Posts Tagged ‘ records ’

The Roommate Agreement

As well as being one of the most entertaining and popular sitcoms on television, Big Bang Theory also offers an amusing insight about records management in the form of Sheldon and Leonard’s “Roommate Agreement”.  The Roommate Agreement is alluded to frequently over the course of the series, typically when Leonard does something that Sheldon feels infringes on his rights as a roommate (e.g. priority couch seating, overnight visitors, scheduled bathroom use, etc.)  Not only is it entertaining to witness Sheldon’s neurotic behavior in action, but the roommate agreement provides a clever solution for anyone who has ever found him/herself sharing an apartment.

I’m sure everyone who has ever had a roommate can testify that, at times, the sharing of your living space can often be irritating, and sometimes lead to unpleasant confrontation.  We all have personal preferences and expectations when it comes to the domestic sphere, and when those preferences and expectations clash, conflict naturally ensues.  The idea of a roommate agreement—in theory—is genius, really, since such a document establishes the parties’ expectations from the outset.  In practice, at least as seen in Big Bang Theory, such a record only emphasizes the tension and breeds more conflict, usually to hilarious effect (probably not as funny for Leonard as it is for the casual observer).

In a recent episode entitled “The Boyfriend Complexity”, the issue of the roommate agreement comes up yet again.  Under the impression that Leonard and Penny are once again a couple, Sheldon presents proposed changes to the agreement for Leonard to sign.  The changes are written to address Penny’s “annoying personal habits” (of which Sheldon has naturally compiled a lengthy list—I’m assuming it is attached to the agreement as an appendix).  Sheldon makes it clear that Penny has no say in the agreement or the discussion of her personal habits, since Leonard is the signatory and thus “bears responsibility for all [her] infractions and must pay all fines”.  Leonard, upon inquiring about the fines, is told that if Penny is to resume spending nights in the apartment he’ll have to set up an escrow account (apparently the possibility that Penny might correct her annoying personal habits is not a thought that occurs to Sheldon).  Leonard signs, even though he and Penny aren’t actually back together.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is the best approach in a compromise.

The agreement essentially reduces the roommate experience to the level of transactions.  This is quite literally apparent in the example above—Penny annoys Sheldon, Leonard must pay a fine.  No doubt Sheldon has dollar amounts associated with each infraction as it appears in the appended list of “annoying personal habits”, in direct relation to the degree that Sheldon finds them annoying.  It seems ridiculous when you hear it, but I can personally think of a few situations in my experience when the existence of such an agreement would have made my life a lot easier; I can certainly recall occasions when I’d wished I could collect fines for the irritating habits of a roommate.  And while it might still seem absurd, consider this: isn’t it just another example of the sort of contracts we enter into every day with our landlords, insurance providers, health providers, phone and internet service providers, utility companies, employers, employees and unions, educational institutions, and governments?


The Flipside of Information-Control on the Web

Today I read the following article:

On the evening of 25 November, disabled “We Are All Khaled Said” page which got more than 300,000 followers. The page was created after the 28-year-old Egyptian man named Khaled Said was beaten to death in Alexandria by two police officers who wanted to search him under the emergency law, according to El Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, local rights group.

The page administrator utilized the page to post updates on the flow of the case before the court and relevant information related to the incident that happened on the 6th of June 2010, as well as mobilizing people to join peaceful assemblies that took place against torture in Egypt and supporting victims of violence. …

This story came to me via Twitter, in a retweet that read “Reminder: making Facebook your publishing platform gives Facebook the right to delete what you say” (DanGillmor, RT by cascio). This reminder reemphasizes the point I keep coming back to about web records: you don’t control your information once it’s on the web.  I’ve spent a lot of time underlining how once someone publishes information on the web it might as well be there forever, particularly in my paper about ECCA and in previous journal entries about Twitter and blogging.  But maybe that’s not entirely accurate, or at least it only illustrates half of the point.

The flipside of the issue of information-control on the web is that whoever owns the rights to the server controls the information, and thus the disposition of the record—the “heaven” of perpetuity and the “hell” of the shredder, as we’ve learned in class (though, when it comes to the web, I suspect in many cases—at least retrospectively—the descriptors “heaven” and “hell” are reversed).  The case of “We Are All Khaled Said” aptly demonstrates how the server owner controls the disposition of information, even when one administrator and 300,000 users lay some intellectual claim to it.  The information can just as easily be destroyed when the author would wish it saved, as saved when he/she would wish it destroyed.

The real point about web records is that whenever you publish information using a third-party, such as Twitter, or WordPress, or Facebook, or MySpace, etc, etc, you’re compromising certain intellectual property rights.  Obviously, as a user you can access your web space through these services and add, edit, and delete your information however you like.  But the service provider, the server owner, the third-party reserves the right to either freeze, save or delete any or all of the content you publish.  Typically, this ceding of your intellectual property is written plainly (though often obliquely) in the end-user agreement or statement of terms, the same place you’ll find statements that free the third-party from any liability as well as privacy statements.  Here’s an example from the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:


Sharing Your Content and Information


You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:


1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).!/terms.php

While the statement claims that you “own” and “control” all of the information on your Facebook page, a careful reading makes it quite evident that it is Facebook that actually controls both the license and the final disposition of all your published content.


This is no different than the deletion of user comments by moderators on news sites or message boards.  And that’s why this issue lies in an expanding frontier of grey area: most people would agree that the owner of the website has the right to control what information is published there.  But who owns the social network?

Record-Keeping Processes for Child Care Program Inspectors

The Alberta Auditor General’s October report revealed that Alberta Children’s Services’ record-keeping was inconsistent and made it impossible to determine if child care programs were meeting provincial standards (Kleiss, 2010).  The report identifies that the problem occurs with the documentation (or lack thereof) of “low-risk” breaches of existing standards, which are often handled with a “verbal warning”, or recorded inconsistently by inspectors.  The Auditor General quite correctly notes that this poses a safety risk to the children in these programs (2010, 33-34).

My first question is why there is no consistency already in how inspectors are reporting breaches.  One would hope that such an important role in our society, the people responsible for holding accountable the services that provide our child care, would function like a well-oiled machine.  Is it a lack of training, i.e. human error?  Is it a poorly designed reporting system, i.e. system error?  How does this happen?

There are clearly existing procedural regulations in place for inspectors.  The Auditor’s report acknowledges the following about the inspection activity:

Authorities’ licensing officers inspect these programs at least twice a year and inspect in response to complaints and program reported critical incidences such as child injury. If a program is not complying with regulatory requirements, through delegation from the Statutory Director for Child Care, a licensing officer may:

  • issue a verbal warning to correct non-compliance
  • issue an order to remedy non-compliance
  • impose conditions on a license
  • vary a provision of a license
  • suspend a license and issue a probationary license
  • cancel a license

Enforcement action will vary depending on the severity of the non-compliance. Low risk non-compliance may warrant more serious enforcement action if frequently repeated or identified as part of a pattern of ignoring requirements. (35)

It goes on to describe how the lack of records tracking verbal warnings, as well as inconsistency in acquiring and providing evidence of non-compliance when issuing an order to remedy problematized the task of following-up in cases when further action would be required.  It is not clear if this type of documentation has always been inconsistent, but the Auditor’s report made three recommendations:

1. Review and improve documentation and training to ensure all program requirements are being met.

2. Improve the consistency of monitoring by correcting systems that ensure compliance with processes.

3. Improve follow-up processes by ensuring that all verbal warnings are adequately documented and resolved.

While the report seems to me the perfect example of why good records management is critical, it made me wonder how the office of the Auditor General conducted its audit, and how it came to draw the conclusions it did.  According to the report:

Our audit procedures included reviewing relevant legislation, standards, policies and procedures, interviewing senior staff at the Department and five Authorities, shadowing licensing officers as they inspected programs, reviewing inspection reports, and examining the Department’s Child Care Information System (CCIS). (33)

The mention of CCIS, an ERMS, made me wonder precisely what sort of information was recorded in it.  After all, CCIS must be counted among the “systems” and “processes” identified in the recommendations.  The report (which, if you have not realized by now, is remarkably thorough) describes CCIS as follows, in the context of recommendation 1:

Authorities record enforcement actions in CCIS, link it to the corresponding regulation, and do some analysis of that data. However, more detailed trend analysis of this data may reveal the location, timing, and types of non-compliance, as well as help in planning future monitoring or training actions. For example, in our sample, we identified a pattern across Alberta of non-compliance with a requirement for maintaining portable emergency records. This could indicate a need for training or stricter enforcement action in this area. (36)

The report also identifies, in the context of recommendation 3, that while “Orders to Remedy” were consistently entered in CCIS, “verbal warnings” were not, and there was no way to tell if any remedial action was taken in cases where verbal warnings were given.

Other “records” in this story worth noting:

  • The legislation, provincial standards and statuatory requirements that govern child care in Alberta
  • The Auditor General’s Report itself (and what it says about the governmental review process in our province)

(apologies for the unoriginal title)



Auditor General Alberta. (2010, October). Report of the Auditor General of Alberta—October 2010.  Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from

Kleiss, K.  (2010, October 28).  Better Paperwork Expected of Daycare Inspectors. Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from

A Matter of Security

The big story over the weekend was about John Tyner, a software engineer who refused the TSA body scan and pat-down at the San Diego airport, and was subsequently removed from the airport and fined $10,000 for being uncooperative.  What makes this a big story is the fact that Tyner recorded the entire incident on his cell phone and then posted it on YouTube; he also wrote a full account on a blog using the moniker “johnnyedge”[1].  The video and blog have gone viral in the 48 hours since the incident took place, the YouTube video receiving over 200,000 hits.

There is quite a lot going on in this story that is worth examining.  First off, the relatively new practice of using the backscatter x-ray scanners and the TSA’s policy to administer a full pat-down to any passengers that opt-out of the scan have been under fire since they were first introduced.  Several stories have surfaced in the last year regarding the new technology, though none quite so markedly as Tyner’s.  One of the concerns raised was whether or not the body scan images were saved and stored [2]; the TSA confirmed that this was not the case in August, although it continues to be an issue raised in the argument against the body scans.  The issue does raise the question of precisely what does happen with the images?  How do the scanners work?  Is there no memory that stores images, even in the short term?  What if the scan does reveal someone in possession of something nefarious?  Doesn’t the scan represent evidence?  Surely there must be some system in place to preserve the image when this happens—if not, it does not seem particularly effective.  And if yes, the question is whether or not such a system violates the human rights of passengers.

I bet the TSA is rather unhappy right now, given the rising tidal wave of public discontent it is now facing.  I’ve written a lot about web content as records in this journal, so I won’t over-emphasize it now, but clearly the video/audio record Tyner preserved and uploaded to the Internet will impact the TSA’s operations—the extra time and labour spent dealing with uncooperative passengers, of navigating the negative press, and of correcting its policies and procedures will directly translate into dollar amounts.  As one article on Gizmodo suggests, there is a lot of money for manufacturers and lobbyists in the implementation and use of the new body scanners [3]; there’s a lot of money at stake if their adoption is stymied by bad press and public outrage.  And why?  Because one person recorded this activity and made the record public.

A movement in the US has grown around the rejection of the body scan technology and the TSA’s policies.  The website “I Made the TSA Feel my Resistance” has gone up, and is calling for “National Opt-Out Day” on November 24—the busiest day of the year for air travel.  It encourages passengers to refuse the body scan when they go through security. [4]

While I’ve always been sympathetic with the challenging (let’s face it—impossible) task of providing airport security, I think Tyner’s use of records and the web are useful in one very important way.  It forces us to ask: In what way does the body scan technology protect passengers?


[1] The original blog post and videos are available here:

An article by the Associated Press about the story’s popularity can be viewed here:

As well as a blog post on the CNN Newsroom website by one of the network’s correspondents can be viewed here:

[2] The issue of whether the images are stored or not was first raised last January, as represented in this article on

The TSA refuted these claims at the time on their blog:

The issue again made headlines in August with the following article on cnet:

Which the TSA again refuted:

[3] Loftus, J.  (2010, November 14).  TSA Full-Body Scanners: Protecting Passengers or Padding Pockets?  Gizmodo. Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from

This article also effectively summarizes the current controversy surrounding Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).


Blogs as Records: Damage Done?

It’s no secret that I am a social media addict. My current drug of choice is Twitter, which I’ve discussed previously as part of the records management blog. As you may or may not know, I’m in the process of researching the records management issues surrounding the Edmonton City Centre airport plebiscite for a term paper, and when I checked Twitter this morning– as I’m wont to do– I was surprised by a new and interesting development in the form of links to new commentary.

A blogger claiming to be a reporter for the Seattle Times blogged about the decision by city council to move forward with the closure following the failed petition drive by Envision Edmonton. This blogger, apparently named “Darren Holmes”, put his own spin on the existing documents, facts and hearsay about the issue that portrays the council decision as some nefarious conspiracy, and casts Envision Edmonton as well as all Edmontonians as victims and dupes [1].

Some crack investigative reporting by local Journal reporter Todd Babiak revealed that this individual’s claims of authority were bogus, but not before the blog post went viral [2, 3]. This development begs the question: how do you classify blogs as records?

There are a number of issues initially that we need to consider—for the sake of brevity, I’ll limit myself to the most obvious one.  Outwardly “Darren” has no connection with the municipal government, Envision Edmonton, the airport authority or Yes For Edmonton.  Unlike the petition records, reports, proposals, letters and emails traded internally and between these organizations, Darren’s blog entry (and Todd Babiak’s column) exist outside the purview of these involved parties.  As an individual, Darren is merely exercising his right to free speech, a right we are proud to respect in our society; his is only one opinion amid a vast sea of others, and is thus, ostensibly, transient.  And yet it has indelibly made its mark within this discourse, and could be potentially damaging to other individuals and organizations (some of which I’ve just mentioned), particularly as local residents make their way to the ballot box.  So how do you classify the blog entry?  How do you control it?  Is it even worth qualifying as a record worthy of notice?  Considering the furor it created in my Twitter feed, and more generally in the community of players and swirling informational landscape surrounding the Edmonton City Centre controversy, it’s clear that it has forced itself into the debate for better or worse.

One way to deal with the blog entry as a record is to litigate.  According to Darren’s most recent update, Mayor Mendel’s representation has begun to do just that, by threatening legal action for slander [4].  Given Darren’s anonymity, the veracity of the claim is highly dubious, but such a move would certainly be an option for Mandel.  According to Babiak’s column, the Seattle Times is also concerned for being associated with Darren, particularly since no “Darren Holmes” has ever written for them.  The Times would be within their rights to sue Darren for lying about his connection to the newspaper.  Envision Edmonton should also be anxious about being associated with this person, as the episode continues to play out on the public stage, since for many readers it might seem that Darren represents their cause; since any truth to Darren’s credentials has been refuted, such an association could be very damaging for Envision.

Two more methods of dealing with the blog present themselves.  First, to respond to it in kind in a public format, as Babiak has done with his column in The Edmonton Journal.  The other is to try and ignore it; “don’t feed the trolls” is a common saying in web culture that refers to people that comment online for the sole purpose of being inflammatory.  Neither of these methods can make the blog entry go away, however, and even litigation can’t erase the impact it has already had on public perception.



[1] darrensbigscoop.  (2010, October 13.) Catching Up. Darren’s Big Scoop. Retrieved on October 13, 2010 from

[2] Babiak, T. (2010, October 13.) Blog from fake reporter doesn’t add to airport debate. The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved on October 13, 2010 from

[3]Babiak, T. (2010, October 12.) Anonymity, Fraud and No Fun. That Internet Thing. Retrieved on October 13, 2010 from

[4] darrensbigscoop. (2010, October 7.) Developer’s on Final Approach For Downtown Airport Land. Darren’s Big Scoop. Retrieved on October 13, 2010 from

The Bank of Canada’s unclaimed balances database

An interesting, new and local spin on an old story came up recently in The Edmonton Journal that is worth considering under the records management lens.  The Bank of Canada unclaimed balances database is where Canadian bank accounts go when people forget about them, and is no longer much of a mystery to most Canadians.  Two reporters were given the difficult task of regurgitating facts about the inactive balances story in an appealing way; they decided to create the Journal’s own database of inactive accounts belonging to Edmontonians, and to reveal a couple of the narratives such a local perspective exposed.

I find this repurposing of old records rather fascinating.  It’s something I’ve noticed in other stories, such as the creators of the lost shows database in my entry about the LOC discovery of British teleplays.  It underlines the importance of good record-keeping; for instance, if not for the digging of the two Journal reporters and their unique approach, it’s likely that the human interest stories (such as the tragedy of the Qureshis and the Japanese Village owner’s modest windfall) would never have been known.

Another level of this story intrigues me.  How do inactive balances get transferred to the Bank of Canada?  The records from the bank or financial institution of origin must be moved to the Bank of Canada.  Are they purchased by the Bank of Canada for the amount of the balance?  I have not found any information about this particular detail.  And how long are the balances held?  The passing of bill C-37 in 2007 sets that period of time at 30 years [1].  But what about records prior to 2007?  Consulting the Bank of Canada’s FAQ, I can’t seem to find this information, although it does suggest older records are being maintained.  But from a records management perspective it is an important factor to consider.  In this case the records literally represent a dollar amount—is there any accounting for economic variances, such as inflation?  Over a 100 years (based on the FAQ, the oldest account in the database is from 1900), how much would the amount grow?  From what I understand, these are permanent records—they never get destroyed, the money handed over to the federal government.  There is also, clearly, a system in place so that people can reclaim their inactive accounts, as well as a system for managing these records on an ongoing basis; what kind of resources does that require?  How many balances get claimed over time?  Is it worth the expense?


[1] If I were to continue researching this issue, Bill C-37 would be a likely place to start.


Wittmeier, B.  (2010, September 13) Unused fund reveals tragedy.  The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2010 from

Wittmeier, B and L. Timmons.  (2010, September 11) Found money just web search away.  The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2010 from

Unclaimed Bank Accounts Database. (n.d.) Retrieved September 26, 2010 from The Edmonton Journal:

Unclaimed balances (n.d.) Retrieved September 26, 2010 from Bank of Canada:

Unclaimed balances – Frequently Asked Questions (n.d.) Retrieved September 26, 2010 from Bank of Canada:

LOC – Lost and Found

Recently the Library of Congress (LOC) discovered some 68 British teleplays from the 1950s and 1960s in its collection that had previously been considered lost [1].  This story should bring to mind a host of questions: where did they keep the “lost” records?  How did they not know they were there?  How did they discover them?  At first blush, I find it odd that the Library of Congress (LOC), arguably the most influential library authority in the world, can “discover” supposedly lost records among its own holdings (suggesting that its own archivists were unaware of the existence of such records).

Some clarification: the teleplays were considered “lost” by the British Film Institute (BFI) (; the BBC did not have an archival policy for its television broadcasts until 1978 [2], and are missing copies of programmes from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  However during that period WNET/Thirteen in New York (today known as PBS) acquired and stored copies of a number of these programmes, and later donated them along with many other American broadcasts to the LOC.  The LOC stored them within the massive collection housed by its Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) (  So the teleplays weren’t so much “lost” as no one thought to look there.

WHERE: A little digging reveals that the “lost” teleplays have been kept at the Packard Campus, a state-of-the-art facility for the preservation of audiovisual media [3].  Digital copies have been made and repatriated into the hands of the BFI, while the originals will remain at the Packard Campus facility.

HOW: What is most curious about this story is how the “lost” teleplays were found at all.  An independent researcher stumbled across a couple BBC programmes in the WNET/Thirteen (NET) collection, and realized that it might contain more British broadcasts from that period.  How did he come up with a list of lost programmes?  He consulted a web database of lost UK shows created by a group of volunteers and avid fans of “vintage television” [4].  By running the titles from the database against those in the NET collection, the researcher identified 68 matching records.  If not for the scrupulous record-keeping of those avid fans, those 68 teleplays would have remained lost.

I’m left with a few feelings about this: first, a renewed appreciation for anyone with enough enthusiasm for a subject to maintain a database of “lost” knowledge; second, a sense of awe for the LOC and the substantial resources at its disposal—I imagine most archives can only wish they had the capacity to store and maintain a collection for decades without ever fully assessing its nature and value; and third, puzzlement that the BFI or BBC never thought to inquire after the missing broadcasts at the LOC.

Finally, a list of the different kind of “records” involved in this story:

  1. the teleplays themselves
  2. the LOC record-keeping system or catalogue for the NET collection
  3. the paper records at the BBC and other UK television networks indicating which programmes were never retained
  4. the database records created by Kaleidoscope, compiled from other disparate records, and representing an index of all lost UK television shows


[1] Library of Congress. (2010, September 15) Library of Congress Discovers Lost British TV Treasures [Press Release]. Retrieved from

Kaleidoscope – The Classic Television Organisation. (n.d.) Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

Raymond, M.  (2010, September 22) By Jove, It’s a Video Treasure Trove! Library of Congress Blog. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

[2] The BBC Television Archive – An interview with Adam Lee, BBC archive expert. (n.d.) Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

Wiping. (n.d.) Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

Sometime in the mid-1970’s the BBC adopted an official archiving policy and began consistently saving copies of its broadcasts.  It seems likely that this occurred in conjunction with or as a result of an audit of their film archive in 1978 that revealed 108 missing episodes of “Doctor Who” in particular, as well as a number of other missing programmes that were either never preserved or erased due to “wiping”, a common practice in the 1960’s and 1970’s whereby videotapes were reused and destroyed after multiple uses.  As Adam Lee describes in the interview mentioned above, prior to the change in policy television was not considered a permanent medium, where once a broadcast was transmitted it was considered finished, rather like a theatre performance.

[3] Raymond, M.  (2010, September 22) By Jove, It’s a Video Treasure Trove! Library of Congress Blog. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

The Packard Campus – A/V Conservation (Library of Congress). (n.d.) Retrieve September 25, 2010 from

[4] Kaleidoscope – The Classic Television Organisation. (n.d.) Retrieved September 25, 2010 from

The database can be accessed from: