Sunday, November 13, 2011

Martin Luther King and Occupy

It's been a while since I blogged. Sorry about that. I've been busy relocating to Grande Cache, acquainting myself with the town and the new job, and getting used to the elevation. The view out my window is a bit of rugged bush, pretty average for this part of the country. The weather is unusual today; half the sky is blue and the other half is grim. We are on the grim half of town. A dusting of snow whips by.

Anyways, I am taking a moment to capture the big thoughts I had while finishing "Martin Luther King Jr., His life, martyrdom and meaning for the world" by Willaim Robert Miller. Written by a pacifist, this biography offers a balanced picture of Dr. Martin King. His stellar achievements and crushing doubts are described equally faithfully.  Offered most sympathetically are Dr. King's views on pacifism. In short, push leaders to change - and change now - before the pressure cooker explodes. To the demonstrators, be generous in victory; suppress the urge for revenge. Only this way can positive change result. Here are a few quotes I am preserving,

"[On Mordecai Johnson] ...he had shown ho to harness the redemptive power of love to social issues, and through it, change had come." (p. 30)

"...but both Brightman and his associate, L. Harold DeWolf, had a permanent effect in shaping Martin's lifelong belief in a personal God and in the dignity and worth of every human person." (p. 34)

"King told the crowd that the was often advised to slow down the pace of the freedom revolution, that time would tke care of things. But time is neutral.'It can be used constructively and it can be used destructively. Unfortunately, the extremist, right-wing elements use their time more effectively."...Racism, he said, was a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans. The Poor People's Campaign had to control this ... The campaign would 'call attention to the gap between promises and fulfillment - to make the invisible visible.'" (p. 285)

"The death of Martin Luther King was not the cause of rioting but its occasion...King knew the reasons it was there, and he had pointed them out again and again. If this represented 'criminality', it was not something inborn but the direct result of continuous oppression, the denial of hope, the rejection of repeated appeals." (p. 293)

The big lessons in Dr. King's life are echoed today with the occupy demonstrations sweeping North America. The lessons learned when an oppressed people raise themselves up must not be ignored. Let's also not forget the danger to the unaware oppressors, of deliberate blindness, a dulling of the conscience, where stories of cruelty are suppressed or plainly disbelieved. It is too easy to polarize, demonize, belittle, and ignore change agents. If these people are our brothers, what does it say when we refuse to listen, to respond?

The same dynamics were repeated in the tumultuous modern history of Africa, that I read this past year. Ignorant oppressors are justifiably afraid of public demonstrations pointing out the less pretty side of society. Because the oppressed, once expressed, are on just this shade of violence. If they continue to be ignored.

I believe Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign was visionary. A nation that ignores it's weakest remains vulnerable. I believe these vulnerabilities have never been fullly addressed.

Just last week I posted my mixed feelings about the occupy demonstrators on a discussion board,

"There are shades of history that caution me from judgement. I'm wavering between admiration and annoyance.

•First of all, these kids are not the "other 99". They are a particular subset of society that for whatever reason, has time to check out from routine. I resent that they claim to represent me.

•I resent the 99 as much as I have come to resent the so-called "Moral Majority". As soon as the Religious Right DID gain power, they bankrupted the country. They also make poor losers.

•So I see a correlation between the "other 99" and the "Moral Majority". Both claim to represent an invisible and silent minority; both are more dogmatic than sensible. They should own up that they represent their own sectarian interests.

•To the protester's defence, I think the widening gap between rich and poor is a dreadful testament for a wealthy country. I studied the Human Development index published by the United Nations a few years ago. That widening gap is a pretty good darn indicator that at some point something was going to snap. It is not the richest who earn a nation's pride, it's the country's poorest. What are we doing for those most disadvantaged? There must be a rebalancing of wealth. If the wealthiest won't do it voluntarily, the government (vocal, voted majority) should intervene.

•Be cautious in accepting wild stories happening at these sit-ins. Remember that the boomers of today were hippie protesters of yesteryear. The establishement reacted badly back than. I would like my generation to show greater tolerance. We don't have to set out the dogs or tear gas, do we?"

In conclusion, even though I am doubtful that the demonstrators represent the "other 99", and skeptical of their choice of demons (Corporate America, Big Business), they do express a raging unmet need.

Leaders listen.

As a postscript, I found the story of Dr. King's emerging faith during college to be personally inspiring. It is encouraging to read how a man with highly individual and  tested beliefs could find his way in his church of choice. I'm not so sure the denominations of today have fully taken up his challenge of social responsibility. I note that even the liberal churches today are content to passively petition their governments to do more. There must be personal involvement, I would think, for active change to come about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Glory of the Hunt

People care about their files. They are attached to the personal systems they put in place to find what they need, and become anxious if they are taken away. The file system is guarded territory, as fiercly protected as a parking stall.

It became clear years ago that it is not enough, as a records professional to build a pure filing system - elegant in design and intuitive to use. If I have not engaged the very human customers where they work and live, the system will fail.

Quoting google advanced help, "Search engines use a variety of techniques to imitate how people think and to approximate their behavior. As a result, most rules have exceptions. For example, the query [ for better or for worse ] will not be interpreted by Google as an OR query, but as a phrase that matches a (very popular) comic strip. Google will show calculator results for the query [ 34 * 87 ] rather than use the 'Fill in the blanks' operator. Both cases follow the obvious intent of the query." This means rather than being straightforward, search support services spend a lot of time getting inside the heads of searchers, to help them get the results they want (not what they say they want).

So how do we stow away and find things? It could be that our personal classification systems and style of hunting (foraging) are as established as our hunter-gatherer brains. Web and corporate Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems have vastly extended our reach, but our searching instincts have not changed.

I will suggest that classifying and searching, tagging and recalling successful hunts, are part of our instinctive heritage. Steven Pinker in his book the Language Instinct, proposes fifteen instincts that are hard-wired in to all of us. Two of these instincts relate to searching and classifying:

4. Mental maps for large territories.

11. A mental Rolodex; a database of individuals, with blanks for kinship, status or rank, history of exchange of favors, and inherent skills and strengths, plus criteria that valuate each trait.

Imagining our forbear's steps, I imagined my ancestor following a familiar trail, noting edible plants along the way. She would retrace her steps later, when she knew the harvest would be ready; wild carrots in the summer, cattail tubers in the fall, and rose hips through the winter. She would have identified and classifed the edible plants, and remembered the trail to get there.
I couldn't find a comparable image on my google search, so I scanned my own, I did learn a little about the foraging habits of water pipits, larval green lacewings, and modern human urban foragers.   
So in many ways, classifying and searching is instinctive. We care about the results of the hunt, and not just for the practical purpose of getting the job done. This is personal.

You know what I am talking about. Anyone in our business will have hit a tough search that evades early detection. We dig in ever harder, searching out the obscure places where it might have been put. To place that record in our bosses hands, sweet.
The hunt is valued. A swift and successful hunt gives value to the organization. A hunter who provides consistent results is an asset; not just from an empirical, practical point of view, but at an instinctive, visceral level. I suggest again that if the GARP(C) principles were to be ranked, Availability is at the top. Not so say that the rest may be discarded. Together, they complete the framework for a robust records system.

When converting to a new file structure, be respectful of people's need to find their stuff. Anticipate the anxiety that accompanies change, and prepare for it. Make sure they have time to orient themselves to the new system, and reassure them that the materials they need daily will be at hand.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Advanced Search in the New Age

I've struggled with this subject all day. It's hard to pin down why. I enjoy running a great search, and I'm good at it. I think it must be because many of the tips and tools I'm highlighting, are as natural to use as breathing. It's tough not to step over my own feet when laboriously laying out all the steps. The problem these days - on google at least - is not the absence of results. The problem is too many results from a simple search.

When the internet was new, my girlfriend showed off her google search for "superman". Her son was a comic book buff, and she and her son marvelled at the speed of the return; four hits. When she demonstrated for me a couple months later, we found twenty sites. And goggled. My, how the internet was growing in leaps and bounds. Today, a google search on the same term gave me 168 million hits. My mind boggles at that number. In truth, I won't look past a couple pages. The likelihood that I would find a significant result any deeper is just too small.

To make sense of this mass of information at our fingertips has made search an art. Find a term significant and unique enough to bring back the result I need, but not so narrow that it filters out the gold. A way to develop this fine touch is to start with the narrowest search you can think of. Try enclosing your google phrase in quotation marks. If you get no results, broaden your search ever more slightly. After  a while, you will develop a fine touch. Here are two google searches I conducted recently, that required several google tries to find me what I wanted:

  • There is an archeaological dig on she shores of Galilee, profiled by the Naked Archaeologist . There's evidence of a fishing industry, and early Christian activity. What was the name of the dig? I'd forgotten. I searched filtering only Naked results, and found the name of the fishing village. I then broadened the search for Bethsaida. Google corrected my spelling, of course. And there it was, in satisfying detail, the results of a dig briefly profiled on Naked.
  • A student mentioned BlueCielo as an Electronic Content Management (ECM) tool that manages engineering drawings in Computer Aided Design, (CAD) format. After checking out the official site, I wondered what the community is saying. I used advanced search to limit the results to "Discussion:". Google found me what I wanted, but the discussions were empty. What is it with the community? Do they sit around the water-cooler to chat? Is there no twitter feed, no chatter, no casual trail for me to follow? I remind myself that this is not all bad. People talking. In person.
Before I go any further, I'll briefly discuss the differences in a corporate electronic file search and the world-wide web. Most of the time when conducting an internal search, you are looking for something you know exists. You either put it there yourself, or it is a manual/report/document that you have referred to in the past. You resort to search because you've forgotten in the webonious structure where you've last laid it. If it is an Explorer search, a panting dog may wag his way through to help you.
Failure to find the document you are looking for will likely lead to a few hours of frustration. Because unlike a google search, you must find the document of your recollection. The average information worker spends 8.8 hours a week searching for information. (Ref. The Importance of Enterprise Search, slide 13, IDC Hidden Costs of Information Work (2005) ). It is therefore critical that the electronic information management system that you select is capable of masterful (and swift) searches.

Similarly, in an e-discovery (may you never be blessed), search results must be consistent and complete. Correspondence has an annoying habit of referencing past correspondence. Does the search find both? Missing key documents will challenge the comprehensiveness of your records, and the reputation of your corporation.

Now that my little rabbit trail is done, I can go back to discussing advanced searching techniques. Most of these help you narrow your search. As I've mentioned before, a dearth of answers is not our problem. If you don't believe me, try running a search for "report" (5 billion hits on google). Advanced techniques include wildcard searches (named after the Joker in our decks), boolean searches (AND, OR and NOT), and a few more I found during my google search today; fuzzy, proximity and range. Though google calls these features by another name, you can practice wildcard and boolean in advanced search. Google has a great help page for advanced searchers.

Wildcard is replacing a character or range of characters with a symbol ("*" on most of the systems I looked at today). I would have found Bethsaida sooner if I had typed Bet*da. I'd mistakenly looked for it as Bethseda.

The boolean link I've referenced is a great tutorial that graphically illustrates the different sorts of results you get. Google uses these same boolean terms, so check out the results. AND and NOT gives you a narrower result. If you care to check out my internet presence, try the google result "jgnat -java" (jgnat NOT java).

I've begun reading up on fuzzy, proximity and range when reading the features of Apache Lucene, an open source search engine. I won't try and pretend to explain them fully here. Range can be very helpful to narrow to a period of time, (i.e. Business Plans for the first three quarters of 2009) and tricky to get right. Fuzzy claims to bring back words that sounds like (but are not spelled like) what you've asked for. This might also have helped me find Bethsaida.

It is very worthwhile as information professionals to master these techniques. Information workers need all the help they can get to find their information swiftly and consistently. Be the expert, and we will demonstrate our worth to the organization many times over.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Glory of the Hunt - Searchable Records

Trending topics in the records world these days are e-discovery, security, and collaboration. I propose however, that the most valuable skills record-keepers have to offer in the 21st century is the the power of search.

Search falls in the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP (C)) under "Availability", An organization shall maintain records in a manner that ensures timely, efficient, and accurate retrieval of information.

Why do I claim this is skill is valued over the others? Because any records system passes or fails on it's ability to deliver. If it can't promise to give your information back when you need it, why would you use it?

Over the next few days, I'll highlight the power of search; some of the advanced tools that we should be familiar with as records professionals, why the hunt is its own reward, and some technical marvels on the horizon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paper Reduction - It's the Green Thing to Do

I got asked one day how many sheets of paper in a tree? (Over 8,000). It's the new benchmark of green-y; how many trees you can save from the chopping block. Hold off the printer, retire the copier, and read it online. As I tour offices with my Information Manager's eyes, I don't see stacks of paper any more. The signs of disorder are hidden away on e-mail and shared drives.

Reducing paper production - especially at source - is a great way for a company to go green and save money besides. I've posted a paper savings estimator on my site ( that will show you how many trees you've saved and how many greenhouse emissions you've reduced. I've made counting easy, too. Add up the number of boxes of paper your area purchased last month or last year, and chunk in the number.

Using Shel Busey's good-better-best ratings, let's compare ways a corporation can reduce paper consumption.

Switch to 100% recycled paper. Reduce the number of copiers in the office, and eliminate personal printers. You might consider an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner. Be sure you have procedures to confirm that the scans are authentic (CAN/CGSB-72.34), and have a plan where the scans will go. No use scanning if you have no place to put it.

To get paper off the floor and everyone working online, scan your high volume collections. This will get you your space savings (if staff don't find new ways to fill it), but it won't save you a tree. Because to scan, you have to start with paper somewhere.

Work with your IT and forms design to allow external customers to send you information electronically. PDF forms can be designed to submit directly in to your database. Set up e-pay with vendors who submit high volume transactions for payment (i.e. phone bills). Not only does this save the tree from source, you will start to see real savings in entry and handling of the information.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Fate of Africa - A History of Fifty Years of Independence

I've just finished the above titled brick-of-a-book by Martrin Meridith, who provides a dispassionate, and well-documented, account of Africa's recent history. I am driven to know more about Africa first of all because of my son-in-law's backgroound, and also to get a sense of our world-wide humanity. To understand Africa, it's heroes and faliures, is to understand ourselves. To turn a blind eye to failure is to guarantee repeat.

I'll first quote another reviewer, to get a sense of the breadth and depth of this book, "So many bad books receive extravagant praise that it's hard to do justice to a msterpiece when one finally appears. And the Fate of Africa is a masterpiece...This is living, breathing history that matters." - Ralph Peters, New York Post. In case after case, country after country, the author describes how the Big Men of Africa squandered the wealth and potential of their countries for personal gain. First-world countries bungled and amplified the problems by failing to grasp the depth of Africa's issues and rather imposing their own agendas and fears. As I descended through despair as so graphically outlined in this book, I wondered, when would hope arrive?

I live by hope. I must believe that goodness prevails. Yet over and over again I witness in this book persons of integrity, intelligent and brave - harassed and destroyed.  The bullies won. They succeeded in raping their countries to the brink of ruin, and recovery is out of sight. How can the common person in such an environment dare to hope for a better day, that they will enjoy the fruits of their labour?

There can be no other way than hope and reconciliation. Yet it will take tremendous effort and insight - not by individuals - but by a collective world - to turn things around. It means being persons of integrity, altruistic, ready to spurn personal gain and power for the greater good. It means laying down treasured ideologies, trusting all that is good, and banishing the crooked.

For the rest of my blog, I'm preserving the quotes from this book that moved me, lest I forget.

[On the reckless speed that independence was granted to the Gold Coast] "A new governor, Sir Charles Arden-larke, was despatched to the Gold Coast in 1949, with the warning that 'the country is on the edge of revolution' and with instructions to implement a new order to avert it. The new system of government was regarded as being in the nature of 'an experiment', one that could be carefully controlled and monitored...The reality, however, was different. One senior British official involved in the Gold Coast experiment later described the process as 'like laying down a track in front of an oncoming express.'" [Revolution's explosive power came from years of repression by the colonizers, who treated its citizens as inferior. Independence was granted late and poorly, not allowing for a steady transition of power] (p. 13)

[The error of divine certainty] "The architect of grand apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, a Dutch-born ideological fanatic, cast himself in the role of a leader chosen by God. 'I do not have the nagging doubt of ever wondering whether perhaps I am wrong.'" (p. 178)

"...a Methodist bishop, Abel Muzorewa, warned of the deep undercurrents of bitterness rising among the African population, 'the repressed fear, restless silence, forced tolerance and hidden hatred'." [The ruling leader, Smith, respondid with further repression] (p. 321)

"In sum, what the [World] Bank advocated was political liberalisation. Economic success, it maintained, depended to a large degree on effictive and honest government, the rule of law, open economies and policital democracy....."People need freedom to realise individual and collective potential...I fear that many of Africa's political leaders have been more concerned about retaining power than about the long-term development interests of their people. The cost to milions of Africans...has been unforgivably high.[Barber Conable]" (p. 376-377)

[Pastoral letter, eight Catholic bishops of Malawi on Banda's dictatorship  in Malawi ] "...This is most regrettable. It creates an atmosphere of resentment among the citizens. It breeds a climate of mistrust and fear. This fear of harassment and mutual suspicion generates a society in which the talents of many lie unused and in which there is little room for initiative.[Banda responded by declaring the letter to be a seditious document. Riots and violence followed] (p. 407-408)

[Frederick Chiluba at his inauguration] "The Zambia we inherit is destitute - ravaged by the excesses, ineptitutde and straight corruption of a party and a people who have been in power for too long. When our first president stood up to address you twenty-seven years ago, he was addressing a country full of hope and glory. A country fresh with the power of youth , and a full and rich dowry. Now the coffers are empty. The people are poor. The misery is endless." (p. 411)

[Angola in 1992] "Overall there was widespread relief at the respite from war, but scepticism about wheter it would last. 'Will it be like 1975?' a market trader asked. 'It is not the people who make war, but the leaders.'" (p. 605)

[Mandela at the opening of the secont session of parliament, South Africa, 1995] "The government literally does not have the money to meet the demands that are being advanced. Mass action of any kind will not create resources the government does not have. All of us must rid ourselves of the wrong notion that the government has a big bag full of money. The government does not have such riches. We must rid ourselves of the culture of entitelement which leads to the expectation that the government must promptly deliver whatever it is we demand." (p. 651)

[The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on the African National Congress (ANC's) claims of self-exoneration as a 'just war' on aparteid] "A gross violation is a gross violation, whoever commits it and for whatever reason. There is thus legal equavalence between all perpetrators. Their political affiliation is irrelevant." (p. 657)

[Archbishop Tutu on the dangers of a new tyranny in South Africa] "We can't assume that yesterday's oppressed will not become tomorrow's oppressors. We have seen it happen all over the world, and we shouldn't be surprised if it happens here." (p. 659)

[Mandela nearing retirement] "I am nearing my end", he told Afrikaner students. "I want to be able to sleep till eternity with a broad smile on my face, knowing that youth, opinion-makers and everybody is stretching the divide, trying to unite the nation. HIs legacy was a country which had experienced greater harmony than at any previous time in its history. (p. 664)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Open Data and the Information Manager

The 1995 movie, "Lorenzo's Oil" tells the true story of a father who desperately searched for a cure for his son's (Lorenzo) terminal disease, Adrenoleucodystrophy (ALD). At the time, sufferers did not live past five years. Augusto Odone scoured the local medical library for answers and sponsored a medical conference to bring together experts in the field. It was at the conference that he first found a glimmer of hope. An oil - oleic acid - was able to destroy long string fatty acids, Lorenzo's Oil. Young Lorenzo lived in to his thirties, passing away in 2008. The oil is used to treat asymptomatic boys with ALD and has been shown to prevent the disease from taking hold.

For the sake of my topic, I'm focusing on the value of bringing together experts and information. I'll discuss the value of privacy controls another day. With the advent of the internet, we have even greater opportunities to share discoveries. Hence, the open science data movement.

The idea is to freely share without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The internet by design fosters sharing. Ever since it's explosion, however, controls have been developed to prevent unauthorized disclosure. When it comes to my personal banking information, I fully agree. But it could be argued that these restrictions do not fit well where we can benefit from free and open sharing of information.

"Numerous scientists have pointed out the irony that right at the historical moment when we have the technologies to permit worldwide availability and distributed process of scientific data, broadening collaboration and accelerating the pace and depth of discovery…..we are busy locking up that data and preventing the use of correspondingly advanced technologies on knowledge [1]

Here is open scientific data that I have sourced in th epast:

African Plant Database: (learning more about my beloved sprouting Gazania)
The database currently comprises 1,86,948 names of african plants with their nomenclatural statuts. Data capture, edition and broadcast are the product of a collaboration between the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève, Tela Botanica and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

 ...trusted digital archive of over one thousand academic journals and other scholarly content. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship...

In other realms, we have Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg saying that privacy is "no longer a social norm" and a movement for open data of government information. I think it is no accident that is is the data community pushing for these reforms. These are the master-chefs of information, itching make new use of these rich sources. To be clear, open data is far more than publishing reports and final results. These new data-chefs want access to the raw data to manipulate and present in new forms.

Here in Canada, the open data movement has sponsored Change Camps and convinced the City of Vancouver to provide open data. It was at a Change Camp here in Edmonton that I was first made aware of the Open Data movement. The City of Edmonton provides raw transit information to google, for instance. Mobile Edmonton travellers can now plan routes through google. There are American examples how new open data applications are improving government. Microsoft has sponsored a competition to find new uses of Vancouver's data, like Vantrash to help users schedule and track their trash days.

An additional benefit of open data is to improve openness and transparency of government activities to the public. Where there is openness there is trust. For instance, I found an online air quality index for a neighbour concerned about a bad smell. I follow the blogs of Paul Levy, former CEO of a Boston Hospital and advocate for transparency of clinical outomes,. The Japanese government has taken some criticism this week for not being more forthcoming on developments at the failing nuclear plant. Open, honest and timely information reduces public anxiety.

Organizations are meeting he challenge of open data without infringing on rights. The international Open Data Commons has developed a set of licensing standards that an author can cite to protect their interests while providing free and open use of their data. The Commons has also provided definitions and principles to guide the open data movement:

"The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) sets out principles to define ‘openness’ in knowledge – that’s any kind of content or data ‘from sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata’. The definition can be summed up in the statement that “A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike.”

Why bother about openness and licensing for data? After all they don’t matter in themselves: what we really care about are things like the progress of human knowledge or the freedom to understand and share.

However, open data is crucial to progress on these more fundamental items. It’s crucial because open data is so much easier to break-up and recombine, to use and reuse. We therefore want people to have incentives to make their data open and for open data to be easily usable and reusable — i.e. for open data to form a ‘commons’."

The Open Data Commons gives a special mention to government data:
"Open government data and content is material that is:
  • “Open” as defined by this site’s Open Definition– in essence material (data) is open if it can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone.
  • Produced or commissioned by government or government controlled entities."
In 2007, American advocates have developed eight principles of Open Government, and here in Canada, Open Data proponents are calling for the resolution of issues around licensing. In the realm familiar to Information Managers, the eighth principle of GARP is Transparency (A counterbalance to the third Principle of Protection).

In Alberta, the principle of open government is balanced against the citizen's right to privacy in the FOIP Act [2]. Most people are familiar with their privacy rights in this legislation, but the Act also allows open access to government information (sections 2 and 6)

"The purposes of this Act allow any person a right of access to the records in the custody or under the control of a public body subject to limited and specific exceptions as set out in this Act... An applicant has a right of access to any record in the custody or under the control of a public body, including a record containing personal information about the applicant."

Our Information and Privacy Commissioner has spoken of openness and transparency during Right to Know week. At a seminar that same week, the City of Edmonton spoke of the benefits of routinely disclosing public information. Our snow removal crews took a big hit this winter, but I found their online schedule and status updates did a lot to relieve my concerns. I had a bet going with my husband if our "arterial" would be cleared by deadline, and it was.

So there you have it. For oppenness in information as mundane as trash days, to clinical outcomes in our health care systems, open data fosters collaboration, informs in new ways, and builds trust. As an information manager, keep an eye out for data sets of information that is already routinely disclosed in other formats. Introduce the principles of open data to your clients, and give examples how open data can improve transparency for their organization.

[1] John Wilbanks, Executive Director, Science Commons
[2] Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Alberta, F-25)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tagging Touches Records Management

On February 16, our local chapter of ARMA hosted Chris Izquierdo of DevFacto to speak about folksonomy vs taxonomy . A good argument was made to hand the reins of classification over to the users (folksonomy) with perhaps some controls in the background (taxonomy). When it was all over, a friend turned to me and asked, "What is tagging?" Goodness, I realized. I've been playing around with the internet for so long, I've forgotten that these concepts are new to some. Tagging works great with electronic documents and is virtually impossible to replicate in the paper world. So let's spend a few moments finding out what tags are and how they can help classify and search for our electronic records.

Tag has many definitions, and most have to do with adding more information to
an object. The tag on my new headband gives me information about the manufacturer. In the past, when a user sent records to file, they may add a file number to the corner. The user was restricted to the classification plan. The file number is a sort of tag, but it is limited in scope.

On an internet form, however, a as many tags as needed can be attached to a document to help the user sort their entries, and readers find what they are looking for. This blog, for instance, offers tags in the field marked "Labels:" and shows up on the bottom of my post. The software remembers what tags I have used in the past, so as I start typing, it offers me choices based on past use. Over time the tagging becomes ever more consistent to the way I classify things.

I tag my posted recipes, too. The site offers sort and search on my tags, offering new ways to find and manage my recipes.

Tagging photos is a huge hit. Flicr was a pioneer of photo tagging in
 2004, but we can now tag on virtually all digital photo sites including Picasa and Facebook. Internet software is now sophisticated enough to recognized faces on a photo, and will often prompt the user to tag the person. I can now search for all photos that contain the tagged face of a friend or loved-one.

Besides personal tagging, there are tag cloud generators that automatically build graphical representations of your tags. The good generators should highlight by significance (i.e. tags with greatest weight are bigger). There are free tag generators available. I regularly generate a tag cloud of my blog. Every word is a link to the source that the reader can follow.  Try it out for yourself.

So how does this change the Records Management world? Internet savvy users may demand the option to tag their documents for later retrieval. Tags (keywords) can be added as optional metadata entries in Electronic Records Management applications. In the future, tagging might replace formal taxonomies as the primary cataloguer of electronic records. You may offer new search options by offering tag clouds of frequently searched content.
The classic paper file manual, a true brick, able to stop a steel door in it's tracks, might soon be a relic. But people are still driven to classify and organize. We have the opportunity, as RIM professionals, to offer new ways to look and search; to guide our users on how to tag records for easy retrieval, and to show off our information in new ways. In the future it won't be just the linear thinkers who rule the day; our visuals and creatives have the opportunity to find what they need, their way, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 10 - Freezing and Unfreezing Records

The term "freezing" records is used by the US Department of Defence (DOD) to refer to the practice of putting routine disposals on hold for specific reasons. The holds most of us are familiar with is if an organization is involved in litigation or discovery. The court will order that certain records and files be maintained so that they may be accessible during discovery.

E-discovery is becoming a huge side-business in the RIM world, as it can become complex and expensive. From the point of view of the litigant, e-records can be a fruiftul source of candid and embarrassing revelations of corporate intent. Very often the costs of e-discovery outstrips the cost of settling, because e-records today are often unmanaged, unorganized, un-indexed. A business can reduce potential e-discovery costs by managing their e-records as stringently as they have historically managed their paper records. Records (electronic or not) should be routinely destroyed according to the approved schedule.

Anyways, back to freezing and unfreezing. A business manager should be able to put a freeze on a document or record that could potentially be part of a known lawsuit. In addition, Freedom of Information Request in the public sector impose a "freeze" on records requested by the public. The test today is to see if a freeze can be placed, and if so, will it prevent the disposal of the record?

To conduct this test, I created two new categories with corresponding folders, and put several files under each folder. I declared all documents as records, then froze one document in each folder.

Alfresco prompted me to state a reason for the freeze.

The result is that I could not cut-off or destroy the folder while a freeze was in place. Alfresco simply removed the icons from my use. I was given the option, when a folder contained a frozen document, to freeze the entire folder. Alfresco allows the user to freeze a record, folder, or entire category.

The freeze icon was replaced by an unfreeze icon.

When I unfroze the records, icons reappared allowing me to cut-off and destroy the record.

I rate this test an enthusiastic PASS

Records Manager
  • Freezing and unfreezing will be effecive only as much as the user base is aware of its' use.
  • Rather than depending on business users to identify related records at time of disposal, freezes allow you the flexibility to apply when known. This should prevent inadvertent disposals.
  • I suggest you prepare a list of existing freezes and confirm with business users that the related documents are protected from disposal.
Business User
  • Besides your obligation to make the records available for a litigation or freedom of information request, remember to put the disposal on hold, or frozen.
  • Use your RIM professional for advice and support during e-discovery, and involve them early.
It would be great to have a drop-down field for "reason for freeze", to control language and allow reports separated out by freeze reason. For instance, a large litigation hold could affect ranges and records and if the reason is all described the same, it is simpler to lift the freeze when litigation is resolved.

Testing DOD 5015.2 Features C2., C2., relating to the GARP principle of Retention.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 9 - Schedule implementation up to disposal

Today's test will be much like day 8 because yesterday I just couldn't help checking out how well Alfresco implements schedule instructions. I am limited by the cloud, due to it's 24 hour access limit, to test immediate disposal only.

We have a habit in the industry to create complex scheduling rules and I am eager to find out if Alfresco can handle them. There is a trend in the industry, by the way, to simplify scheduling rules so that systems can interpret our instructions.

I like the way Alfresco has interpreted the complex world of scheduling.
  • Cut-off is what starts every scheduling event. The concept of cut-off is part of the DOD standard.
  • The cut-off date is the signal for the system to begin counting down the retention of the record.
  • Automatic cut-off is date based; either monthly, qarterly, by year or fiscal year.
  • Event based cut-off requires manual intervention. Several events are built in to Alfresco and include all on the screen print below.

  • Multiple events can be added to a single file, and I can also set if all events must occur, or the earliest event to start cut-off.

  • After the cut-off is set, any number of intermediate steps can be added. For instance, transfer of paper records to a semi-active facility. Similarly in an electronic world, it could be possible to schedule archiving steps. ( I can't test how Alfresco handles content in multiple repositories).

  • I added a series/category/folder
  • I managed the permissions for all three to include my user ID.
  • I added scheduling steps, cut-off at the end of the year from publication date, then immediately destroy.

  • I then uploaded content, added the mandatory metadata for a few files, then declared the records, all with retroactive publication dates of December 14, 2010.
  • When I took care that I had viewing rights, the declared record did not disappear as before. Success!
  • I was expecting with a retroactive publication date for all contents the folder would update, showing it was ready for cut-off immediately. It did not.
  • I was able, however, to manually "Edit Disposition Date". This I did.
  • After editing the disposition date, I was able to cut-off the folder and then "destroy" it, as tested yesterday. Again, I was given two warning messages before destroy. The icon for the folder changed, and the content is gone.
I rate this test a PASS

Records Manager
  • Note that all subesquent steps are calculated from the cut-off date. If you are used to a schedule that says for instance, "Onsite for two years, then five years onsite, Destroy", the steps could be recorded as "1. Cutoff end of calendar year, 2. 2 years from cutoff, offsite, 3. 7 years from cutoff, destroy."
  • Alfresco appears able to handle complex scheduling requirements, multiple events, multiple steps.
Business User
  • As noted yesterday, if scheduling steps are working well, they should be fairly invisible to the regular user.
  • You would become aware of the scheduling rules if you request a file that has been destroyed. Your best assurance at that time would be to review the schedule and confirm that the record was destroyed on time, as authorized.
  • If you are ever asked for input on cut-off requirements, avoid event driven cut-off as much as possible, as they nearly all require manual intervention. Manual intervention equates to time-intensive management. Imagine receiving quarterly or annually a list of your folders, asking which can now be closed, or cut-off?

In an effort to simplify disposition actions, future schedule instructions may calculate retentkion from creation or "last modified" date. These may need to be added as cut-off conditions.

Testing DOD 5015.2 Features C2.2.2.7, C2., relating to GARP principle of Retention.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 8 - Create and Edit Schedule

Completing disposition actions on electronic records is the final piece of the RIM puzzle. Regularly disposing of business records that have completed their useful and regulatory life accomplishes several things:
  • It reduces clutter in the system by removing obsolete material, making current records easier to find.
  • It extends the life of your assets (software and hardware) by managing the growth of the system.
  • It reduces risk to the organization by trimming the volume of records that may be available for discovery as a result of a lawsuit. Costs for e-discovery can be prohibitive, and costs increase, the more unmanaged information you have.
To test the create and edit feature:
  • I edited an existing category, changing disposal to "immediate".
  • I added a folder, added content, then changed the status of the folder to "cut-off".

  • I "destroyed" the folder. At this point, it still showed up as a nub on the Alfresco site, but the content was gone.
  • Note that you will be given two confirmation notices before Alfresco will destroy.

  • I then deleted the folder. After deletion, the folder no longer shows up on Alfresco, but the history of the deletion is maintained on the Audit log.

  • When created my own series and categories with associated schedule information, the documents I added to them disappeared after I declared them records. I will trouble shoot this tomorrow. (Edited to add - I solved the problem of the disapparing records. If I did not manage permissions to include myself, declared records disappeared from view. They were there, I just didn't have permission to see them)
The steps for adding and modifying schedule steps are laid out in the Alfresco Wiki, "Setting up a Disposition Schedule".

I rate this test as a PASS

Records Manager
  • Folders must be cut-off before disposition action can occur. Usually retention starts from the cut-off date.
  • As a consequence, the schedule instructions for any category will have a minimum of two steps.
  • Alfresco guides you through this process by forcing the first step to be either "retain" or "cut-off"

  • I noted that a step cannot be deleted once created.

Business User
  • Most of the disposition activity will work in the background so you don't need to be actively involved in the process...unless you want to.
  • If a schedule has not been developed for your area, a RIM professional may ask for your input on how long you need your records for business purposes (be reasonable; pick something shorter than forever, and longer than "now").
  • Note that your preferred retention may be overriden by legislative requirements.
  • If your unit is affected by impending litigation, any disposition activity is suspended, or "frozen". There is a "freeze" feature in Alfresco that I will test on day ten.
  • I need the ability to delete a step in the scheduling process after it has been saved.
  • When created my own series and categories, the documents I added to them disappeared after I declared them records. I will trouble shoot this tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 7 - Authorizations - only authorized individuals can view portions, edit file plan and schedule

Today I test the authorization features of Alfresco, where users are given access based on their role. There's an instructional video in the Wiki under "Alfresco Records Management Administration Console", which I recommend to anyone with the Administrator role. In addition, "Try - Create Record Categories, Set Security and Configure Disposition Schedules" shows how to grant access to a category.

Individual series, categories, and folders can be configured to limit access. This allows business users to post their record content with the assurance that only those authorised can access the record. Here are the roles out of the box:

As a "Compliance Trial User" in the Alfresco cloud, I do not have access to the "Management Console"

  • I set up a new series and added permissions.

  • I added a new category under the series and gave a different permission to the category. I wanted to test what a user would view if they were NOT added to the series, but were added to the Category. I gave this user "Read and File priveleges".
  • When I opened the folder, I found the user had been given the same access rights as the parent category. This is good; it will save a lot of administrative time.
  • As a test user, I am not able to check if the users given their various access rights indeed only see what they are supposed to.

I rate this test as a conditional PASS
With my access rights, I am not able to test all access controls. The "Manage Permissions" feature was where I expected it to be and it performed as expected. It appears also that the Permission choices I am given are dependent on the role that is identified with the user.

Records Manager
  • If you have more than a hundred potential users, I recommend that access groups be set up to reduce the labour required to administer permissions (i.e. Science Faculty Group, Administrative Support Group, Human Resources Group).
  • I say potential users, because even if you roll out Alfresco to a pilot group at first, organization wide implementation may quickly follow and you don't want to be caught flat-footed.
Business User
  • Establishing access rights (permissions) lets you control who sees what, and who contributes where. 
  • Be prepared to list the initial categories/folders and the access rights required in your group and across the organization.
  • Controlling who has reading rights releases you to open files to viewing that can't be tampered with.
  • There are records that have corporate-wide value, so consider what folders you would grant read access across the business. 
  • Setting the controls and access in a structured system like this can reduce duplication and copying while improving security. Instead of sending a copy of a document on an unsecured e-mail system, you can provide a link. (The link is shown under the "Share" properties of every record.) The receiver must have the appropriate permissions, ID and password to access the document.
I tested compliance to features
  • DOD 5015.2 C2.2.1.1 to C2.2.1.6, C2.2.2.1, C2.2.8.1, C2.2.8.5
  • MoReq 3.1.4. 3.1.25, 3.3.6 , 3.3.7, 3.3.15, 3.3.16, 3.4.1, 3.4.2, 3.4.3, 3.4.4, 3.4.6, 3.4.18, 3.4.19, 4.1.2 , 4.1.3 , 4.1.4 , 4.1., 4.1.10, 4.1.11, 4.1.12, 4.1.13, 4.1.14, 4.1.17, 4.1.18, 4.1.19, 4.1.20
  • and relates to the GARP principle of Integrity.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 6 - Searching and Retrieving

Today I tested Alfresco's search capabilities, including wildcard and boolean searches. These extended search capabilities are especiallly important for long or inconsistent record file names. Every file plan succeeds or fails on the strength of it's search ability. Trust of the system is dependent on the user knowing that when they transfer their record to our repository, they can find it again.
Wildcards allow you to replace a character or string with a replacement wildcard. For example, if I were looking for the "New York Giants Football Club", but was uncertain if the full title was given, I might try "N*Club" to catch "NY" and records with or without "Giants" or "Football".

Boolean web searches use AND, OR, and NOT. A memorable boolean search I attempted a few years ago was for a friend who wanted to open an online antique teacup store. After my first steamy hits on google, I narrowed the search to "buttercup NOT sex". What is it about buttercups and babes? I don't get it.
Anyways, back to testing. I created a few files and downloaded my thirty-nine test documents in to these three files. I then searched for the title, using the complete title and portions only.

After several days of effort, I discovered that I had failed to give myself access to the records I created! When I updated the permissions to the folder, my searches worked.

This is a search for any folders with the title, "Agreement:, and here is the result:

Using a wild card (*) for the title "Contract" worked as I expected, finding me more records.
I rate this test as a conditional PASS
I am still testing Alfresco's ability to conduct boolean searches.

Records Manager
The search feature appears robust, allowing us to narrow the search to any metadata element we've collected.

  • In addition, the search results can be customized to show us the elements we want to see, and in the order we want to see them.
  • Successful searches can be saved and re-used. This allows us the flexibility to build reports as needed to perform RIM functions (such as folders due for review or disposal) without having to customize Alfresco, or start an IT ticket for a custom report.
  • Note that depending on the permissions set-up, different users will obtain different results based on their rights. A user without permission will not even receive notice that the record exists. This is good.
Business User
  • Insist on a product with great search features. Test it out for yourself.
  • Test your own system regularly and follow up for the cause for any failed searches. 
  • The ability to find what you need is critical to the trust of any repository.
  • Add help screens to describe wildcard and boolean searches.

DOD 5015.2 Features C2. to C2., relating to the GARP principle 5, Availability.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 5 - Destroying

On this day of testing I am checking the destroy feature. Can I delete/destroy a record that does not allow reconstruction? This checks the integrity of the system.

To test delete and destroy, I created a new category with a disposal conditions of Immediate after Cut-off event. I added a few documents, then recorded the cut-off event.

The folder and it's contents did not immediately delete; not what I expected. I'll test more when I get to the scheduling stage. Below is a list of "events" for that folder, which includes the cut-off.

I then simply selected the "Delete" feature for the folder, and it immediately disappeared from the File Plan. All the "child" documents similarly disappeared. However, when I checked the audit log, the creation and deletion of the file was recorded. This is good. An ECM system should record all events, including deletions, as long as the contents are not maintained.

I rate this test as a PASS

Records Manager
  • Cut-off is the first step in conducting disposition actions in the DOD standard. See the definition of cut-off under notes, below.
  • When a parent folder is deleted, the child documents/records are deleted as well.
  • The folder is completely removed from the file plan, but the audit log remains. This is good.
Business User
  • Delete works, and destroyed is truly gone.
  • The history of creation and deletion is retained, however, and this is good. 

This is a test of DOD feature C2., Relating to GARP Section 2, Integrity.

Definition of Cut-Off: DL1.28. Cutoff. To cut off records in a file means to break, or end, the record at regular intervals to permit disposal or transfer in complete blocks and, for correspondence files, to permit the establishment of new files. Cutoffs are needed before disposition instructions can be applied because retention periods usually begin with the cutoff, not with the creation or receipt, of the records. In other words, the retention period normally does not start until the records have been cut off. Cutoffs involve ending input to old files and starting input to new ones at regular intervals (Reference (f)). Cutoff is sometimes abbreviated as COFF and is also called file cutoff or file break.

Alfresco Test Day 4 - Transferring - documentation of transfer activities

Today I am testing the feature allowing documentation of transfer activities in an electronic format that can be saved as a record. This feature is important as it provides an automated audit trail of movements, and relates to the Generally Accepted Record Keeping Principles (GARP) of Complaince and Integrity.

If a record were ever transferred for inappropriate reasons (unathorized disposal of a valued or controversial record), this audit trail should identify who, where, and when it was transferred.

I created two folders under different categories, downloaded multiple documents to one folder, then used the "Copy to...", "Move to..." and "File to..." actions to move several documents to the other folder. I then viewed the audit log for the copied document.

Both times I tried to copy, my initial attempt failed, but worked on second try. I was unable to successfully Move a document. Below is the error message I received. There must be a bug in the system and I will be forwarding this problem to the Alfresco community page for a fix. I'll update this page if it gets worked out.

I rate this test as a conditoinal PASS
The "Move to..." action failed. However, the audit logs tracked all changes and was available to view and print, as required.

Records Manager
  • There are audit logs for Series, Category, Folder, and Document. Here is as sample audit log for a document.

  • The audit log at the category level, the first row describes the current metadata for the category. Below that, all moves, adds and changes, including added folders, and action to all folders, is recorded. This would be a useful report showing folder activity.
  • The audit log at the folder level, similarly the first row describes the current metadata for the file. Below that, all moves, adds and changes, including added documents (records) is recorded.
  • The audit log at the document (record) level shows all changes to the document.
Business User
  • "Copy to.." and "File to..." allow you to copy your document to a different folder. Every time I tried this, I had to do the action twice to get past the fail.
  • "Move to..." failed every time I tried it. I will report this bug to the developers. 
  • Thankfully the audit log function is for your reassurance only. Your Records and Information Management professionals are responsible to monitor the logs for complaince.

  • The "Move to..." activity fails, that must be fixed.
  • I would like to see a new summary audit log of all activity (for a specified time period) including series, category, folder, and document. The columns might be: Time stamp,Unique Record Identifer, level (Series, Category, Folder, or Document),  Type of change, and User. The Records Manager then could then scan the list for audit checks and reference the Unique Record Identifier for details.
  • I noted that a copied record did not track it's source as a "previous value". This reduces the value of the audit log as there is no way to track back copies to their original source.

Checking standard DOD 5015.2, Feature C2., C2., C2.2.9.1 and MoReq 3.4.15, 3.4.16, 3.4.29, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.4, 4.2.6, 4.2.8, 4.2.9, 4.2.10, 4.2.11. Relates to GARP Compliance, Integrity.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 3 - Transfer Record Elements - Parse metadata elements from ingested data using GUI

Today I chose to review the feature to "Parse metadata elements from ingested data using Graphical User Interface (GUI)." What this rather awkward sentence is trying to say, is that metadata should transfer along with the document. Alfresco should recognize metadata and put it where it belongs (parse). GUI simply means as users we have an easy to use entry screen. While I was at it, I also checked if additional metadata from e-mail messages transfers (date received, addressee, other addressee)". My special interest in these features is to confirm that source metadata transfers seamlessly, in the hope that we can reduce or eliminate the need for human intervention.

For this test, I manually updated the metadata of a word document and uploaded it to a folder. I also uploaded an HTML and MSG format e-mail to see if their additional metadata elements transferred.

The updated metadata element, author, did transfer; the metadata element for "Company" did not. The additional HTML and MSG metadata elements did not transfer either.

The metadata elements that do transfer are Name, Title, Author, Creation Date, Size and Mimetype. I notice in the Wiki instruction, "Records Management Administration Console", that the Administrator has the power to map metadata elements from E-mail to Alfresco, and also allows for "drag and drop" of e-mail in to Alfresco. Though I cannot test this, I suggest that it be an important feature to be reviewed at initial set up, with all mandatory metadata elements mapped.

I rate this test as a bare PASS
It looks like it is possible to map automated transfer of metadata elements, but it is unavailable to test in the cloud.

Records Manager
  • Warn your users that the current Alfresco requires some manual intervention to populate mandatory metadata elements.
  • Talk to IT about bulk populating the documents in your system; for instance, Originating Organization with your business name. This should be possible as the opportunity to bulk populate is listed in the DOD standard (C2.
Business User
You can view the metadata elements of your Word 2010 document at any time under File>Info. Microsoft calls the metadata elements "properties".

Build additional links between the metadata elements of documents and Alfresco; for instance,
  • Company to Originating Organization
  • Author to Author AND Originator
  • E-mail, Correspondence - Date Received, Addressee, and Other Addressee.
This should be done at setup, but I can't test in the cloud. The Wiki tutorial describes mapping elements from IMAP e-mail clients.

DOD 5015.2, C. and C5.1.6 for parsing metadata elements from ingested documents.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Alfresco Test Day 2 - Declare a Record

This is day two of a ten day trial of Alfresco RM, the next step to a paperless office by allowing you to file  records so that your electronic record is authentic and defensible. Today I am testing the "Declare a Record" feature, which includes uploading documents in to folders, updating mandatory metadata, and declaring (or publishing) the record.

The act of declaring the record flips the switch to authenticity. You are declaring, "On this day, this is what is said, by me." (Who, What, When).

I tested uploads in the following formats:

Graphic Interchange Format Image (GIF)
HyperText Markup Language document (e-mail) (HTML)
Joint Photographic Experts Group Image (JPEG)
Microsoft Excel (XLX)
Microsoft Power Point (PPT, PPTX)
Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
Outlook Item (e-mail) (MSG)
Portable Document Format Document (PDF)
Portable Network Graphics Image (PNG)
Text Document (saved e-mail) (TXT)

The upload feature worked beautifully until I tried mixing Outlook and HTML formats with other types. The upload did not show as being completed, but the documents did load after a couple tries. (On subsequent days I had no problems uploading or mixing types). The Outlook format MSG did upload but is not readable within Alfresco. When I downloaded, however, the current version of Outlook opened the document for me. The MSG format fails the authenticity test, as the document must be readable for the lifetime of the record and cannot be dependent on outside software.

I then added mandatory metadata fields for selected records, and declared them. Note the updated documentation for a declared record.

Another test of authenticity is to check if a declared record can be subesquently changed or overwritten. Alfresco does allow me to download and modify a declared record. If I try to upload the modified document under the same name, however, Alfresco modifies the title (i.e. DeclaredRecord.doc and new DeclaredRecord-1.doc). When I tried to modify the title to overwrite the declared record, I was given an error message, below (red text mine). This is good.

I rate this test as a PASS

Records Manager
Work with your IT support to confirm that all users are identified on the system (full name and originating document) to support autofill of mandatory fields. Here are the mandatory fields. Originator, Originating Organization, Date, Publication Date, Name of Document, and Title of Document. Some of these fields are autofilled by Alfresco from the source document.

If your project includes any significant scanning, make sure your scanning process includes capture of the mandatory record characteristics: Originator, Originating Organization, Date, Publication Date, Name of Document, and Title of Document.

Posting of e-mail as records is cumbersome, turning a three-step process in to four steps (save as HTML to shared drive, upload, add metadata, declare).
  • I first saved an e-mail on to my drive in HTML format then uploaded it. The HTML appeared to fail but it uploaded anyways.
  • The Outlook format (msg) fails the authenticity test as it is software-dependent (Outlook)
  • The (txt) format fails the authenticity test as all formatting is lost.
I notice in the Wiki instruction, "Records Management Administration Console", that the Administrator has the power to map metadata elements from E-mail to Alfresco, and also allows for "drag and drop" of e-mail in to Alfresco. Though I cannot test this feature, I suggest that it be an important feature to be reviewed at initial set up, with all mandatory metadata elements mapped.

Because the RM product distinguishes declared records from drafts/copies, I recommend that you do not set up the Records Management module for drafts and working papers. Rather, use Alfresco Document Management (DM) or Collaboration (Share). If users require structure to manage your working documents, create a similar structure to your RM in DM or Share.

I estimate perhaps 5% of total unstructure documents maintained by a system (e-mail, shared drive) would need to be declared a records in RM. An exception to this would be transactional and case activities such as applications and client records, where nearly all documents created would end up as records.
  • If an organization adopted the tight ISO 15489 definition of a record (evidence of a business transaction);
  • Publishes Records and Information Management (RIM) policy including the role of every employee to identify and declare their records to the file plan;
  • Instructs every employee on their obligation to declare business records (evidence of work completed, decisions made, commitments);
  • Audits the RM system for compliance, following up where gaps are found;
  • THEN the organization can make a strong argument, if ever involved in e-discovery, that scrutiny be limited to the official record only (5% of total documents held). Draft, informal, reference, and incomplete information, with potentially inconsistent or embarrassing content, would be excluded from prying eyes.
This managed use of the RM system could be very good for the organization, making RM achievable again.

Business User
From within a file folder, uploading a document and declaring it as a record is a three step process:
  1. Upload: Click "File" from your top bar. You are prompted; "Are you filing an electronic or paper record?" Select electronic.Click on the button "Files to Upload" and browse to the location to upload files. Select by double clicking, and when you have all your files selected, click OK.
  2. Add Metadata: Your documents are now loaded in the folder, "Undeclared Record". You may have the option to "Declare as Record", but most likely you will need to add metadata first. Click on the "Add Metadata" option on the right of the document, add all mandatory fields (starred), and Save.
  3. Declare Record: Click on the "Declare Record" option on the right of the document. You will notice that the yellow "Undeclared Record" warning is removed, and date filed, publication, and originators are all recorded.

The advantage of declaring a record:
  • You can distinguish the original, official, or "master" record from drafts.
  • You always know where your original is.
  • Declared records help you manage all your commitments, evidence of work promised and done.
  • If ever challenged through litigation, you could argue that discovery be limited to your official record repository, reducing risk and cost to your organization. (This could only be argued if you can produce evidence that declaring records is the stated and followed process for all records in your organization).
I am compelled to list these advantages because this three-step process is cumbersome. There are too many mandatory fields to be entered manually. This is not the fault of the developer; these are all mandatory entries as identified by the DOD and Dublin Core standards to confirm and maintain the authenticity of the record  (see notes below). A solution would be to build intelligence in to the software to autofill these mandatory fields.

Because of this distinguishing of declared records and drafts/copies, I recommend that you do not file drafts and working papers from your unmanaged content (shared drives and e-mail) in the Records Management module. Rather, use Alfresco Document Management (DM) or Collaboration (Share). If you need structure to manage your working documents, create a similar structure to your RM in DM or Share.

The manual entering of mandatory metadata elements is cumbersome.
  • I see that Title autofills with the Name, with the option to ovveride. This is good.
  • Wherever possible, the system should autofill mandatory elements. Publication Date, for instance, could default to the current date (with the user having the option to override).
  • Can we tighten up the metadata page to one screen?
  • Put "Declare as Record" button at the bottom of the Metadata entry screen to eliminate a step.
  • Does the enterprise version allow for drag-and-drop? This would be especially useful for e-mail.

Can a declared record be modified or overwritten? DOD 5015.2, C2.2.3.7.
Dublin Core for Metadata, cross referenced to DOD 5015.2  and Alfresco field names as listed below.

DOD 5015.2Dublin CoreAlfresco Field
C2.T3.5contributor, creator, publisherOriginator (mandatory)
C2.T3.6contributorOriginating Organization (mandatory)
C2.T3.4datePublication Date (mandatory)
C2.T3.2subject, titleName, Title (mandatory)
C2.T3.1identifierUnique Record Identifier (mandatory)
C2.T3.10dateDate Received
C2.T3.9format [MIME]Format
C2.T3.8typeMimetype, Media Type
C2.T3.12relationOther Addressees
C2.T3.7Supplemental Marking List