Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just a Piece of "Practical" News

Folks, this is only a "notice" of something that all of us who have spent serious time researching these anomalies {and who have collected files} need to consider. I know most everyone knows this, but if my experience with my personal friends holds true, we don't really do anything about it. This is, of course, the concern over preservation of the phenomenological elements of the subjects {the data}, and the human-involvement elements of the subjects {the history}, plus the related issue of making these piles of information more widely available to responsible scholars today and in the future.

When I was "young" {say only 65... ha!}, I thought about this, and dismissed the thought-process after about 30 seconds. Now that I am closing in on 74, that process lingers. And so I've begun to do something concrete about this. I'm going to briefly describe this {also concretely} in the hopes of "inspiring" many of you to begin to plan AND DO something about your own materials, without boring everyone to death reading this.

The above picture is my scanning project in action. There's not much to it. There's a great tabletop scanner which whizzes material through itself in astounding fashion and high-quality results, and a computer to send the data to. There are stacks of files, upon the fronts of each are their labels {to be typed onto the "data bundles" the scanner creates.} All the "bundles" for one category are stored in a "cabinet" {i.e. dedicated folder} labeled for that category.

Data-bundles {individual hardcopy files} show up then {stacked here on the left} and will ultimately be stowed in the proper Cabinet {the folders at the bottom right}. Cabinets created so far include all the major Hynek-like case categories plus several more specific phenomenological or historical holdings {the one "in process" on the screen is the McDonald collection as it exists in my files in Kalamazoo.}

Ten Gbs going on fifteen.... Once a cabinet is {temporarily, you can always add to it} complete, it gets transferred {actually just "copied"; of course the original copy stays on your computer} to a flashdrive. I'll probably make a few sets of these. The theory is that these resource holders would be {over time and with serious thought} distributed to trusted researchers around the world, and thus produce widening ripples of availability and persistence into the future. The data would be preserved and potentially in the hands of those who mattered and who respected it. What happens to the "hardcopy" is something which no one, honestly, has an answer to ... but my nerves rest easier knowing that a flock of electronic libraries full of packed cabinets will be out there.

Although this is real work, {no one should think that it's going to be really quick --- there are actions that each file should have done to it pre-scanning, like destapling, maybe rending and pasting up outsized paper documents, getting a proper label written on each folder for some "assistant" who might be helping you with the scanning, etc.}, it's not back-breaking and can be done on the pace you desire. Unpacking your filing cabinets CAN stress your space, however. I do it because I think that it's a duty that I have --- good old Catholic guilt strikes again. But I think that all of us with files should be doing this.

One further thing should go on: I'm lucky in that I have so many good and "invested" friends so that once I get this sort of thing done, I have a natural {and somewhat deep} initial audience to distribute the material to. I intuit that everyone might not be so fortunate. We need a method for people to inform other responsible people about what they have and if they're ready to share it. I don't know how to pull that off. I have friends whom I believe might be willing to help in that facilitation, but I personally am really busy with my own stuff {and other life projects, before it's too late}. With encouragement, I'd probably agree to participate as an associate facilitator of such information selective-sharing, just, as usual, due to Catholic guilt. Anything of this nature would probably involve several members of The UFO History Group.

Anyway ... the future of Anomalies Research is Out There, or should be, if we are to be a healthy explorative civilization. Each of us has some responsibility towards that, methinks. Contribute not only to the Present but also to the Future if you can.

Peace, friends.


  1. > a great tabletop scanner which whizzes material through itself in astounding fashion and high-quality results

    I am deeply impressed by your commitment.

    As a newbie, I feel very fortunate to have access to digital forms of decades-old UFO literature that would have taken many years and several thousand dollars to collect. Scanning and adjusting the images of some of the magazines I do own is a tedious and gruelling process; it's hard for me to imagine someone scanning the entire run if a UFO journal or an archive of notes, yet it happens.

    Perhaps every archive should have a scanning station. Any time someone pulls a document, they are required to scan it. The scanner can send the image to the archivist for quality control, classification, etc.

    1. > if a UFO journal

      should be "of a UFO journal"

    2. The difficulties for us oldtimers are that we spent decades collecting hardcopy materials sometimes being passed on to us from decades earlier. The press of our real lives plus the desire to actually use the incoming resources made simple idiosyncratic filing the best we were willing to do. Now that we're old and tired, we are faced with almost literal mountains of worthwhile resources with little help to pay our debt to the future. Some folks are in worse shape than I am, as my organization from the past lends itself to the scanning and sharing work better than some who only dumped certain incoming materials in boxes or similar disorganized piles {believe me, I personally organized Dick Hall's basement archives for him in 1989, and SITU in recent years --- what messes!!!}. Hopefully all the old warhorses will find the time, money, health, and willpower to get at least the unique things that they have scanned and shared out ultimately.

  2. A few thoughts.

    (1) First and foremost, I'm glad to hear that your scanning project now seems to be underway.

    (2) Enhancing output before converting to PDFs - I know a few researchers (particularly Russian researcher Mikhail Gershtein and individuals at the AFU in Sweden) that have considerable practical experience with scanning UFO case files and periodicals and enhancing the scans before converting them to searchable PDFs. Before doing a large volume of scanning, can I urge you to send a sample of your current output (even if it is just a few pages) to them (which can forward if you'd like to send any sample to me at isaackoi@gmail.com). I know that Mikhail in particular has been fairly critical of a number of scanning projects that could have produced much more satisfactory output if a few simple rules had been followed, or enhancements applied, throughout the scanning process.

    (3) USB flash drives - Eek! USB flash drives have a reputation as being unreliable for long-term storage. I'd strongly recommend ensuring that backups are held on hard-drives by a couple of other members of your UFO History Group rather than relying upon USB flash drives. See, for example, the discussion at the link below:

    If you happen to live near one of the other members of your UFO History Group I'd recommend using a portable hard-drive to share your material with them so that they can then save the material to one of their own hard-drives. External hard-drives with a capacity of 1 to 4 TB are now fairly affordable. (I currently have over 20TB of storage at home).

    If you don't happen to live near one of the other members of your UFO History Group I'd recommend sharing your material with one or more of them online to allow some or all of your data to be backed-up quickly. You can upload a limitless amount of data in chunks of up to 2Gb at a time via the free Wetransfer.com website - which may be easier/cheaper than sending a hard-drive or other media by post. I tend to use Wetransfer.com for sharing material very frequently, with limitless storage of data for - I think - 2 weeks. For longer term free storage, there tend to be limits either on the amount of storage or length of storage. I tend to use Box.com and Minus.com. The former in particular is very user-friendly. While the amount of data that can be stored in any one account on Box.com is limited, you can open up several accounts.

    One other researcher has been sharing very large volumes of UFO material via torrents, which you may find a bit unattractive.

    I've recently been looking into using Usenet to upload material (rather than simply downloading from it). Uploading to one of the Usenet groups would basically provide limitless free storage - albeit accessing it would require a Usenet account (currently available for free with at least one provider) and a bit of knowledge about Usenet.

    4) Limited circulation - In relation to your comment "these resource holders would be {over time and with serious thought} distributed to trusted researchers" I hope that some or all of your material will be available to the general public. I'm a member of various closed UFO discussion groups/Lists and have seen first-hand the sharing of material being limited to like-minded researchers who (whether the group happens to be dominated by skeptics or ufologists) then - at the same time as limiting access to material - complain that others haven't done their homework by examining all relevant material...

    (5) Provenance of documentation- If the scanned files are based on a sighting/topic, how will other researchers know the provenance of a relevant document?

    Anyway, all the best with getting the scanning done.


  3. Ummm... too much to answer. The General Rule here is that no Bells and Whistles are going to be included which stop me from doing this, or even slow me down. If "imperfect action" takes place by me, that is just what happened. The level of burden on me to do this is already near-stifling. Also, ten gigs of scanning has already been done... horse long out of barn. 15 gigs is probable endpoint on this.

    A: The quality of the scans are just fine. Are they just like reading them in the original with a magnifying glass? Probably not, but they are good. Perspective says: what am I really trying to accomplish here? The answer is a first pass at preserving some of the UFO data. Might there be an occasional loss of a data bit? I guess, but this "method" will get 99.999% of what I have. It will address zero % of what I do not have. The future of UFOlogy is in other people's hands much more than mine. I am a minor contributor doing what I can without help.

    B: The Flashdrives will be fine for the brief time it will take me to hand them over to others. One of the history group is pretty expert on this and he has studied this. All they must serve for is the transport of the data to people other than myself. What those people later do is their business and their work, not mine. In the brief intermediate time, all the scanning is sitting on my computer and all the "paper" is sitting in my file cabinets. I am planning to destroy neither anytime soon. The value of simply copying onto the drives is that it is a simple short-time action that I can do. I refuse to learn new computer tricks or to drain my time further. I have considered saying screw it to all the time used up as it is.

    C: Universalization of the information. I think that I've answered this and why this info dump cannot in conscience be crudely immediate. There are people's privacy to be considered, and some cases of simple human decency.

    D: Provenance: Almost all my files contain indicators of the provenance written right on them. Go to a topic; find several/many information bundles; open a bundle; read it; note label somewhere on the original document identifying from where I got it. How would I be able to do my research from these files if I didn't know their source and thereby have some idea whether I could trust it. By the way, this is another minor reason not to just dump info --- these are my personal files and I occasionally have written some "salty" comments about an involved person on them.

    So Isaac... my response might seem a bit "short" and for that I apologize, but over the last months I've had it up to my eyeballs with people thinking that they're being helpful but in fact simply giving me lots of suggestions requiring me to do things that I don't know how to do, and/or things that cause me more time/work. I'm just not going to do them. I'm going to finish scanning what I feel is good to try to save, and quit. Then others can take that scanned data and do whatever they want to polish it up the way they like. Frankly this project is likely to be my last UFOlogical contribution of any sort [including this blog] as it continues to wear me out, not so much in the moment-to-moment grind of doing it, but in the constant hearing that I'm not living up to others' expectations. I just don't have the testosterone to fight-the-fights anymore. The only reason that I even wrote the blog entry was to try to encourage others to try to contribute to the future in their own ways. ... obviously, with this answer, I've blown my attempt to be "encouraging."

    1. Howdy again, Professor. No need to be so hard on yourself regarding the encouragement of others. I, for one, don't need to see the bird building the nest to know that a lot of work went into the process. Also, I'm guessing there are not that many birds who have "nests" as large or as deep as yours. ;) Keep up the good work, and we'll keep supporting it. In big ways or small.

    2. Thank you. As I "progress" into aged wimpiness I can use all the encouragement I can get.