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Archiver > APG > 2009-03 > 1238118190

From: "Peggy K. Reeves" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Footnote.com Speed
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2009 21:43:10 -0400
References: <c27.59939641.36fc7cf4@aol.com> <49CB8E55.20105@reevesweb.com><49CBE1FA.6060502@reevesweb.com><966694.1525.qm@web36107.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
In-Reply-To: <966694.1525.qm@web36107.mail.mud.yahoo.com>


People, whether professionals or not, are all affected by advertising,
whether we admit it or not. If we hear something enough times and from
enough people, we tend to accept it as truth. This is why deceptive
advertising is so effective.

In the NARA press release that you gave a link to, it does not say that
"the entire record set" will be digitized in five years. You read it
that way, because you have been uh...(quick, find a different word that
doesn't set people off...), you have been "taken in" by the misleading
spin, and the further word-of-mouth spread of this kind of wishful
thinking...and you have repeated it. You're not the first, and you
won't be the last. It's an easy mistake to make.

The press release is about the contract with NARA. The contract is for
the digitization of 3,150 files. The five years refers to this
particular contract. It can't refer to anything else, because the rest
of the 1,280,000 files aren't under contract as of yet for anyone to
digitize them. Yes, it is NARA's intention to digitize all 1,280,000,
but footnote may or may not get the contract. Under the terms of this
particular contract for the first 3,150, footnote can make money selling
the images for five years. After that, the images will be made
available to everyone for free through the NARA website. Again, the
details of this contract are available online, and the link was posted
on this list some time ago.

I do not wager, but I hope we can still be friendly after I revisit the
ridiculous math...

Presently, there are two full time people manning the camera at NARA
pretty much 9 to 5, doing the digitizing of these 3,150 files at NARA.
Based on the "31% complete" tag at the footnote site, these two people
are going at a rate of about 200 files per month, or 100 files per
person per month. In order to complete 1,280,000 files in 5 years (60
months), you would need to digitize at a rate of 21,333 files per
month. To do that at a rate of 100 files per person per month, you
would need 213 people working 9-5, and a LOT more cameras, but that
isn't all...

Microfilm is reproducible and portable, and it isn't too difficult to
get an army of people working on the project. The databases made from
NARA microfilm come on board rather quickly. But this contract involves
scanning from original old documents, and that is a LOT different. NARA
staff need to get the documents ready for digitization. Some documents
have small rusted metal rivets to hold several pieces of paper together
(before the days of staples). These need to be carefully removed so as
not to destroy the document. Other documents have seals on them that
attach ribbons in two places, and these need to be removed. Some
documents are glued together at the corners or elsewhere else with some
kind of prehistoric red glue. NARA staff have to remove all of this
stuff to prep the documents. Some are torn in pieces and need to be put
together like a puzzle in a mylar sheet. While you might find 213
people to do the indexing and filming, you can only go as fast as NARA
staff can keep up. Also, you would need space at NARA for that many
people to work. Original documents do not leave the premises. Setting
up that many people and that much equipment on the premises is just not
feasible, since NARA already has space issues. The other way to get all
of those files scanned more quickly is if a lot of them get skipped over
and fudged, and let everyone assume that the database is "complete".
This, unfortunately, has been done before--accepted and defended (but
not by me).

Peggy Reeves

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [APG] Footnote.com Speed
From: Katherine Flynn <>
To: Peggy K. Reeves <>,
Date: Thursday, March 26, 2009 5:19:19 PM
> Dear Peggy,
> The calculation (quoted below) is based on the assumption that a PILOT
> program was staffed and run at FULL production speed. In industry, a
> pilot is almost always a small, small scale operation - on purpose -
> to flush out the details and outstanding issues. It also generates
> hard data on what resources will be needed to achieve the desired
> output in production mode. The speed of a pilot is hardly ever the
> actual, final, production speed - usually substantially less by orders
> of magnitude. In my company I have seen such digitalization projects
> run and this project is matching my experiences.
> Thus, I am more than willing to make a friendly wager (a case of your
> favorite beverage?) that once the pilot is finished and they enter
> full production scale that it will not be over a half of a millenium
> to complete this record group.
> Moreover, the agreement (press release) at:
> http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2008/nr08-16.html
> states that the project of completely digitzing the entire record set
> is targeted to be completed in five years. This pilot is just phase
> one of the entire project.
> Most sincerely,
> Katherine Flynn, CG, APG

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