by Eruditio Loginquitas
05 December 2011
A development team and I are putting together the final touches on an interactive article that will go live in early 2012. Up top, there is an actual article about a graduate course built for online delivery. Then, this article consists of a rich set of slideshows on a particular global health issue. And then there is an interactive game with a strong narrative structure and supporting video captures. In putting this together for the publisher (now that it has passed peer review), we are faced with a small dilemma: How can we make this article “all of a piece” when it will be hosted in at least three different servers?
On the far end of the conservatism spectrum, some faculty members that I work for want to keep their online courses all of a piece. That means that they don’t want to link out to anything unless they can be guaranteed against links decay. They would rather have a downloaded video which is hosted on our own university servers than to point to Vimeo or YouTube. They would rather have a .pdf file instead of having a link to an article that might decay. I respect their wishes and do my best to pursue rights releases and downloads whenever legally possible.
I understand the psychological sense of risk with dispersed resources. We don’t get into such discussions, but even if links do decay, there are so many resources out in the world that open-source equivalencies are deeply findable.
However, I have noticed that such approaches are probably going to be a think of the past. With the focus on DOI and more stable linking and with the inefficiencies of pursuing rights (although I do tend ot get very fast responses back from people), it seems like making something all of a piece is going to be less possible. Further, as in the putting together of this article, I am noticing that keeping things all of a piece will be limiting…in other ways.
Another method of building, on the other end of the continuum (say, the liberal end), is to go with dispersed resources hosted on a number of servers. This assumes that other systems will hold. This assumes that if pieces disappear that they can be replaced with substitute goods with equivalencies of informational or learning value.
Well, the truth is that our article will be hosted at least on three different servers. One is an open-source peer video sharing site. Another is the publisher site. And a third is a commercial repository which is the site belonging to the company that made the main authoring tool used.
This turn to a video sharing site has made the original article a lot smaller and easier to save and put onto servers. The hosted videos play well and quickly. There is not the same latency as when the video was embedded into the original file as a downloadable.
I myself am getting more comfortable trusting the hosting of contents elsewhere. That’s not to say that I don’t keep raw video files and edited files on hand if links break. I’m all for having backups to publishing and to courses. Still, I am willing to take greater risks because the environment has apparently become a lot more stable. There’s something to be said for having a greater range of options as well…to divvy up resources and to go with the most trustworthy entity in the field at the time, based on what is knowable.