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The fear of doing something again and why you should ignore it in digital projects

by on August 13, 2012

Really, the fear of making a mistake that you have to correct isn’t just a digital project fear, but it is particularly relevant to Digital projects.  Simply put, there’s a lot that can go wrong.  You can spend 6 months on a project, get it done, and find you’ve made a critical mistake.  It’s why people are so into “standards”.  The problem is that most standards don’t give you enough guidance.  They are too general.  At least one group is looking to help develop overall standards fro the nitty-gritty of digitization.  The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative   is working to try to answer some of the most fundamental questions.  For example, is stitching ok? Stitching is when you have an item that is too big for your current digitization equipment so you scan parts of it and stitch it together after the fact.

The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative’s Gap analysis document  is a particularly useful tool to see how little standards actually tell you.

The ultimate lesson here is that you will have to come up with answers to some of this stuff as you go.  Every institution has different needs, and for those needs you have different requirements.  Honestly, you will never learn some of this stuff if you don’t try and fail at least a few times.  The trick is to try to fail as fast as possible so you have to do fewer corrections.

One of the best suggestions I can have is to take a few items in your digitalization project and take them all the way through the process, and then present them to whoever will use the collection.  Our standards use to be 10% of the collection, or 100 items.  Sounds like a lot, but you can re-do 100 items very quickly compared to redoing thousands of items.

I have seen many cases where we had to try something to learn that it wouldn’t work.  I worked on one project where we started off with few resources, so we processed the whole collection a certain way.  Specifically it was a bunch of Yearbooks that we decided to publish as one PDF per year.  Me and the project manager presented on it at TLA .

Our ultimate lessons learned were that

  • No project is perfect, not all projects are the same
  • There are always unforeseen obstacles
  • Plan for what you know and then adjust for the rest
  • Sometimes the only way to learn is by getting your hands dirty and trying things out
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