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December 22, 2014

Hapy Holidays!

So late late late late Friday, we got our annual holiday cards in the post (Ain’t no staff meeting like an envelope stuffing meeting…). For those of you unlucky enough to not be on our mailing list (lines are open — contact us now!) we have been designing and sending out cards since our founding in 2006. At some point in the autumn, Chris comes up with a concept, often tied to the anniversary of a particular media type or format. After running the idea past our team, he begs and pleads with the supremely talented Stephanie Housley to illustrate the design of the card — but don’t tell anyone that because she Alan Smithees the whole effort to protect her reputation.

At that point, Chris also passes the idea and themes onto Josh (me!) to write the blurb for the back of the card. After I scratch out some text in purple crayon on newsprint, I pass it around to everyone else to make it legible, and then we print up the cards and the envelopes, and everyone signs them and we put them in envelopes and stamp them for sending out.

In case you were wondering, it takes about an hour per letter in one’s name to sign all the cards (this is why it’s good to use Josh instead of Joshua). And also, we’re fortunate to use self-sealing envelopes now (my tongue is still recovering from 2010). All in all it’s several months of work to get everything together, but we love to do it because we feel that the care and effort and aesthetic we put into the cards every year really reflects the culture of AVPreserve.

Which is why it’s very disheartening to admit that we messed up this year.

Okay. I messed up.

This year Chris wanted to feature the anniversary of the first MacIntosh computer and highlight its impact on the way we create digital audio and visual materials (which has lead to the need to preserve those files). So to do research and write my blurb, I Googled “first apple computer”. The Apple 1 was produced and first sold in 1975, so I wrote about that.

But that wasn’t the first MacIntosh.

The first Apple MacIntosh computer came out in 1984, 30 years ago and with the design you see on the front of this year’s holiday card. Not 40 years ago and with the wood case, DIY design I blurbed about.

Though my text was expertly written, hitting all the right emotional points and teachable moments, I still have to point out the irony here. Worse than a black fly in your Chardonnay, I failed to properly apply a controlled vocabulary to my search. All MacIntoshes are Apples (unless you live in the UK or study British English), but not all Apples are Macs. Or MacIntoshes. Or Apple MacIntoshes.

When you’re dealing with data, it is critical to use consistent terms written in the same way so you can be clear about what information you are expressing or searching for, but also so that it will be easier to map, transform, and share that data with other systems. There was an obvious case of ambiguity in this case (a fancy way of saying I didn’t pay enough attention). What this also points out, though, is the the human component of data. Even with controls and machine-readable data in place, things always come down to the individual. As we say, data are as data do

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but language is slippery, data entry (even when automated by computers) is imprecise and prone to mistakes, communication is never just unambiguous facts, and fallibility is just the nature of things. Or maybe that last point just refers to me.

Whatever the case, we hope you enjoy this year’s card (and if you’re not on our mailing list, why not? email us, maybe.), and I would suggest you hold onto it for the certain historical and monetary value.

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Joshua Ranger

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