NARA's Web archive plan irks agencies

Agencies are learning that taking a snapshot of a Web site isn't as simple as clicking a camera shutter.

| GCN STAFFAgencies are learning that taking a snapshot of a Web site isn't as simple as clicking a camera shutter.Just eight days before President Bush took office, the National Archives and Records Administration set out exacting criteria for archiving all government Web sites created during the Clinton era.In essence, NARA asked all agencies to provide snapshots of their sites' content at the time of the presidential transition.Agencies complained about the amount of work demanded on short notice. So on Jan. 26, NARA announced greater flexibility in the types of filenames, storage media formats and documentation it will accept.'We wish we could have announced it earlier, but we couldn't,' Nancy Allard, a member of NARA's policy and communications staff, said of the original request. There were 'too many balls in the air,' she said.Regardless of whether agencies changed the content or appearance of their sites along with the chief executive, NARA wants to know what was on the sites as close to Jan. 20 as possible.On Jan. 12, deputy archivist Lewis J. Bellardo asked agency chief information officers to take snapshots of their sites and forward them to NARA within 60 days of the start of the Bush administration.Allard acknowledged that it would have been better to give agencies much more notice, but NARA had to act quickly once officials realized that delay might result in a loss of records.Bellardo's memorandum, at , instructed agencies to copy all Web documents available to the public up to Jan. 20, save them on certain kinds of storage tape or CD-ROM, and ship them to NARA's facilities in College Park, Md.The original instructions required nine-track tapes or 18-track, 3480-class tape cartridges. CD-ROMs had to conform to the International Standards Organization 9660-1990 specification, which mandates eight-character filenames with three-character extensions.The media requirement followed NARA's usual procedures for making backup copies of electronic records as soon as they arrive, Allard said. But when the Jan. 12 memo came out, many agencies complained.The second set of guidelines let agencies submit snapshots on digital linear tape cartridge. NARA also permits CD-ROM storage that complies with the so-called Joliet modifications to ISO 9660-1990 for handling long filenames.'What we were trying to do is remove barriers,' Allard said of the expanded guidelines. Whatever storage media agencies choose, NARA wants files in an uncompressed format so that staff members don't have to deal with unzipping them, Allard said.'The snapshots were not hard to do,' said Ruth M. Doerflein, Internet technical manager and central webmaster for the Health and Human Services Department.On Jan. 16, Doerflein instructed HHS bureau webmasters to take their snapshots as close to the Jan. 20 swearing-in as possible and save them either on special backup tape or in a locked-down area of a server. The snapshots haven't been touched since, while the agency's webmasters seek additional guidance regarding NARA's rules.Doerflein said her staff had 'major problems with a monumental amount of labor hours and budgetary expense' that would have forced HHS to seek an extension of the 60-day deadline.NARA's own Web site has filenames longer than eight characters with three-character extensions, Doerflein said. NARA 'would have had a problem meeting their technical specifications,' she said.On Jan. 24, NARA officials held a teleconference with records officers, information technology staff and webmasters from HHS and other agencies. Doerflein said she faxed questions in advance.The records agency initially wanted webmasters to terminate all external links or insert pages redirecting viewers to originating pages, Doerflein said. NARA removed that mandate on Jan. 26.The original requirement for accompanying documentation also confused many webmasters. Some thought NARA was asking for one form per page within each site, a task they deemed unworkable.Allard said NARA always intended to require one completed form for an entire Web site, and that was clear in responses to questions. The records agency also released a simplified two-part form to accompany snapshots.Some agencies interpreted the original requirements to mean that all files should be saved in ASCII'but that is impossible for image files, which should be maintained in the original format, Allard said. The revised documentation form asked webmasters to check off the file formats of each site.HHS webmasters are still sitting on their snapshots until they work out a few remaining issues with NARA, Doerflein said. She estimated that 90 percent of the department's snapshots are ready for transfer, however.Agencies are making good-faith efforts to follow through with the snapshots, Allard said. Most have either compiled the snapshot files or have made separate backups from which to compile the snapshot and now are working on the documentation. But as of last week, NARA's Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division had received submissions from only a couple of small agencies, she said.NARA officials expect that most agencies will meet the March 20 deadline for turning over the snapshots. Those who think they might miss the deadline should contact NARA as soon as possible, Allard said.'You have paper people trying to regulate electronic media based on paper specs,' Doerflein said of the confusion surrounding the snapshot mandate.NARA officials hope to clear things up by holding a forum for records officers and technical managers on Feb. 9 at the Archives II building in College Park.In addition, NARA is seeking webmasters and records officers to join a new focus group on long-term management of federal Web records.XXXSPLITXXX-Of all the federal Web sites that changed to reflect the new administration, the White House and State Department sites underwent the greatest transformations.Right after George W. Bush's inaugural ceremony on Jan. 20, a new White House site replaced the Clinton-era pages at . Simultaneously, State revamped , around a database-driven structure.The Clinton Presidential Materials Project, online at , depicts not only the White House site at the close of the 42nd president's term, but also the site's evolution since it came into existence in July 1994.Old Clinton sites are searchable from the project site. For example, a search for Socks, the Clintons' former cat, yields 36 results on the 1995-96 version of .Colleen Hope, director of the Office of Electronic Information in State's Bureau of Public Affairs, said she had been planning for a long time to change , setting apart the Clinton years from his successor's State site.The federal depository library at the University of Illinois has worked with State to archive Web pages developed by the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the U.S. Information Agency, both of which have become State agencies.State is now switching to a commercial Web hosting service, WorldCom Inc.'s UUNet subsidiary, which can provide Oracle8i database support and server redundancy, Hope said.Another contractor, United Information Systems Inc. of Bethesda, Md., designed the new site, Hope said. State's old pages are available through the Archive link on its new home page.Ruth M. Doerflein, Internet technical manager and webmaster for the Health and Human Services Department's home page, said she was waiting until after HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's swearing-in to learn whether her department's site will undergo significant overhaul.Doerflein said she isn't stressed out, because 'I know how long it took me to get the current home page out the door once the politics got involved.'The Agriculture Department's home page, which reflects the arrival of new Secretary Ann Veneman, is among the sites that have changed. But USDA webmaster Vic Powell said most of the department's ongoing Web upgrades are unrelated to the change at the White House.'It was time to update and freshen the site,' Powell said.
BY PATRICIA DAUKANTAS

















www.nara.gov/records/cio-memo.html


Deputy archivist Lewis J. Bellardo asked agency CIOs to take snapshots of Web sites.




Uncompressed files






















Few submitted so far













www.whitehouse.govstate.gov

clinton.nara.gov

www.whitehouse.gov

state.gov

















'Patricia Daukantas

NEXT STORY: Database sheds light on crime

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.