25 May 2010

LIKE 13 - Record keeping in the 21st century

LIKE 13 was another success, despite my involvement.

The speaker was James Lapping, well known in the world of Records Management and also on the terraces of Sutton where James and I had both been the previous evening to watch Kingstonian play.

For reasons unknown to me, the LIKE ladies asked me to chair the evening so the encounter in Sutton enabled us to agree the finer points of the schedule.

My reward for being chair for the evening was that I got to wear a LIKE badge, but not a t-shirt. And I had to give the badge back at the end of the evening!

I had crossed paths with James several times previously, e.g. at TFPL events, but had never heard him speak before and I had no real idea of what to expect. What we got was an exceptionally well argued and presented story on Records Management that ended with more questions than answers on how to cope in a world of emails, blogs, instant messages and tweets.

It's unfair to pull just a few gems out of the talk but I did take plenty of notes (forgetting I was meant to be chairing not participating) and this is some of them.

For most of the history of records they have been written on paper and kept in files. Innovations came in index systems, filing cabinets, folders and even paper but the underlying technology and processes remained unchanged.

Records begat Records Management, not the other way round.

Physical records (pieces of paper) demand to be filed as they occupy space in the office and have to be put somewhere.

Electronic records are completely different and there is no point trying to treat them as if they were physical records (take note Microsoft!).

It's OK to spend a minute to correctly file a document that you spent a day writing but you are not going to do that for a tweet that took just a few seconds.

The vast increase in records of all sorts, from blogs to photos on sites like Flickr, are making history a lot firmer than it used to be even just a decade ago.

The underlying philosophy behind Records Management still stand, e.g. the need to keep and retrieve records, is still valid and we need to teach people the basics of this rather then letting each person develop their own individual methods.

James said a lot more than that and you can read a fuller version of his argument on his blog.

After the talk the social side of LIKE kicked in with food, more beer and more conversations that continued until quite late in the evening. That's why LIKE is my favourite KM event.

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