SUN PASIG: October 2009

19 October, 2009
As readers of this blog may have guessed, I was in San Francisco for the iPres 2009 Conference (17 blog posts in 2 days is something of a personal record!). This conference was followed by several others, including the Sun Preservation & Archiving SIG (Sun-PASIG), from Wednesday to Friday. I didn't feel quite so moved to blog the presentations as at iPres (and I was also knackered, not to put too fine a point on it). But I did not want to pass it b y completely unremarked, particularly as I really like the event. This is the second Sun-PASIG meeting I've attended, following one in Malta in June of this year (see two previous blog posts).

It's a very different kind of meeting from iPres. The agenda is constructed by a small group, forcefully led by Art Pasquinelli of Sun and Michael Keller of Stanford. The presentations are just that; not papers. This let's them be more playful and pragmatic, also more up-to-date. Of course, there's a price to pay for a vendor-sponsored conference, although I won't reveal here what it is!

Tom Cramer has put up the slides at Stanford, so you can explore things I was less interested in. In the first session, the presentation that really grabbed me was Mark Leggott from Prince Edward Island (I confess, guiltily, I don't really know where this is) talking about Islandora. This is a munge of Fedora and Drupal, with a few added bits and bobs. It looked like a fantastic example of what a small, committed group with ideas and some technical capability can do. Nothing else on day 1 caught my imagination quite so strongly, although I enjoyed Neil Jeffries' update on activities in Oxford Libraries, and Tom Cramer's own newly pragmatic take on a revised version of the Stanford Digital Repository.

On day 2 there were lots of interesting presentations. Of particular interest perhaps was the description of the University of California Curation Center's new micro-services approach to digital curation infrastructure. I'm not quite sure I get all of this, mainly perhaps as so much was introduced so quickly; however as I read more about each puzzling micro-service, it seems to make more sense. BTW I congratulate the ex-CDL Preservation Group on their new UC3 moniker! 'Tis pity it came the same week as the New York Times moan about overloading the curation word (here if you are a registered NYT reader)...

I also very much liked the extraordinary presentation by Dave Tarrant of Southampton and Ben O-Steen of Oxford on their ideas for creating a collaborative Cloud. Just shows what can be done if you don't believe you can't! The slides are here but don't give the flavour; you just had to be there.

In a presentation particularly marked by dry style and humour, Keith Webster of UQ talked about Fez, and shortly after Robin Stanton of ANU talked about ANDS; both very interesting. The day ended with a particularly provocative talk by Mike Lesk, once at NSF for the Digital Library Initiatives, now at Rutgers. Mike's aim was to provoke us with increasingly outrageous remarks until we reacted; if he failed to get a pronounced reaction, it was more to do with the time of day and the earlier agenda. But this is a great talk, and mostly accessible from the slides.

On the 3rd day, we had a summing up from Cliff Lynch, interesting as ever, followed by breakouts. I went to the Data Curation group (surprise!), to find a half dozen folk, apparently mostly from IT providers, very concerned about dealing with data at extreme scale. It's a big problem (sorry), but not quite what I'd have put on the agenda. But in a way it typifies Sun-PASIG: never quite what you thought, always challenging and interesting.

Shortly thereafter I had to leave, but in the middle of a fascinating discussion about the future of Sun-PASIG, particularly with the shadow of the Oracle acquisition looming. I certainly believe that the group would be useful to the new organisation, and very much hope that it survives. Next year in Europe?