[Taxacom] Proposed ICZN amendments on electronic publishing

tyler tyler.smith at mail.mcgill.ca
Fri Dec 5 07:15:02 CST 2008

Jim Croft writes:
 > This is something we can probably keep in our sights with textual
 > information, but when it comes to digital images and other
 > multimedia there is no equivalent of ASCII and we are already in
 > *deep* trouble.

I don't know why there is any difference here. ASCII works because it
is well documented and viewable with any number of text editors. jpg
is also well documented and viewable with any number of applications.
Same for gif, tiff, png, ps and others. We're only in deep trouble if
we've committed our images to an undocumented proprietary format.

 > On Fri, Dec 5, 2008 at 2:50 PM, Richard Pyle  wrote:
 > > when we move beyond binary computers, there is no doubt in my
 > > mind that there will be ample opportunity to translate the
 > > binary-encoded information into whatever the next fundamental
 > > computer information system is.
 > You are quite right... sort of... with any new technology there
 > will be a mechanism to migrate from the existing to the new - to do
 > otherwise would be a suicidal business decision. The problem is,
 > because it is a business model, they will offer the the minimum
 > migration they can get away with.

Which means we need to become more discerning, and demanding, when it
comes to accepting new software. If we insist on using software that
allows for unrestricted import and export to open document formats,
then the suicidal business model will be the one that requires using
undocumented proprietary formats to take full advantage of the
features of a program.

Everything else is manageable. The actual format we use isn't that
important, as long as it's an open format (www.openformats.org). 

 > Thus your solution will only work if you migrate (and test)
 > *everything* - every time. The reality is (or has been) that in
 > every migration process some things get overlooked and forgotten
 > surviving in the old format until one fine day, 'sorry this format
 > is no longer supported'.

Open formats don't depend on being officially supported by anyone. If
microsoft decided that it no longer wants to support ascii, or Adobe
decides that it doesn't want to support pdf, we can still use those
formats with other tools. 

And we don't really need to migrate from one format to the next each
time a new technology is developed. Who knows, maybe one day we'll go
to a library website to use their pdf viewer, the way we now go to a
library building to use their microfiche system. That wouldn't be as
good as having access to all the documents in some hyperlinked format
viewable in the field on our tricorders, but it's still an improvement
over physical books in terms of accessibility.

 > > The issue of "what's important" and what gets perpetuated is, in
 > > all respects, the same for both electronically encoded
 > > information and ink-on-paper information. If books are important,
 > > they will be maintained and cared-for and perpetuated in
 > > libararies. If e-documents are important, they will be maintained
 > > and cared-for and perpetuated in electronic archives.
 > I think there is a fundamental difference, and this that is the
 > contraction of time scales in the digital world.  The paper just sits
 > there and no-one has to (or should) offer an a priori value judgment
 > of their importance; you will be able to come back in a couple of
 > centuries and make an assessment in that context.  

Only if you have unlimited space for archival storage. This is not
really the case anymore. At my old university, space is limited, and
hardcopy versions of journals that are available online are being
shipped offsite, or donated away entirely. On a personal level, when I
move I'm taking all my pdfs with me, but only a fraction of my books.
Hopefully I'll choose the right books to keep, but with pdfs I don't
choose at all.



Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.
                                       --Wernher von Braun

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