Sunday, 26 June 2011

Recordkeeping and Social Media

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the listserve around the use of Social Media, our obligations and requirements as recordkeeping proffessionals.

In many ways, social media is simply an evoloution. Our proffession is no stranger to the evolution in record formats; clay tablets, papyrus, paper, optical disc, cloud and .....

In much the same way as we struggled, and continue to struggle with managing email as records, we are now faced with a multitude of record formats; physical records, electronic records, records in the cloud and .... what next.

With technology moving at an ever increasing pace, how do we manage social media records? Im sure all of our policies and procedures would define records as being format independent. And while the format doesnt matter, the practicalities of managing social media records does raise its own challenges.

In a presentation last year, we heard from a New Zealand researcher on the various ways in which organisations are managing social media records. In one case, a consultation was conducted via a wiki, at the end of the process, the records were printed, placed on file and stored physically, in around 60 storage boxes.

It seems incredibly strange to print and file, after all we have elaborate and not inexpensive EDRM systems that are designed to enable us to better manage our records, holistically and systematically. Yet, when we looked at our systems, did we think about social media records? How we would capture them? In what format we would capture them, as web pages, as text files, as images?

In the context of social media, where is the record in this process? All? Beginning and end?
Hmmmm, this sounds a little like our early discussions on managing email records doesn't it.


  1. Of course this sounds like early email discussions and it will be the same for all new media. As IM managers we are managing information regardless of the media used. 50 years ago this was basically paper with some photos, maybe microfilm thrown in. Now the media is changing so fast and so much new, so much not imaginable even 20 years ago, so of course we will have the same discussions over and over.

  2. For socially-created documents, you are dealing with a process of iterative drafting. Just like any other document creation process, there will be significant and insignificant revisions. Sometimes the draft should stay with the document as part of the record. Sometimes it doesn't matter. Just like you would in any other format, you pick out key revisions as being worthy of preservation.

    In regards to the example in the original post, why on Earth would you print and file a wiki? Is the need to fix the wiki so great that you would render it in a near-useless format?

    Computers have so many strengths for dealing with information. Text searching is one. Configurable access is another. You can leave a wiki in its native format and configure its access to render so it can't be updated - thus fixing the record. Or you can render each page as an xml or text file and preserve it as a searchable format.

    Why, why, why resort to printing? You have to deal with each format on its own terms. When paper replaced clay tablets, did the scibes run around trying to "clayify" the paper? Did they fret about firing it in a kiln to "fix the record"? One hopes not.

  3. They sure don't need 60 more boxes of paper in off site storage. Do hope that they applied a sensible disposal decision as it was lodged so that they don't pay to store it for longer than necessary