How do you archive a conference? A decade ago, I blogged about how to archive a BarCamp - I don't think anyone took up my suggestions. I tried to put it into practice, but in this post about 2009's BarCampBrighton4, half the links have rotted away, cool media-hosting startups have gone bust and eaten the video.
Websites die, tweets get deleted, media codecs become obsolete.
BarCamps, GovCamps, and other unconferences are part of our digital heritage. We should be proud of what we create and ensure that it is available for posterity. For GovCamps, this is especially true.
Anyone capturing a twitter archive of #ukgc12 ?
— Richard Akerman (@scilib) January 20, 2012
The GovCamp Community has radically changed the way government services are delivered. But we are unaccountable (?) and no one is looking at how we make decisions (?). Someone, perhaps in the future, will want to understand what we did and why we did it.
The National Archives want to preserve the content of all GovCamps. Technically this is quite easy. Grab all the Tweets that have a hashtag, find the linked blog posts, crawl Flickr and YouTube, check the content is accurate, then dump in the archives. Bread and butter stuff.
Legally, they can do that. Section 19 of the Data Protection Act allows for archiving in the public interest, in line with Article 89(1) of the GDPR.
And they can also preserve non-official records. Your Tweets and Blogs are fair game. How does that make you feel?
Did you expect those messages to be archived?
Were you expecting them to be ephemeral?
Are your Tweets from an anonymous account which, in 5 years time, will be unmasked?
Do advances in facial and voice recognition mean that your offhand comment at a conference can be instantly matched to you?
If a session is audio recorded, and then published, does your conversation become less free?
Here's our audio recording from the session:
We hand out special coloured lanyards for people who don't want their photo taken. Do people respect that? Does social pressure force people to wear a lanyard they don't want to wear?
Notes are taken - read the session notes on Google Docs - but they're usually only sketches of the conversation, and not attributed to any one speaker.
The National Archives don't have to make all this content available for anyone to see. They can keep it under lock-and-key, or only allow access to trusted researcher, or publish it only after we're all dead.
If we came to any conclusion, it was this...
- The National Archives have the skill and resources to do this well.
- They also have the legal right to do so.
- It's important for preserving the record of our culture.
- We should get Community Consent for this activity.
- Participants should be informed / warned that their social media will be archived.
- We'll have to accept that it may suppress some conversations.
Here are the broken archives of some previous GovCamps
— Joe Wilson (@joecar) November 29, 2011
— Sharon O'Dea (@sharonodea) January 20, 2012
— Pamela Stewart (@paminottawa) June 2, 2010
— Marco Campana (@marcopolis) June 14, 2011
Matthey Murray's GovCampQLD archive from 2012 is full of broken links.
— Robert Harm (@RobertHarm) December 1, 2017
— UKGovcamp (@UKGovCamp) February 7, 2016
(OK, using Pinterest to archive posts was just a weird decision!)
And, for luck, the late lamented David having the final word:
— David Pearson (@davidthep) January 24, 2015