Snow Byte and the Seven Formats: A Digital Preservation Fairy Tale

Re-posted from  The Signal: Digital Preservation.

Thanks to Tess Webre, an intern with NDIIPP at the Library of Congress

In a recent meeting, some colleagues and I discussed the age in which individuals should start understanding the basics of digital preservation. I suggested that, with children creating digital files earlier and earlier, it should be taught as early as possible. The question, of course, is how to get youngsters interested in preserving their data. Fortunately, while doing some research I was able to find a digital preservation fairy tale in the digital archives of the Brother’s Grimm. Here is the never-before published tale of Snow Byte and the Seven Formats (movie rights pending). I promise it will make a great bedtime story – they’ll fall right to sleep.  (I would like to thank my wonderful classmate Sara Allen for her invaluable contribution and illustrations)

Snow Byte and the Seven Formats

Written by Tess Webre, Illustrations by Sara Allen

Obsolescence was not only evil, she was shallow. She was obsessed with being the most

“Mirror, mirror on the phone, who’s the fairest in the

“You are fair, my Queen this is true. Yet, Snow Byte is fairer than you.”

Furious with this news, Obsolescence grew determined to kill Snow Byte. She used her enchanted smartphone to make all of Snow Byte’s digital files inaccessible by destroying all of her storage media. She then called Snow Byte into the chamber to demand that she run an errand for her. The errand would require Snow Byte to go through the enchanted forest, filled with trolls.

“Don’t worry, there is a spell that you have in your files that will save you from harm.”

Before leaving, Snow Byte checked and found that all of her files were inaccessible, thus she had no spell. Fortunately, she kept archived copies of this data in a trusted digital repository, and after a few phone calls and a few transfers, she was able to get her archived spells.

Wandering through the forest, Snow Byte came across the worst kind of troll in the forest, an Internet Troll. The troll immediately started berating her on her choices and life decisions. She tried to use the spell to repel him, but found that it didn’t work.

“Please,” scoffed the troll, “the queen gave me an antidote for that spell a while ago. She really doesn’t want you around. It might be because you are wearing that dress. It’s a really ugly dress.”

Angry, Snow Byte was about to defend her dress, when a group of woodland creatures came up to her. They told her that the queen had sent this troll to harass her to death and that the best thing she could do was ignore it. Snow Byte turned her back on the troll and walked away.

Snow Byte continued to wander through the forest, depressed that she could not come home, when she found a cottage. Finding no one at home Snow Byte walked right in to discover that there were seven tiny beds. She noted that on each bed was the name of a different file format.  There was WARC, TIFF, TXT, PDF, JPEG, MPEG and, of course, DOC.

Shocked by the unsanitary manner in the cottage, even for developers, Snow Byte immediately started organizing and cleaning. With the help of some random woodland creatures that followed her around, she created a strict metadata schema to organize all their files and objects, and updated their storage media. This was so exhausting that she fell asleep when she was finished.