PawdocDP Preservation Project Put to Bed

Last Thursday (03May) I completed the preservation project on my document collection – quite a relief to know that it is now in reasonably good shape for a few more years. To finish off this work I intend to write a follow up paper recounting how the processes and templates I developed in the earlier stages of this exercise, fared when applied to a substantial body of files. Looking back I see that I started this Preservation Planning topic nearly four years ago, so its been a long haul and very labour intensive – I’m looking forward to being able to move it to the Journeys Completed section of this blog so that I can concentrate again on more creative and exciting forays!

Disk, Reordering, and Maintenence Plan Insights

Although my last post reported that I’d got through the long slog of the conversion aspects of this preservation project, in fact there was still more slog of other sorts to go. A lot more slog in fact: there was the transfer of the contents of 126 cd/dvd disks to the laptop; and there was the reordering of pages in 881 files to rectify the page order produced by scanning all front sides first and then turning over the stack of pages to scan the reverse sides at a time in the 1990s when I didn’t have a double sided scanner. In fact this exercise involved yet more conversion (from multi-page TIF file to PDF) before the reordering could be done.

This latter task really took a huge amount of time and effort and was yet another reminder of how easy it is to specify tasks in a preservation project without really appreciating how much hard graft they will entail. Having said that, it’s worth noting that my PDF application – eCopy PDF Pro – had two functions which made this task a whole easier: first, the ability to have eCopy convert a file to PDF is available in the menu brought up by right clicking on any file, thereby automatically suggesting a file title (based on the title of the original file) for the new PDF in the Save As dialogue box, and which then automatically displays the newly created file – all of which is relatively quick and easy. Second, eCopy has a function whereby thumbnails of all the pages in a document can be displayed on the screen and each page can be dragged and dropped to a new position. I soon worked out that the front-sides-then-reverse-sides scan produces a standard order in which the last page in the file is actually page 2 of the document; and that if you drag that page to be the second page in the document, then the new last page will actually be page 4 of the document and can be dragged to just before the 4th page in the document. In effect, to reorder simply means progressively dragging the last page to before page 2 and then before page 4 and then before page 6 etc until the end of the file is reached. Both these functions (to be able to click on a file title to get it converted, and to drag and drop pages around a screenfull of thumbnails) are well worth looking for in a PDF application.

Regarding the disks, I was expecting to have trouble with some of the older ones since, during the scoping work, I had encountered a few which the laptop failed to recognise. I did try cleaning such disks with a cloth without much success. However, what did seem to work was to select ‘Computer’ on the left side of the Windows Explorer Window which displays the laptop’s own drive on the right side of the window together with the any external disks that are present. For some reason, disks which kept on whirring without seeming to be recognised, just appeared on this right side of the window. I don’t profess to understand why this was happening – but was just glad that, in the end, there was only one disk that I couldn’t get the machine to display and copy its contents.

I’m now in the much more relaxed final stages of the project, defining backup arrangements and creating the Maintenance Plan and User Guide documents. The construction of the Maintenance Plan has thrown up a couple of interesting points. First, since it requires a summary of what preservation actions have been completed and what preservation issues are to be addressed next time, it would have made life easier to construct the preservation working documents in such a way that the information for the Preservation Maintenance Plan is effectively pre-specified – an obvious point really but easy to overlook – and I did overlook it…. The second point is a more serious issue. The Maintenance Plan is designed to define a schedule of work to be undertaken every few years; its certainly not something I want to be doing very often – I’ve got other things I want to do with my time. However, some of the problem files I have specified in the ‘Possible future preservation issues’ section in the Maintenance Plan could really do with being addressed straight away – or at least sooner than 2021 when I have specified the next Maintenance exercise should be carried out. I guess this is a dilemma which has to be addressed on a case by case basis. In THIS case, I’ve decided to just leave the points as they are in the Maintenance Plan so that they don’t get forgotten; but to possibly take a look at a few of them in the shorter term if I feel motivated enough.

The Conversion Slog

I’m glad to say I’ve nearly finished the long slog through the file conversion aspects of this digital preservation project. After dealing with about 900 files I just have another 50 or so Powerpoints and a few Visios to get through. It’s been a salutary reminder of how easily large quantities of digital material could be lost simply because the sheer volume of files makes for a very daunting task to retrieve them.

Below are a few of the things I’ve learnt as I’ve been ploughing through the files.

Email .eml files: These are mail messages which opened up fine in Windows Live Mail when I did the scoping work for this project. Unfortunately, since then I’ve had a system crash and Live Mail was not loaded into my rebuilt machine; and Microsoft removed all Live Mail support and downloads at the end of 2017. On searching for a solution on the net, I found several suggestions to change the extension to .mht to get the message to open in a browser. This works well, but unfortunately the message header (From, To, Subject, Date) is not reproduced. I ended up downloading the Mozilla Thunderbird email application, opening each email in turn in it, taking screenshots of each screenfull of message and copying them into Powerpoint, saving each one as a JPG, and then inserting the JPGs for all the emails in a particular category into a PDF document. A bit tortuous and maybe there are better ways of doing it – but at least I ended up with the PDFs I was aiming for.

Word for Mac 3.0 files: These files did open in MS Word 2007 – but only as continuous streams of text without any formatting. After some experimentation, I discovered that doing a carriage return towards the end of the file magically re-instated most of the formatting – though some spurious text was left at the end of the file. I saved these as DOCX files.

Word for Mac 4.0 & 5.0 and Word for Windows 1.0 & 2.0: These documents all opened up OK in Word 2007. However, I found that in longer documents which had been structured as reports with contents list, the paging had got slightly out of sync so that headings, paragraphs and bullets were left orphaned on different pages. I converted such files to DOCX format in order to have the option to reinstate the correct format in the future. Files without pagination problems, or which I had been able to fix without too much effort, were all converted to PDF.

PDF-A-1b: I have previously elected to store my PDF files in the PDF-A-1b format (designed to facilitate the long term storage of documents). However, on using the conformance checker in my PDF application (e-Copy PDF Pro) I discovered that they possessed several non-conformancies; and, furthermore, the first use of e-Copy PDF Pro’s ‘FIX’ facility does not resolve all of them. I decided that trying to make each new PDF I created conform to PDF-A-1b would take up too much time and would joepardise the project as a whole. So, I included the following statement in the Preservation Maintenance Plan that will be produced at the end of the project: “PDF files created in the previous digital preservation exercise were not conformant to the PDF-A-1b standard, and the eCopy PDF Pro ‘FIX’ facility was unable to rectify all of the non-conformances. Consideration needs to be given as to whether it is necessary to undertake work to ensure that all PDF files in the collection comply fully with the PDF-A-1b standard.

PowerPoint – for Mac 4.0. Presentation 4.0, and 97-2003: All of these failed to open with Powerpoint 2007, so I used Zamzar to convert them. Interestingly Zamzar wouldn’t convert to PPTX – only to Powerpoint 1997-2003 which I was subsequently able to open with Powerpoint 2007. So far, it has converted over 100 Powerpoints and failed with only four (two Mac 4.0 and two Presentation 4.0). The conversions have mostly been perfect with the small exception that, in some of the files, some of the slides include a spurious ‘Click to insert title’ text box. I can’t be sure that these have been inserted during the conversion process, but I think it unlikely that I would have left so many of them in place when preparing the slides. Zamzar’s overall Powerpoint conversion capability is very good – but I have experienced a couple of irritating characteristics: first, on several occassions it has sent me an email saying the conversion has been successful but then fails to provide the converted file implying that it wasn’t able to convert the file; and second, the download screen enables five or more files to be specified for conversion but if several files are included it only converts alternate files – the other files are reported to have been converted but no converted file is provided. This problem goes away if each file is specified on its own in its own download screen. The other small constraint is that the free service will only convert a maximum of 50 files in any 24 hour period – but that seems a fair limit for what is a really useful service (at the time of writing, the fee for the cheapest level of service was $9 a month).

UPDATED and ORIGINAL: I am including UPDATED in the file title of the latest version of a file, and ORIGINAL in earlier versions of the same file, because all files relating to a specific Reference No are stored in the same Windows Explorer Folder and users need to be able to pick out the correct preserved file to open. There will be only one UPDATED file – all earlier versions will have ORIGINAL in the file title. Another way of dealing with this issue of multiple file versions would be to remove all ORIGINAL versions to separate folders. However, this would make the earlier versions invisible and harder to get at, which may not be desirable. I believe this needs further thought – and the input of requirements from future users of the collection – before the best approach can be specified.

DOCX, PPTX and XSLX: When converting MS Office documents, unless I was converting to PDF, I elected to convert to the DOCX, PPTX and XLSX formats for two reasons – it is Microsoft’s future-facing format, and that – for the time being – it provides another way of distinguishing between files that have been UPDATED and those that haven’t.

Many of these experiences came as a surprise despite the amount of scoping work that was undertaken; and that is probably inevitable. To be able to nail down every aspect of each activity would take an inordinate amount of time. There will always be a trade off between time spent planning and the amount of certainty that can be built into a plan; and it will always be necessary to be pragmatic and flexible when executing a plan.

Box Set

I was a keen athlete when I was at school and collected a number of ‘how to’ booklets and training aids which are now quite precious to me – see below.

Unfortunately they are thin soft backs which flop around and have no space for spine titles, so they don’t sit very well on a bookshelf full of hardbacks. I needed some sort of container on which a title could be inscribed.

I asked at the bookbinding class that I go to, and was told I needed to make a Portfolio – apparently a common construction in the bookbinding world. A Portfolio is made in two parts: the outside piece which folds over so that, like the outside of a book, it provides a base, a spine and a front cover; and an inside envelope with flaps, which is glued onto the base of the outside piece.  The finished portfolio is shown below.

To this basic construction I decided to add a dust jacket which is attached to the portfolio by gluing the right hand flap of the dust jacket between the outside and inside pieces. The remainder of the dust jacket wraps around the portfolio such that the left hand flap goes inside the front cover.

As with the rugby book, I used the dust jacket flaps to write about my athletics endeavours; and I included copies of some memento documents on the rest of the jacket. However, I tried out a couple of new things on this dust jacket: first, I included several old photos and this seems to have worked very well – photos are easy to see and speak for themselves. Secondly, I put thumbnails of the Portfolio contents on the spine instead of a written title. This too has worked well and produces a colourful and interesting spine on the bookshelf.

In retrospect, I think I was too ambitious with the memento documents I included – the text is too small and indistinct to read easily as a result of wanting to display the whole of a memento page. Perhaps next time I put a jacket design together, I’ll explore just including selected parts of a page magnified to a level where it is very easy to read.

Relief

As reported in the Preservation Planning Journey in this Blog, my document collection has just been exported from the Document Management System (DMS) that it has been in for the last 22 years, and now resides in some 16,000 Windows folders. I feel a strong sense of relief that I will no longer have to nurture two complicated systems – the DMS and its underlying SQL database – in order to access the documents.

Over the years I have had to take special measures to ensure the survival of the collection through 5 changes of hardware, one laptop theft and a major system crash. This included:

  • trying to configure and maintain complex systems I had no in-depth knowledge of
  • paying out hundreds of pounds for extra specialist support (despite the software cost and most general support being very kindly provided free because this has always been a research-oriented exercise)
  • engaging with support staff over phone, email, screen sharing and in person for hundreds of hours to overcome problems (it starts to add up over 22 years…)
  • backing-up and protecting large amounts of data (40Gb total) regularly and reliably.

That’s not to say that DMSs are not worth using – they have characteristics which are essential for high usage, multi-user, systems in which regulatory and legal requirements must be met. However, such constraints don’t apply to the individual. The stark conclusion has to be that, for a Personal Information System, using a DMS was serious overkill.

I guess I’d already come to that conclusion back in 2012 when I set up a filing system for my non-work files using an Excel index and a single Windows Folder for all the documents. That has worked pretty well, however it’s slightly different from the way the newly converted work document collection is stored which has a separate Folder for each Ref No as shown below.

Experience so far with the Windows Folder system indicates that it is very easy and quick to find documents by scrolling through the Folders – quicker than it was using the DMS since there is no need to load an application and invoke a series of commands: Windows Explorer is immediately accessible. As for the process of adding new documents, that too seems much simpler and quicker than having to import files into a DMS, because it involves using the same Windows file system within which the digital files reside in the first place.

Its early days yet so it’ll be a while before I have an in-depth feel for how well other aspects of the system, such as backup requirements, are working; watch this space.

Retrospective Preservation Observations

Yesterday I reached a major milestone. I completed the conversion of the storage of my document collection from a Document Management System (DMS) to files in Windows Folders. It feels a huge release not to have the stress of maintaining two complicated systems – a DMS and the underlying SQL database – in order to access the documents.

From a preservation perspective, a stark conclusion has to be drawn from this particular experience: the collection started using a DMS some 22 years ago during which I have undergone 5 changes of hardware, one laptop theft and a major system crash. In order to keep the DMS and SQL Db going I have had to try and configure and maintain complex systems I had no in-depth knowledge of; engage with support staff over phone, email, screen sharing and in person for many, many hours to overcome problems; and backup and nurture large amounts of data regularly and reliably. If I had done nothing to the DMS and SQL Db over those years I would long ago have ceased to be able to access the files they contained. In contrast, if they had been in Windows folders I would still be able to access them. So, from a digital preservation perspective there can be no doubt that having the files in Windows Folders will be a hugely more durable solution.

When considering moving away from a DMS I was concerned it might be difficult to search for and find particular documents. I needn’t have worried. Over the last week or so I’ve done a huge amount of checking to ensure the export from the DMS into Windows Folders had been error free. This entailed constant searching of the 16,000 Windows Folders and I’ve found it surprisingly easy and quick to find what I need. The collection has an Index with each index entry having a Reference Number. There is a Folder for each Ref No within which there can be one or more separate files, as illustrated below.

Initially, I tried using the Windows Explorer search function to look for the Ref Nos, but I soon realised it was just as easy – and probably quicker – to scroll through the Folders to spot the Ref No I was looking for. The search function on the other hand will come in useful when searching for particular text strings within non-image documents such as Word and PDF – a facility built into Windows as standard.

I performed three main types of check to ensure the integrity of the converted collection: a check of the documents that the utility said it was unable to export; a check of the DMS files that remained after the export had finished (the utility deleted the DMS version of a file after it had exported it); and, finally, a check of all the Folder Ref Nos against the Ref Nos in the Index. These checks are described in more detail below.

Unable to export: The utility was unable to export only 13 of the 27,000 documents and most of these were due to missing files or missing pages of multi-page documents.

Remaining files: About 1400 files remained after the export had finished. About 1150 of  these were found to be duplicates with contents that were present in files that had been successfully exported. The duplications probably occurred in a variety of ways over the 22 year life of the DMS including human error in backing up and in moving files from off-line media to on-line media as Laptops started to acquire more storage. 70 of the files were used to recreate missing files or to augment or replace files that had been exported. Most of the rest were pages of blank or poor scans which I assume I had discovered and replaced at the point of scanning but which somehow had been retained in the system. I was unable to identify only 7 of the files.

Cross-check of Ref Nos in Index and Folders: This cross-check revealed the following problems with the exported material from the DMS:

  • 9 instances in which a DMS entry was created without a Index entry being created,
  • 9 cases in which incorrect Ref Nos had been created in the DMS,
  • 6 instances in which the final digit of a longer than usual Ref No had been omitted (eg PAW-BIT-Nov2014-33-11-1148 was exported as PAW-BIT-Nov2014-33-11-114),
  • 3 cases in which documents had been marked as removed in the Index but not removed from the DMS,
  • 2 cases in which documents were missing from the DMS export.

It also revealed a number of problems and errors within the 17,000 index entries. These included 12 instances in which incorrect Filemaker Doc Refs had been created, and 6 cases in which duplicated Filemaker entries were identified.

The overall conclusion from this review of the integrity of the systems managing the document collection over some 37 years, is that a substantial amount of human error has crept in, unobtrusively, over the years. Experience tells me that this is not specific to this particular system, but a general characteristic of all systems which are manipulated in some way or other by humans. From a digital preservation standpoint this is a specific risk in its own right since, as time goes by, as memories fade, and as people come and go, the knowledge about how and why these errors were made just disappears making it harder to identify and rectify them.

Started and Exported

A week ago the Pawdoc DP project started in earnest after 14 months of Scoping work. The Project Plan DESCRIPTION document and associated Project Plan CHART define a 5 month period of work in 10 separate sections. The Scoping work proved to be extremely valuable in ensuring as far as possible that the tasks in the plan are doable and of a fixed size. No doubt there will be hiccups but they should be self contained within a specific area and not affect the viability of the whole project.

It took rather longer than anticipated to get the m-Hance utility to a position where it can be used to export the PAWDOC files – though I guess such delays are typical in these kind of transactions. First there was an issue around payment caused by the m-Hance accounting system not being able to cope with a non-company which could not be credit checked. I paid up front and the utility was released to me once the payment had gone through the bank transfer system. After that there followed a period of testing and some adjustment using the export facility WITHOUT deletion in Fish. At that point I finalised the Plan and the Schedule and started work. However, although it was believed that the utility was working as it should, there followed a frustrating week during which its operation to export WITH delete (needed so that I could check any remaining files) kept producing exception reports and the m-Hance support staff produced modified versions of the utility. There’s an obvious reminder here that nothing can be assumed until you try it out and verify it. Anyway, all is well now and the export WITH delete completed successfully late last night. I decided against re-planning to accommodate the delays in running it in the belief that I can make up the time in the course of the three weeks planned to check the output from the export.

Dust Jacket Augmentation

I have a bookcase of hardbacks interspersed with the odd paperback. When I started bookbinding last year I decided to turn the paperbacks into hardbacks (something I’d done as a school librarian many years ago). The first one turned out quite well: it was a Pan paperback and I photographed the cover after I had removed it so that I could print out a dust jacket for it.

After that, the cover was cut into front, back and spine, and each of the three pieces glued onto the new hardcover. I was able to use inside sleeves of the dust jacket I created in PowerPoint to reproduce summary text about the author and the book which was present on pages at the front and back of the book (see a previous post about how to create and print out dust jackets).

With this experience under my belt, I started on my next paperback – a history of the Kodak UK Rugby Club for which I played a few games in the 1970s. As before, I photographed the cover after removing it, and set about creating the dust jacket in PowerPoint.

However, this book included no summary text and the back of the cover was blank. I realised that here was a great opportunity to include some additional material from my memento collection. I duly placed copies of the 6 pages of the Club’s December 1976 newsletter on the back cover, and copies of 6 of the selection slips I had received to play in various matches in 1973 on the back inside sleeve. On the front inside sleeve I wrote some words about my rugby playing career and my time with the Kodak Rugby Club.

I do like having glossy covers on books, and this experience has convinced me that a dust jacket can offer even more. It can also be a great non-invasive way to include additional personal material which is then much more accessible on a bookshelf rather than trapped away in a folder in a cupboard. Regardless of such additions the books still look great on the bookshelf.

The Mutability of Books

There is little point in keeping things if you are not going to enjoy them and/or use them. By applying digital technology, collections can be exploited, made visible, and brought to life. There are a huge numbers of ways in which you can relate items together, tell stories about them, and use digital technology to present the results in some form or other.  This particular journey will look at ways in which books can be used to exploit the contents of collections.

Since the common experience of books is of finished, immutable, items, the idea of using books as vehicles for exploiting the contents of a collection may seem a bit strange. However, there are a surprising number of ways in which this can be achieved including creating your own books, adding dust jackets, creating portfolio boxes and slip cases, and including additional documents and artefacts into the fabric of a book.  These are some of the possibilities I shall be exploring in this journey.

There is one way of doing this that many people are already familiar with – creating a Photobook.  This capability is widely and cheaply available on the internet through services such as Snapfish, Blurb, Photobox and Truprint, to name but a few; and many people have either created and/or been shown the Photobooks they supply. However, although such services are designed primarily to assemble and print a set of photos into a bound book, It is perfectly feasible to include images of artefacts and documents, as well as descriptive text. They are very versatile and can produce great looking results: this is a link to my first attempt – a seventy page book of my retirement cards and work experiences – and I subsequently produced a fifty page 90th birthday book for my mother. These experiences have convinced me that Photobooks can be used very effectively for all sorts of things and I shall be reporting on my creation of another Photobook later on in this journey.

Book vs Blog

Now that the content of the book has been put to bed and the focus has turned to bookbinding activities, it seems a good moment to reflect on whether this attempt to replicate a web site in book form has worked or not. First, though, it’s important to be clear about the following differences between the pwofc.com site and most other web sites:

  • there are no adverts
  • all the material is static – the content doesn’t change or move while being viewed.

Having said that, there are several standard web site/blog features in pwofc.com which the physical book may, or may not, have been able to replicate. They include:

  1. Selectable Sections
  2. Links between sections
  3. Links to background in-site material
  4. Links to external web sites
  5. Enlargement of text and images
  6. Categorisation changes
  7. Addition at will
  8. Updating at will
  9. Correction at will
  10. Device display variability
  11. Copying capability
  12. Visibility
  13. Accessibility
  14. Storage capability

Here’s how each of these features were dealt with in the physical book:

1. Selectable Sections

Blog feature: The Blog content was divided into 22 separate topics which appeared permanently as a list down the right hand side of the screen. Whatever content was displayed in the main part of the screen, any topic could be selected and traversed to from the list on the right.

Book capability: The Book has no equivalent functionality with such a combination of immediacy and accuracy; however, it does enable the pages to be flicked through at will; and the contents list at the front allows the page number of a specific topic to be identified and turned to.

2. Links between sections

Blog feature: At any point in the Blog content a link could be inserted to any other Blog Post (though not to specific text within that Post). The links were indicated by specific text being coloured blue.

Book capability: The same text is coloured blue in the Book. In order to provide an equivalent linking capability, the date of the Post being linked to and the page number it is on are included in brackets immediately after the blue text.

3. Links to background in-site material

Blog feature: At any point in the Blog content a link could be inserted to additional material held as a background file in the web site. The file could be of any type that could be displayed – an image, a Word document, a spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation etc.. The links were indicated by specific text being coloured blue.

Book capability: The same text is coloured blue in the Book; and the content concerned is included as an Appendix at the back of the book. To provide an equivalent linking capability, the number of the Appendix, its name, and its page number  are included in brackets immediately after the blue text.

4. Links to external web sites

Blog feature: At any point in the Blog content a link could be inserted to a page in another web site. Sometimes the full web address was included in the Post, and at other times some descriptive text was provided. In both cases, however, the text was coloured blue and the relevant HTTP link was associated with it allowing the relevant web page to be immediately visited provided it still existed on the relevant web server.

Book capability: The same text is coloured blue in the Book. Where the HTTP link is provided in the Post then no further text is included in the book. However, where descriptive text is provided in the Post, then the full HTTP link is spelled out in brackets in the form, ‘see http.xxxxx’. To visit the page concerned a reader would have to type the HTTP address into a browser.

5. Enlargement of text and images

Blog feature: Browsers provide functionality to enlarge both text and images. This is of particular use to people who have poor eyesight; and to those wishing to see greater detail in some of the images included with the text.

Book capability: Books have no such integral functionality. Readers have to employ glasses or magnifying glasses to see enlarged text or images. I don’t know for sure whether greater detail and clarity can be achieved with browser magnification or with magnifying glasses on print, however, a comparison of the screen and the printed page version of one of the images (on page 713 of the Book) indicates that much definition is lost in the printing process.

6. Categorisation changes

Blog feature: Current topics in the Blog are listed under the heading ‘Journeys in progress’; whilst completed topics are moved under the heading ‘Journeys KCompleted’ (the inclusion of a K at the beginning of ‘Completed’ is simply to ensure that Completed Journeys  was lower down the alphabet than Journeys in Progress and therefore would appear underneath the list of Journeys in Progress  – I wasn’t prepared to waste further time figuring out how to achieve this in WordPress/html).

Book capability: The Book reflects the status of the web site at a particular point in time and therefore doesn’t need to have this capability. However, this really glosses over a key, fundamental, difference between a Blog and a Book. The blog is a dynamic entity – it can keep changing; whereas a Book has fixed contents. Of course, a Book’s contents can be added to by handwriting in additional material; and the contents of a Book can be read in different orders if appropriate signposting is provided. For example, this particular book could be read in the order that the Contents are listed, or in the order of the entries shown in the Timeline section – though this latter approach would be rather laborious since it would involve a lot of leafing through the Book. Overall, however, a Book simply does not have the Blog’s ability to be changed.

7. Addition at will

Blog feature: New Topics, new Posts within a Topic, and new material within a Post can be added to a Blog at will. In some circumstances this may be considered advantageous. However, it also means that readers cannot be sure that what they have already read is the latest material. There is no feature to highlight what is new.

Book capability: As described in item 6 above, a Book simply does not possess the Blog’s ability to be changed. However, readers can be secure in the knowledge that once they have read the Book they know what it contains and have finished what they set out to do.

8. Updating at will

Blog feature: The contents of a Post can be updated at will, though, as described in 7 above, this may leave readers feeling uncertain about the contents. There is no feature to highlight what has changed.

Book capability: As described in item 7 above, a Book simply does not possess the Blog’s ability to be changed; however, at least readers know that once they have read the Book they know what it contains and have finished what they set out to do.

9. Correction at will

Blog feature: Corrections of typos, poor grammar, and factual errors, can be made to the contents of a Post at will. There is no feature to highlight what has changed, though this perhaps is only of concern for the correction of factual errors – readers will not be interested in corrections to typos or poor grammar.

Book capability: Although corrections can be made by hand on the Book’s pages, the handwriting is likely to detract from the book’s appearance.  As described in item 7 above, a Book simply does not possess the Blog’s ability to be changed. However, at least readers know that once they have read the Book they know what it contains and have finished what they set out to do.

10. Device display variability

Blog feature: The Blog may be read on a variety of different devices including a large screen, a laptop screen, a tablet, and a mobile phone.  Not only are the sizes of the screens on each of these devices different; but they are likely to be employing different browser software to display the pages. These differences mean that a Blog may appear to be significantly different from one device to another. For this particular Blog, the list of topics down the right hand side is transposed to the bottom of narrower screens, which makes it significantly more difficult for users to navigate the material. Furthermore, for users who are not familiar with the site and its contents, may simply not be aware that the list of topics exists and so may feel they are lost without any signposts in a morass of text.

Book capability: There is no such variability with the Book. It is what it is. What you see is what you get. Everyone who reads it gets the same physical experience. From this perspective the Book is considerably more reliable than the Blog.

11. Copying capability

Blog feature: All parts of the Blog can be copied and then pasted into other applications such as a Word document. There are limits as to how much can be copied at once – only the material in a single screen can be copied in one go. However, multiple screens can be copied separately and then stitched together in the receiving application.

Book capability: The Book’s pages can be copied and/or scanned individually or in pairs – though the way the book is assembled will probably preclude the pages being laid flat on the copy/scan platen which could result in a slightly blurred image towards the edge of the spine.

12. Visibility

Blog feature: The Blog is invisible in the huge black hole of the internet. It only becomes visible when people put it in their browser bookmarks, receive notifications of new entries, or see references to it in other electronic or paper documents.

Book capability: The Book will be very visible on a bookshelf in the house it will reside – more so because of its unusually large size – but it will only be visible to a very few people.

13. Accessibility

Blog feature: The Blog is accessible from all over the world provided that its web address is known or that individuals can find the address by using a search engine such as Google. However, this may not be so easy for a small scale web site with a title containing a very commonly used phrase – Order From Chaos (though it’s easier for those inquisitive enough to try the initials OFC).

Book capability: The Book will be immediately accessible to only those in the house where it resides (though this is an extreme case because only one copy of the book will be printed; normally, books have larger print runs and therefore would be accessible to more people). If other people get to know about the Book and want to read it, they would have to request its loan from the owner and make arrangements to obtain it.

14. Storage capability

Blog feature: The Blog takes up no physical space in its own right, and, being of a relatively small digital size, takes up negligible electronic space.  However, a fee has to be paid every year to the organisation that hosts it, and the owner has to have a certain amount of technical knowledge to maintain it in its storage facility (to add new material, update versions of WordPress and its Plug-ins, and to review comments). A copy of the Blog can be obtained from the hosting site in the form of a large zip file. However, I’ve no idea if it would be possible to reconstitute this into a viable web site in a different computing environment, some years downstream.

Book capability: The Book takes up an appreciable amount of bookshelf space – more than usual due to its very large size. However, other than making space for it on the bookshelf and placing it there, there is nothing further to do to store it – and it will remain there intact for many years. Moving it to another bookshelf or other storage facility will not be difficult.

 

Given all the above comparisons, it seems that there is no clear answer to the question of whether the Book has been able to successfully replicate the Blog. The two entities are clearly different animals – the Blog is a dynamic vehicle accessed in a variety of devices; whilst the Book provides a point-in-time snapshot in a standard, well understood, format. The Book probably presents the material in a broadly comparable way, even if it facilitates cross referencing in a rather slower and more cumbersome way. The Blog is hugely more widely accessible and visible, but is much more complicated to store. Regarding longevity, instinct says that the Book’s chances are much better than the Blog’s over the coming decades