren Ko
Programmer, Digital Libraries Division, UNT Libraries