Feature Spotlight: Notes

July 12th, 2023

by Tanya Ulmer, Web Archivist for Archive-It

Notes are a convenient way to communicate with others working in the same Archive-It account, or even with yourself at a later date. They’re often overlooked in favor of external spreadsheets, docs, or other tracking software for such communications. However, these notes have the advantage of staying put right where the action happened inside the partner application’s user interface (UI).

The Notes feature includes a free-form text box where you can communicate as much or as little as you like about what’s happening inside your account. As of March, 2023, the vast majority of the 4,391 notes partners have added are short and sweet. But the most detailed of them all so far comes in at 399 words!

When you are in your Archive-It account next time, take a look for these free-form text boxes in various areas of the UI:

  • On the Collection Overview page
  • On the Crawl Report’s Overview page
  • In the Seed Settings’ Notes area

Once you click Add Note, the text you enter in the box will have your Archive-It handle applied, as well as the date and time. And if you want it to disappear before anyone else sees it, there’s also that handy trash can on the same row!

Two Notes applied to the Seed URL https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/, the first from 2006 saying site status had been checked and some of it not captured, the second from 2021 saying the URL had changed and a new seed had been added.

Library of Virginia’s seed setting notes for the URL https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/.

In the example above, Roger Christman of the Library of Virginia has used these Notes in the seed settings to indicate how the Seed URL has changed over time. Others have used it to communicate issues around data limits, crawling issues, and scoping decisions. But the most common use so far seems to be indicating actions around Quality Assurance (QA):

  • QA complete (1,046)
  • QA needed (1,015)
  • Feed not captured (190)

Really, the possibilities are limitless, as partners from Vancouver Island University, the Harvard Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and the Library of Virginia will show us.

Dana McFarland and Dalys Barney from Vancouver Island University share how they’ve been using it as a team and how they would even like newer notes better flagged for others’ attention:

As far as our local use of Notes, we appreciate this feature as a free text field where you can leave information in the system at the seed level. We have tended to use it not so much strategically, more in a reactive way to record outcomes in the moment, for our own future reference or that of anyone else who might be working with that seed or crawl. We do have the suggestion that it would be helpful to have some sort of obvious flag or indication that there IS a note present for a seed, so that if you’re working collaboratively, the person who didn’t write the note would be more likely to read it.

Koko Howell from the Harvard Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies tells us that using Notes in crawl reports has helped her bridge crawls, seeds, and administrative URLs:

I have been using Archive-it since May 31, 2017. I work on the Japan Disasters Digital Archive project (JDA), sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University. It is an archive of materials connected to the tsunami, earthquake, and Fukushima nuclear accident of March 11, 2011. The JDA website shares seeds captured by Archive-it. Because of the numerous crawls carried out over the years, it is impossible to readily see which seeds and crawls have been done. I create a Note for each crawl, which allows me to bridge crawls, seeds, and administration URLs on the JDA website. The Notes function allows me to add necessary curation information without having to engage in time-consuming searches.

Roger Christman at the Library of Virginia reveals he’s used these Notes to keep himself organized for much of the past 17 years:

Since the Library of Virginia joined Archive-It as a partner in 2005, we have captured over 8000 seeds across 36 collections. For most of the past 17 years, I’ve been the lone archivist working on web archiving. It is only a small part of my job. I only devote a few hours a week to it and Notes keeps me organized. This feature has been an invaluable tool for me to document QA issues found on crawl reports, to record site and crawling changes at the seed level and to document changes in collection level captures.

Two notes from the Library of Virginia about Facebook issues in 2016 in their web archive for Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Library of Virginia’s collection overview notes about Facebook issues in 2015-2016.

You too can similarly use the Notes feature to communicate your observations or decisions on collections, seeds, or crawls in your Archive-It account today. They can help demystify what’s been happening in your account to others, or even to yourself at a much later date!