I have just uploaded the interview template to the website. It derived from a review of significant properties literature with particular respect of the InSPECT and Planets projects and is very much aligned with the workflow integrated in the PLATO preservation planning tool. Following the conceptual model of significant properties created in the course of the Planets project the PLATO tool suggests the division between Object, Technical, Process characteristics and Costs. Whilst David is testing the JHOVE2 and DROID tools to help identify extractable properties it was my job to discuss with authors the observational properties – which aspects of the documents in the collections they felt needed to be retained in order for the documents to be still understandable and useful.
I decided to create a list of characteristics and essentially use this as the interview template prefaced with some introductory questions. The list follows the intellectual division of levels (appearance, structure, content and behaviour) with a large number of lower level criteria. The selection of criteria on the list results from an evaluation of representative sample files and from comparing our list with other sample plans shared in the PLATO tool. I also had a dummy run of our draft template with a friendly project participant who gave me useful feedback and additions to it.
I was then thinking of how to conduct the interviews and how the outcome could be most efficiently recorded. I decided to bring a number of documents to each interview: a print out of a couple of example documents from the relevant collection which allowed us to flick through, check and remind ourselves what we were actually talking about and a large print out of the list of characteristics I was going to ask them about. (I did this in the format of a mindmap on which I had some positive feedback.) We discussed how important each characteristic was, both separately and relatively, and whether there were any others that we had not taken into account.
Participants were encouraged to quantify their answers (small change acceptable, large change acceptable, no change acceptable at all and equivalent ranges for other type of questions). I recorded the interviews on a digital audio recorder but decided against doing transcriptions. Instead I created a spreadsheet listing the characteristics and quantified answers. This allows us to analyse the results easily and translate them to the Plato tool without any further intermediary steps. That’s the plan anyway…
Barbara Bultman, DSpace@Cambridge