iPRES2024: Self-sovereign-digital preservation: The reviewers enjoyed your submission, but… what reviewers???

*Knocking gently on the door* “is anyone there, iPRES2024“?

One thing I didn’t make clear in my previous iPRES2024 post is that I am mostly writing on my own time and at my own expense**

Why do this? First, I think I have only twice been afforded the luxury of writing papers at the desk of my day job and so it is a habit of mine to write so that I can at least put the argument in front of someone that they should let me attend events like iPRES. Second, there is an expected quid-pro-quo — one that benefits all authors or potential writers of journals (academic or otherwise) — that writers get the experience of writing, formatting, and editing, and that they receive reviews that are constructive that allow the author to improve even if a paper isn’t accepted.

I don’t know if it’s unique to iPRES that they require a whole paper and only have a one-shot review cycle but it is what it is.

In lieu of a fully-fledged paper*** one might propose a poster. The poster has the same quid-pro-quo in that it provides its authors with a new experience, and an opportunity to develop a different skill set, a way into the conference, and importantly, from the conference itself, a rejection should be constructive and beneficial to the writers so that they can improve for next time.

How does this review sound to you?

The reviewers enjoyed your submission, but recommend having a clearer and more focused argument for future submissions.

That’s it, the full review people.

Three weeks later, and despite clear indication (on twitter) review comments are available to some, I am still unable to access them for this poster submission. In fact, the iPRES2024 email account have completely ghosted me on the subject****.

It is what it is, I suppose, but like my previous post, at least I can share my own output, and hopefully some of you reading will find the topic and ideas interesting.

Decentralize This: Self-sovereign digital preservation

The paper “Decentralize This: Self-sovereign digital preservation” was written as a way to open a conversation about the use of decentralized technology in digital preservation and to continue a much broader conversation others have previously started across the GLAM sector, especially in Archives.

It is crafted from many years of received wisdom, and tries to combine different streams from many archival writers and thinkers whom I still follow closely today (Findlay, Hurley, Lemieux). My current role, and boss Peter van Garderen has also written extensively about the decentralized web (and provided significant inspiration (and also has a few ideas up his sleeve!)) and our current work helps to build many of the primitives of work we hope to bring to iPRES in the coming years. The work I am directly involved with on orcfax.io and my own tinkering around other decentralized initiatives such as ActivityPub (e.g. Mastodon) are also important.

Decentralized technology is a vast subject and I thought it prudent to introduce it to the iPRES audience using a poster as a primer rather than jumping straight in. Ideally, it becomes a hook for future writing on the subject, be that ours or anyone else’s.

The abstract reads as follows.

If we have learned anything in the 21st Century so far, it is that new technology is appearing at unprecedented rates, and is beckoning  the next group of thought-leaders from their high towers to offer their opinion. In the field of digital preservation where stability, longevity, and consistency are so important it is not enough for a technology, and subsequent opinion, to appear to then allow us to take immediate advantage of it; technology should be proven and it should definitely solve an existing problem. While we ride the wave of the next new thing in large language models (LLMs) so-called artificial intelligence (AI), perhaps it is time to take stock in the last ‘new technology’? Whisper it quietly, the blockchain. Not wholesale blockchain, instead, its primitives and what they have taught us. The blockchain still remains a controversial topic, ethically and environmentally, and for some, it does not necessarily solve their problems, but it has been, and remains, instructional. From developments in cryptography, distribution, federation, decentralization, to aspects of game theory, incentivisation, and creation of prosocial behaviors,  these areas taken together can provide a foundation for developing a new participatory infrastructure for digital preservation. We have an opportunity as a community to develop small-scale local, composable, digital preservation capabilities that can forever change the way we look at the field, how we engage with each other, and take the means of preservation back into our own hands. It’s time to decentralize this – it is time to decentralize digital preservation.

Contrary (?) maybe to the reviewer(s)’ perception, the background writing that was condensed into the abstract was significantly longer and can be read here.

Decentralize This: Self-sovereign digital preservation

Download Link.

What next?

I won’t hold my breath about being able to finally access the review comments for the poster, but perhaps someone reading on the iPRES admin team will be good enough to respond here? where email is apparently not good enough?

With regards to the substance of the poster idea, then as usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts or thinking on the subject. Maybe you know of a more suitable forum for expanding on these ideas? Let me know!

Fortunately I am able to be at iPRES this year presenting a workshop with colleagues from Preservica, TNA, and Brigham Young University. This will allow me to justify the expense as an independent contractor and attend No Time to Wait at the same time.

I’ll be excited to talk to you about the potential of decentralized digital preservation even if I have to bring a rogue piece of A1 and find a spare table at the conference bar.

Update 2024-07-02

PDF updated to use clearer references and include missing references. The paper also includes both versions of the abstract, that submitted to iPRES and the original short paper form.

Update 2024-07-03

iPRES have since reached out as a result of this post and feedback from colleagues (thank you! ????) and have provided us with the review comments. I have been asked not to publish them but they are definitely constructive and guide us toward what we can do next year, including providing greater clues as to how to submit a poster for consideration, versus your more traditional abstract (or Frankenstein’s monster of both).

For those reading and wondering why I hope this and my previous blog can potentially be helpful in the long run please take a look at this article “Publish peer reviews” (2018) from Polka, et al. at nature.com.


It is also my hope that publishing peer-review does indeed create transparency and build trust for all in future processes. It can be informative to others creating subsequent proposals to conferences; and in both instances, these papers, built around iPRES, don’t really have another forum, and so give me a way to preserve that record, and allow others to see the academic input from the other side — the input about about what was missing and how they could be improved — even if I don’t then evolve the concept for a future publication. I will support anyone taking the same approach, and I hope this is considered by readers of this blog, and the iPRES organizers.

** My ‘patterns’ paper was written entirely on my own time in spare moments after work or at weekends. For the poster above, in different circumstances my current company I am sure are more than happy to contribute to this process, but for various reasons, including conference timing and work capacity, I worked on the concept and outline paper (above) to put before the team for us to refine together if accepted, and then submit.

*** iPRES were not clear on their acceptance of short-papers this year with their original call for papers (here, and here) requesting papers 2500 words or up. I would definitely have preferred to write short-papers for both topics as a way of starting the conversations on both topics.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: