Notes from Fall 2010 CNI Meeting

/ 7 January 2011

Last month I had the privilege of attending the Fall 2010 CNI Task Force meeting. CNI is my favorite meeting of the digital library circuit because it combines a small scale with high engagement and a broad spectrum of interest. Last December’s meeting was well attended even though travel was difficult that week. My only disappointment was that the readiness of the audience to talk back and forth with speakers in the smaller briefings seems to have diminished a bit. The best CNI briefings, in my opinion, are about half presentation and half discussion.

My notes from Fall 2010 CNI are below the fold.

DC sunset after Fall 2010 CNI Task Force Meeting

Cliff’s Overview

Cliff gave a nice talk focussed on the next twenty years of CNI, looking toward 2030. CNI celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and will be building a website to host responses to an initial essay that Cliff is preparing. The best of those responses will then be packaged with the essay into an ebook for the community. Details to come.

Cliff noted many trends that we will grapple with over next twenty years…

…the rise of the net, faster connections, more sensors hooked to the net, the speed of light becoming a factor in fields such as fast securities trading…

…data curation, the milestone NSF 2011 Data Management Plan requirements, whether we should plan to keep everything forever, NSF looking at 3-5 year window, bits good for 5-6 years w/o format migration…

…digital preservation, what constitutes the record?…

…social media, both retrospective and predictive, look at the work google is doing with disease outbreaks…

…scaling up, we now have to tolerate failure, disks so big they cannot be read without errors…

…mobile computing, topic of the exec roundtable, sensors, image capture (camera in every pocket), geo beacon, overlays, Cliff laments the rise of apps (from the zoo of platforms, to the web, now back to the zoo of apps)…

…teaching and learning, future of the textbook, “engagement exhaustion,” student analytics (and unforeseen privacy consequences), thinking about education above the level of a course, optimise the whole experience…

…special collections, a new digital golden age, personal archives, public interest in private records…

…linked data and authority, like name authority for bib records…

CNI staff I talked with said the website was not set up yet, but we should expect it and Cliff’s essay before the Spring meeting, I imagine. His whole talk is available now at

NSF Data Management Plan Requirements

This presentation discussed the ways that Purdue and Princeton are planning for the new NSF requirements. One model was at about $5000/TB for bit preservation of data with associate access, with format migration paid for by requestor if they wanted their data migrated. Most interesting conversation was a skeptical response by David Rosenthal of LOCKSS who questioned their optimism on disk storage costs and wondered why they didn’t include costs for other technology and staff which account for 2/3 of costs in his view, “your model has to be robust enough to survive disk cost NOT decreasing, and one copy on disk and another on tape is not enough.” They have a fundamental rule: if you wish to make it publicly accessible then we can use public funds to archive.


A very interesting project launched in Fall 2010 and still in early alpha stages. This project created a bookmarklet (a small bit of JavaScript code that sits kind of like a button on your browser’s bookmarks bar) that lets students gather images, audio, video, and the like from a variety of sources across the web and then annotate, tag, clip, and use these resources in building individual and group projects and presentations. It was pretty neat! A very simple idea with quite a lot of potential. I was impressed that the rep from ARTstor pointed out that this MediaThread effort had in just a few months produced results that ARTstor’s more complicated planning effort never got off the ground. The magic of MediaThread, I believe, is that it is very simple. The danger for now is that it is too limited in scope, being only accessible at Columbia (the creators) and generally organized around individual classes. This is something that needs to be accessible to the world for success.

National Digital Preservation Program Initiatives for 2011

A large part of this session started slow, being a recap of NDIIPP efforts over the past ten years. But when they moved on to the next stages, it got more interesting. NDIIPP is now sunsetting and being replaced by NDSA (the National Digital Stewardship Alliance) which will not have the same sort of funding as NDIIPP. See for more information and for the form to join.

Treavor Owens gave a spectacular peek at their “Recollection” project which can ingest, augment, publish, and share collections from around the nation. It looked like a great way to gain exposure for collections. See

Digital Humanities and Small Liberal Arts Colleges

This was a presentation by NITLE staff of the accomplishments at 110 NITLE-affiliated institutions. NITLE serves small colleges where the challenges to new endeavors include: tradition, these are generally conservative institutions that suffer from “not invented here” syndrome and for whom anything digital reeks of dreaded distance ed; isolation, most are out of the way, making it hard to find partners, leaving faculty lonely (may be an opportunity for social media); sustainability, difficult to support projects beyond the grant stage. Pointed to an interesting article, “Whats so Liberal about Higher Ed” by Jo Ellen Parker (see This presentation’s slides are available at for now.

Dan Cohen

Dan gave the closing plenary (here is video & slides), which was an excellent look at the web at twenty. He started with a volley of (take a look if you enjoy graphic design). Notes how the “vernacular web” gives rise to unexpected results and new generes. Points to as an amazing mashup with very sophisticated use of a variety of tools. (Quiz question, what’s notable about the Burrito Bracket?) Using the permission we already have, open access to open secrets.

Very impressed with WordPress and the community they built around code and service, made it a model for Zotero and Omeka.

Points to a variety of scholarly blogs… bldgblog, Frog in a Well, Crooked Timber, Volokh Conspiracy.

The web involves recursive reviews. Tip of the hat to voting on comments. The challenges of aggregation and curation, separating wheat from chaff. Blog carnivals, Twitter, FoodPress, TechMeme, Arts & Letters Daily, The Browser.

The signals of quality associated with newspapers are eroding. Look at how Instapaper strips away all cues except the writing, or Anthologize turns WordPress into ePub. The web scrambles signals. There is no substitute for pulling corks. See

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