One of my least favorite things about trying to deal with digital preservation is that most of the documents that we create, and are trying to save, are created through proprietary, privately-owned formats.
We often make choices (either personally or institutionally) to enter into closed ecosystems, whether they are via Apple, Google, or Microsoft, to name a few.
In terms of creating new materials, new data, this is not necessarily a bad option. Often, privately produced software is “better” institutionally. Corporations can put money into fixing problems (and often can do so faster than nonprofits working with open source software).
Often, but not always. There are plenty of open-source software solutions out there. But they are not as pervasive culturally as Microsoft, Google, or Apple products. It’s simply a question of market share (or lack thereof).
The problem that’s bugging me today, though, is the moment when a particular version of proprietary software stops being supported by the private owner. Or they refuse to support their software playing with older versions of someone else’s software.
It’s not that Google is beholden to us in any way. I’m just deeply irritated that another possible tool for managing older files will disappear as of the end of January. Because being able to access older files is apparently not important. Or at least not as important as forcing us to buy the next bit of new shiny software. From a consumer products perspective, I completely understand why this happens. Widgets must be sold to pay shareholders. Consumers must be beholden to particular ecosystems to maintain their financial viability.
Playing nicely together between ecosystems divides up the cash, often. Which is bad for business.
As someone directly responsible for retaining the historical record, though, this is my general response to these choices.
I (and my intrepid systems folks) have to try to find a way to manage multiple ecosystems. That’s always really fun.
Yes, I can ask folks to submit files in open source rather than proprietary formats. I may begin doing so (I haven’t thus far.)
But…is the open-source version of a Scrivener file really the original artifact?
File under “things that keep me up at night.”
ETA: Here’s a link to a project by Jason Scott that is an attempt to solve the file formats problem. I’m putting it here for both my reference and yours.