Career Profile

Digital preservation domain expert and full-stack developer. I am a researcher, analyst, and programmer. I currently work as a Digital Preservation Specialist at Ravensburger AG. I worked previously on the Archivematica project for 3.5 years and before then in the national archives of New Zealand, and also the United Kingdom. I have a keen interest in records and information management. I have UK security check clearance valid for 10 years from 3 July 2012.

Experience

Digital preservation Specialist

2021 - Present
Ravensburger AG, Germany

Conception of a strategy for digital long-term archiving and digital preservation “lore” at Ravensburger AG. In collaboration with the corporate archivist this is a new role with more details yet to be established.

Software Developer

2020 - Present
Independent collaboration with Yale University Library

A 350+ hour development project in collaboration with Yale University Library and Siegfried’s maintainer to integrate Wikidata sources into the format identification tool. The project involved establishing and maintaining a regular cadence of effort over the course of approximiately seven months in my spare time. My time was contributed on a pro-bono basis and I organized and tracked that effort as I would contracting. Development required the analysis and cleaning of the data in Wikidata; coralling the data into a format suitable for Siegfried; and the Siegfried backend development required to handle the new extension. We are still working on establishing the type of ecosystem required to introduce the digital preservation community into that of Wikidata’s.

  • Understanding the Siegfried code-base and learning how to integrate a new data source.
  • Analysis and cleaning of the Wikidata sources and understanding how to make it a coherent source of information for Siegfried.
  • Regular collaboration and sharing of ideas with the Yale team and Richard Lehane.
  • Development of the identifier to deliver the first iteration in September 2020.

Software Developer

2017 - March 2021
Artefactual Systems Inc., Canada

Working on the Archivematica and Access to Memory projects. My role is to analyze digital preservation workflow requirements and find software based solutions to satisfy those. Analysis may be done on client requirements or on those set-out by the analyst teams at Artefactual. Archivematica is developed in Python but solutions may not always require the use of code, nor be focused on the system itself.

I have been involved in the Access to Memory (AtoM) project in the migration of legacy archival records to formats compatible with the system.

I have delivered technical training at three Archivematica Camps, in South Africa and the United States and participated in an Archivematica camp in the Netherlands. I have also developed training materials on an ad-hoc basis depending on a client’s needs. The most recent training I developed was on an ad-hoc basis for a client in Winnipeg.

My experience with Archivematica and its clients has given me broad experience of some of the challenges facing those in memory institutions. It has given me an opportunity to learn more about systems like Dataverse, and has asked me to consider many different approaches to the work we’re doing in the GLAM sector.

Recently I have had the opportunity to consider novel solutions to challenges like de-duplication, and digital preservation reporting and repository maintenance. Those efforts are still in-progress.

  • Develop, integrate, and test software for Artefactual clients or internal projects, in alignment with the goals and standards of the open source projects and the company.
  • Create designs, proposals and estimates for client or internal solutions, new software or changes to existing systems; clearly communicate how designs meet user, non-functional or architectural goals and requirements.
  • Create developer focused training collateral and deliver training in remote workshops or client site visits.
  • Work collaboratively with other members of the Project Delivery Team, and with other Business Units across the company.
  • Provide public outreach and community support relating to Archivematica or AtoM as open-source projects, including participation in conferences and software camps.

Digital Preservation Analyst

2013 - 2017
Archives New Zealand, New Zealand

Digital Preservation Analyst at Archives New Zealand whose primary role was to support the System, Strategy, Standards team (SSS) formerly Digital Continuity; in making preservation decisions and providing digital preservation guidance. Having worked with colleagues to help enable Archive New Zealand’s first born-digital transfers.

The organization required us to work closely with digital preservation colleagues at National Library New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library to develop joint-digital preservation strategy and policy.

Our mandate also enabled us to perform digital preservation outreach tasks across the New Zealand government sector.

I maintained strong personal links with the wider digital preservation community. It is hoped our benefit from the community’s effort was somewhat equal to what I hope we were able to contribute.

I was a member of the Archives New Zealand Waiata group, Nga Manu Iere which helped me to foster a more personal and cultural understanding of New Zealand and its traditions.

  • Policy development across New Zealand’s government sector.
  • Development of digital preservation workflows.)
  • Collaboration with teams to resolve complex technical issues.
  • Outreach within the New Zealand digital preservation community.

Digital Preservation Researcher

2009 - 2012
The National Archives, United Kingdom

The research and provision of solutions to the end of preserving government’s digital records.

Part of my focus was researching file format specifications and developing mechanisms to identify those file formats using regular expression patterns unique to The National Archives’ PRONOM database. My role was also centered on the development of policy to be followed internally, and by contractors employed on projects such as those for digitization.

I was able to make connections with the wider digital preservation community while in my role at The National Archives where we were invited to participate in projects such as the Unified Digital File Formats Registry (UDFR); or working groups such as that for the development of JPEG2000 policy and procedures at the Wellcome Trust in the UK.

I was able to continue programming for The National Archives, UK, developing solutions for them in Python, PHP, and C++. Though much of it was completed in my spare time to then convert into work assignments, for example, the PRONOM signature development utility.

  • PRONOM and DROID signature development.
  • Requirements analysis and community outreach.
  • File format Analysis.
  • Development of procedure and standards for born-digital transfer.

Junior Analyst Programmer

2007 - 2009
Red Box Recorders, United Kingdom

Junior Analyst Programmer developing VOIP (Voice over IP) recording solutions; written primarily in C++. Areas of focus included improving existing solutions for recording Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, Ericsson and SIP VOIP calls, and implementing new solutions for VOIP providers such as Panasonic. Some other important protocols I focused on included, H225, Q931, and MGCP. I was also involved in back end development for our web front-end maintaining an ISAPI DLL. Front-end development required JavaScript and XHTML skills to add functionality to a HTML-form based interface. I introduced the use of AJAX to the recorder front-end.

At Red Box I saw through a number of important projects including the implementation of a number of new features such as the development of a search filtering mechanism; and a Cisco-based recording as a service solution. I developed fixes for many different areas of the system as part of additional third-line support duties.

Through my work at Red Box Recorders I refined my problem solving abilities and developed a better grasp for team work and meeting project deadlines. The contribution of this role to my knowledge of digital forensics, reverse engineering, and understanding of the IP stack and technical specifications remains immeasurable in the roles I have pursued in my current domain.

  • Reverse engineering.
  • Analysis of specifications.
  • Protocol level development.

Projects

Painter Goblin - A Twitter bot remixing commons-available art discovered on Wikidata.
NASA Wakup Calls - A chronology of NASA wakeup call information turned into data. A pet project, combining my hobbies of space, music, and data.
the-fr.org - The Format Registry [dot] org. A PRONOM mirror developed using linked-open-data principles with SPARQL access to PRONOM's data.
HTTPreserve - A project to enable users to audit broken hyperlinks and find the earliest and latest entries in the Internet Archive.
KVAL Access Language - A dialect for adding data to, and retrieving data from key-value stores.
Brainscape: Digital Preservation - Open source digital-preservation flash cards.

Publications

Archivematica as a Case Study for Sustained Digital Preservation.
Blewer, A. Romkey, S. Spencer, R.
iPRES Intl. Conf. on Digital Preservation. Proceedings 2019, (2019), Not yet published.
Digital Preservation as a thought experiment.
Spencer, R.
in: Digital Preservation in Libraries, Preparing for a Sustainable Future, Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), USA, (2018), 21-33.
My GLAM — Ross Spencer, Software Developer, Artefactual Systems.
Spencer, R.
Australian Society of Archivists, ASA Vic Branch Newsletter. October 2018, (2018), 5.
Binary trees? Automatically identifying the links between born-digital records.
Spencer, R.
Archives and Manuscripts, Volume 45, Issue 2, (2017), 77-99.
A next generation technical registry: moving practice forward.
McKinney, P. Knight, S. Gattuso, J. Pearson, D. Coufalb, L. Anderson, D. Delve, J. De Vorsey, K. Spencer, R. Hutař, J.
iPRES Intl. Conf. on Digital Preservation. Proceedings 2014, (2014), 44-50.
Reimagining the Format Model: Introducing the Work of the NSLA Digital Preservation Technical Registry.
McKinney, P. Knight, S. Gattuso, J. Pearson, D. Coufalb, L. Anderson, D. Delve, J. De Vorsey, K. Spencer, R. Hutař, J.
New Review of Information Networking, Volume 19, Issue 2, 20, (2014), 96-123.
Fly Away Home: Pilot Transfer of Born-digital Records at Archives New Zealand
Spencer, R. Braden, A. Hutař, J. Crouch, M. Mosely, S. Masters, T.
Born Digital and Cultural Heritage Conference, (2014), Unpublished.
The Digital Image.
Spencer, R.
in: Bülow, A. and Ahmon, J. Preparing Collections for Digitization. London: Facet Publishing (2010). 33-45.

Talks and Presentations

Information Matintainers Monthly Meetup (August), 2020 Something something twenty years open source...
Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung Universität Wien, Vienna, 2019. Digital preservation at the coalface: or how I learned that glamping doesn’t always involve the vast wilderness.
Archivematica Camps, Baltimore, Johannesberg, Houston, 2018. Technical stream lead.
Cambridge University Library with the Centre for Research Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge, 2017. A New Zealand perspective on preserving digital materials for the future.
Web Archiving and Digital Libraries (WADL), Toronto, 2017. HTTPreserve: Auditing document-based hyperlinks
Forging Links: people, systems, archives. ASA Conference, Sydney, 2016 Parallel Lines: Processing born-digital collections.
Forging Links: people, systems, archives. ASA Conference, Sydney, 2016. Binary Trees? Automatically identifying the links between born-digital records.
Footprints in Space and Time, ARANZ Conference, Auckland, 2015. Time travelling analyst: the things only a time machine can tell me.
Open Preservation Foundation, Preservation in Practice, Webinar, 2015. Preservation in Practice: Archives New Zealand.
Connecting: Past, Present and Future, ARANZ ASA Conference, Christchurch, 2014. Legacy digital and outreach @Archives NZ.
Born Digital and Cultural Heritage, Play It Again Project, Melbourne, Australia, 2014. Fly Away Home Pilot Transfer of Born-digital Records at Archives New Zealand.
THATCamp, Wellington, 2013. What can a SPARQL endpoint do for you.
Future Perfect 2012, Wellington, New Zealand, 2012. Survival of the bits...
7th International Digital Curation Conference, Bristol, UK, 2011. Towards the development of a test corpus of digital objects for the evaluation of file format identification tools and signatures, on behalf of Andrew Fetherston and Timothy Gollins.
The Future of File Format Identification, PRONOM and DROID User Consultation, Kew, UK, 2011. When is a migration pathway not a migration pathway.
8th European Conference on Digital Archiving, Geneva, Switzerland, 2010. The risky business of digital preservation. The application of risk models to digital file format obsolescence.

Awards and Honours

Archives and Manuscripts Sigrid McCausland Emerging Writers Award (2017) : Volume 45, Number 2, July 2017 – Ross Spencer, ‘Binary Trees? Automatically identifying the links between born-digital records’.

Skills & Proficiency

Golang

Python

C/C++

PHP

Linux

Databases

Semantic web

Web languages