Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best practices, a tiff

Sometimes two best practices can be at odds with each other. It is a best practice to limit the number of posts to mailing lists like the Commons-l. On the other hand, what to do when a best practice is not understood on such a list?

The thread easily goes into a tail spin and this does not help either the usefulness of the list nor does it help promote the best practice that is under consideration. At the same time what is the alternative when the best practice is not yet embedded ?

The great news of the last week is that we will support the TIFF format. TIFF is a format used for storing images including photographs. The one reason why I am so happy with the promissed support of the TIFF format is that it is how GLAM store their digitised collections. They are hesitant in giving us access to their material and one convincing argument for them is that we are happy to get their material as it is complete with all the annotations.

Receiving this material in this way, is a best practice because it provides the provenance that can be compared with how we use citations in Wikipedia. The license that we insist on allows us to make changes to this material but this does not remove the moral obligation to treat this material with respect. This means that we should keep original material separate from the changes we make.

GLAMs typically are sceptical when they hear about out restorations. This changes in appreciation when they learn that we keep a restoration separate from the original and when they see the quality of our restorations. Important for the appreciation of the restorations is that they provide better illustrations then the original material and .. the restorations are just gorgeous.

One final reason why it is good to store the original material is that with this best practice, we provide a believable backup for the material we store as well as the GLAM. The library of Alexandria is not the only resource whose loss is still felt. The Archive of Cologne is a modern example that shows that it does not take war or unrest to lose important resources.

The TIFF support will make the material that we already store visible. That is how we progress from the current situation where we store all the material that we restore in its original format.
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