Reconsidering the Challenges of Software Preservation and Sustainability
Software preservation has long been recognized as a very hard problem. However, there has been much less focus than one might like on the purposes and audiences for software preservation; further, there has been a certain fascination with particularly difficult or even pathological cases that has dominated considerations of preservation at scale. While the connections between software and digital documents of various types (and the prospective role of standards in making these connections less crucial) has long been recognized, in recent years the growing focus on the stewardship and reuse of research data has forced the recognition of potential critical interdependencies between data and the software to work with it; here standards do not seem to be as helpful, and other approaches may be key. Finally, we have a deeper understanding of software lifecycles and the challenges of software sustainability (which is emerging as an enormous problem) and the problems that these pose to research communities that depend on specific software; yet the connections between sustainability and preservation are not well articulated.
In my talk and the subsequent discussion, my hope is to take a fresh look at the overall formulation of the challenges involved in both preservation and sustainability of software, and the connections between these twin objectives.