New technologies and decentralization

I’ve recently discovered Peter Van Garderen‘s thoughtful piece exploring the concept of  “Decentralized Autonomous Collections”.


This comment by Van Garderen piqued my interest immediately:

I believe that the emergence of blockchain technology and the concept of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, alongside the maturation of peer-to-peer networks, open library technology architectures, and open-source software practices offers a new approach to the issues of control, privilege, and sustainability that are inherent to many centralized information collections.

This technology and how it is potentially implemented has the potential to disrupt established practice of “exclusive custodians” curating information objects, instead allowing for decentralised control by multiple parties.

This in turn has the potential to disrupt established practice in our memory institutions such as libraries and archives. However, instead of seeing this technology as potentially causing displacement, and even replacing these institutions, I find it exciting to take these ideas and use them to think about how we can transform the traditional roles of custodians and curators into new roles, possibly even as “thought leaders”, as Van Garderen puts forward. Librarians and archivists have in-depth knowledge about how to manage information objects through their entire (continuing) lifecycle, so it stands to reason that they can take this knowledge and incorporate its basic principles and ethical obligations successfully into new ways of thinking and doing, particularly in our current climate that sees increasing surveillance by government, and the growing power and reach of commercial monopolies moving into cultural heritage and knowledge sustainability spaces.

The concept of decentralised autonomous collections brings up interesting new ideas about how to deal with encryption, rights and identity management, and for ensuring the authenticity of digital objects. It also opens up exciting new ideas for implementing digital preservation systems, workflows, and processes in our cultural and research institutions.

For more interesting reading in this area I’m also looking at Denis Nazarov‘s “Bringing Cultural Metadata to Life“, which explores ways in which to simplify and consolidate open cultural data through an open source, decentralized, peer-to-peer network.

And oh, how I wish I was in Vancouver, Canada, on 17 May for ‘The Blockchain and Digital Preservation“!




ANDS data workshops 16 July 2015

Some takeaways from two recent workshops organised by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS): RDM101: Research data starter for research data support staff and Hip topics: What’s trending in RDM in Victoria?

Trying to find datasets online is not a completely straightforward process. Multiple searching methods are required in different data ‘portals’, and ANDS lists a few:

One interesting point that was discussed after investigation of the portals was that mobile-compatible websites are few in this space – this is a major drawback if researchers want to upload datasets from the field using mobile devices. If the death of the PC comes to fruition with the majority of the populace switching to mobile devices in the near future, it would be good to see mobile compatibility developments hastened for data portals.

A group note-taking session documenting reasons data is valuable resulted in a collaborative Meeting Words document.

The changing skill set of librarians was examined. Data librarians need to be across many different areas to do their job well – research data management, open access and copyright issues, datasets and dataset management, and increased IT skills.

Socio-informatician is the name given to two new information management roles at Melbourne University, adding yet another term to the librarian job titles lexicon.

A constant re-evaluation of skills is required to be successful in the fluid environment that is research data management.

A metadata group tool called Redcap was discussed.

So far there hasn’t been an end-to-end roll out of ORCIDs in Australia, and the ORCID consortium model currently being drafted by the ORCID working group (CAUL, ANDS, ARMS, CAUDIT, AAF, UA – with input from ARC, NHMRC) was discussed. A minimum of 20 members will be needed to implement, and more information on this will be forthcoming in the next month or two.

It was good to hear that the Wellcome Trust is now mandating ORCID IDs for research grants – it does seem that mandates are needed from the top so that they trickle down and become embedded in processes.


This website presence has been shaped and inspired by ‘kaizen‘ – the practice of continuous improvement.

The Kaizen Institute explains that kaizen was introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai, ‘organisational theorist’ and management consultant (Wikipedia), from his text Kaizen: The key to Japan’s competitive success, back in 1986.

Kaizen has been applied to workplaces in many different industries (and quite extensively after WWII in Japan to help rebuild the country) with an aim to standardise business operations in order to eliminate wasteful processes and improve productivity.

The Kaizen Institute provides some stellar guiding principles for following the way of kaizen, all of which can be applied to the world of information management:

Good processes bring good results

Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation

Speak with data, manage by facts

Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems

Work as a team

Kaizen is everybody’s business

And much more!

One feature of kaizen that may appeal to archivists and archivally minded folk is the idea that ‘big results come from many small changes accumulated over time’ (Kaizen Institute).

Kaizen can be applied on both a personal and professional level, on a daily basis, and in many different ways. I believe the principles behind it can potentially be used in innovative ways, depending on the individual or business need at any moment in time.

Kaizen could have the power to shape the vision of new and emerging leaders and personalities involved in this fluid space that is information management, as well as to change information management processes and practice for the better.