ala conference: govt info tech

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A colleague and I have been talking recently with people at the US Government Printing Office (GPO) about using technologies like XML, XSLT, and OpenURL to enhance archiving of and access to government publications. That's why I had several govt document related meetings on my ALA schedule.

The GITCO meeting included a discussion led by the GPO Superintendent of documents, Judy Russell, on the growing problem of "aging and aged" CD-ROM products. While this includes aging media, the larger problem is aging software. Many (if not most) early CDROM products used proprietary disc-based software to provide access to data (like dBase, for example). But as OS environments evolve, these programs stop working. Emulation of older OS's is a short-term solution, but that doesn't scale or endure well.

Clearly, the current move towards separation of content (data) and presentation (software/access) in publishing will help to prevent this in the future. But the problem of what to do with what's already out there is a big one.

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The issue I've found in this respect is that various interested parties insist that presentation must be preserved as methodically and precisely as content -- right down to the last little hair-space.

And sometimes they're even right about that. (Not as often as they think they are, but even so.)

And we markup gurus can't do it. We just plain can't.

I had been hoping that the multiple-presentation and flexible-presentation memes would percolate into the communities in question, because they would take care of a lot of this problem, but reality check -- they haven't.

So. Other solutions? Or other persuasions? I've run out of both, I'm afraid.

I've had similar experience, but not related to obsolete content. There are major accessibility challenges presented by application environments like Director and Flash.

It's an almost unwinable proposition to come into these games as the "closer", anytime after the initial requirements and design work have been done. People think with their eyes and not with their heads in these situations. Decision processes, particularly in the government context, are so difficult and ponderous; the interests are so quickly and heavily vested that necessary and fundamental changes are virtually impossible.

Emulation IS a long term solution. Moores law just makes it increasingly easier. See MAME for the ultimate example.

MAME is a great achievement, especially for video game nostaligists (if that's a word) like myself. Even still, there are some small little distractions, usually graphical quirks, that remind you that you're working on an emulation of the old system, not the real thing. So Moore's "Law" may make emulation more and more possible, but not yet the silver bullet.

Another example of where emulation shows some problems is Mac OS X. If you use any Mac OS 9 apps in the "Classic" mode (an emulator of the OS 9 environment running under 10.x) you see speed and usability problems that inhibit the experience.

Emulation is decent and usuable in many cases, but still presents some problems that limit it from being THE solution. Especially for government publications that are my area of responsibility.

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This page contains a single entry published on June 23, 2003 10:27 AM.

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