I'm spending the day recovering from some major problems of the last few days, and am taking the time to catch up on some side projects. Among those
are a couple Vietnam and Gulf war related things.
The most useful data for this kind of research is raw data. Spreadsheet files with 10's of thousands of rows excite me to no end. Database front ends
on websites or tables someone else made, make me groan. It doesn't matter who made them, if it's the head of CNN or the National Archives or whether
it's a humble ATS user with the very best of intentions. Once the original dataset is modified by so much as ONE letter in ONE line? Integrity is
gone. Kaput. Shot.
What I am finding to my utter dismay and sadness is that a great deal of raw data which was available as recently as 12 months ago from National
Archives and other places is now 'for-profit' offerings from the same .gov sites at fees even they can't possibly defend for taxpayer funded employees
of a taxpayer funded agency to be peddling like they are. Essentially? A great deal is now lost to the general public vs. the open and easy access
enjoyed in the past for casual research. (Serious and funded research isn't impacted ..it just won't be free to them, either)
So what is the moral of this story? PLEASE PLEASE...if you deal with raw files, do what I do with every one I get. Make a copy. 1st thing. Prior to
doing anything else. Copy Copy Copy. Forget about the original. Archive it. Never touch it again, unless needing ANOTHER copy
. Whatever you do
though, please please don't modify or "scrub" a large original dataset for your own uses ...then trash the rest. SOME of what may be obtained that
way, may not always BE available to get again some day. Some of it may become too expensive to ever get again. The copy that is destroyed, may be the
only one you'll find you could ever get over time.
* Specific examples on this are real easy and frustrating in this case. I'm looking for the complete, 100% comprehensive data record for every Naval
Gunfire support mission in the Vietnam War, with details for each, running from 03/1966 to 01/1973. Plenty of references can be found, I've
discovered, for how people downloaded the WHOLE thing, as recently as 2012. I find all kinds of tables ..of just specific vessels, culled from the
overall set. It's neat for a trivia game. It's worthless as a research tool in that form. (sigh) more lost to the ether and profits of Government.
Something to keep in mind while researching then. Copy, Archive, keeP. CAP every thing you get, because you just may not be able to get it again.
edit on 5-11-2013 by Wrabbit2000 because: (no reason given)