Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Power of Naivete

A person (who is very nice, I'm sure) just posted on Autocat asking what skills one must possess so that one might be proficient in "installing, developing, customizing, adding records, and maintaining" Greenstone or Dspace.
I just sat here for about 20 seconds, staring at her request. Um....the skill of Knowing Perl? The skill of being able to work around the 1,000 minute details that each of these programs will require you to know and fear in order to do anything at all?
I almost don't want to say anything at all, for fear of turning her off to digital repositories (I almost typed "digital repopsicles" there). Who am I to judge someone who wants to learn about these programs? Well, I'm one who came to digital library software much in the way that this gentle soul did:
"I'm fluent in HTML and I've digitized things into image or PDF formats; I've also used optical character recognition software with scanners. I've attended metadata workshops (but need to work on getting up to speed with XML)."
Little does she know. Granted, I used Greenstone back in 2004, when it was probably a lot more of a nightmare. I had all of the same skills as above, and it prepared me not even a little for Greenstone. We use Dspace here, now, and I know that our Dspace programmer is literally backed into a corner with all the customizing work that's thrown at him (in fact, I think we're hiring a new programmer soon because of it). So my experience with both programs has been....mediocre at best.
I guess this is the problem with the digital world generally--you have to just jump into the pool and fail a lot in order to eventually succeed in getting your digital stuff organized and available. I'm sure the trying will make this person a better computer person, and a better librarian. I know that working with Greenstone helped me see what a lot of effort goes on to create a "pretty" and "useable" search interface/database.
But man, it sucks to get there.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.