"We may be living in something of a bubble, and I don't mean investment bubble - I mean reality bubble," Tim O'Reilly, a guru of the global technology community, said this week in his keynote address at the Web 2.0 Expo. "These are pretty depressing times in a lot of ways," he groused, showing the audience a number of Facebook applications such as the one allowing surfers to toss virtual sheep at each other, or to drink virtual beer. "You have to ask yourself - are we working on the right things?"
The disenchanted O'Reilly would probably have liked the joint project by Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the global storage company EMC, which are collaborating on bringing more than 200,000 hours of video to Israel.
The videos include 52,000 interviews with Holocaust survivors, prepared and stored by the Shoah Foundation Institute, a Steven Spielberg creation at the University of Southern California (USC).
The testimonies will be added to a Yad Vashem collection of about 10,000 accounts that have been filmed on video since 1989, and some 5,000 films dealing with the Holocaust produced all over the world. The collections will be made accessible to the public within the next few days.
The collection at USC is archived on analog recordings with limited accessibility. Only the catalogue of movies and a relatively few minutes of video are available online. "The USC has robotic systems that pull out recordings requested by users. The process takes a few minutes each time," relates Yad Vashem CIO Michael Lieber. "After receiving a donation from Sheldon Adelson and EMC, we decided to fly the material to Israel in a consolidated storage system, although transferring so much material is rather unusual."
As part of the project, a number of EMC representatives came to the Shoah Institute and, over a period of a few weeks, copied all of the testimonies -- more than 200 terabytes -- to archive systems that were then flown to Israel.
A senior EMC official relates that the archive server arrived in Israel in less-than-optimal conditions. "One of the crates was taken off the plane at the airport and left in the open air in the rain -- we were very concerned that water would seep into the systems. We brought them to our offices and checked them with apprehension. After we made sure that all the information had been retained and [was] intact, we transferred it to Jerusalem," the official said.
The systems weigh more than a ton. "It was no trivial logistical campaign," the EMC official added.
Within the next few days the movies will be available for Video on Demand viewing at the Yad Vashem viewing center, founded three years ago. Lieber says that the center's top priority is to get the material onto the Internet. "Initially, we will use YouTube, so we can at least post sections of the interviews," he promises, noting that Yad Vashem would prefer to put the entire archive online, but technological, legal and especially financing problems make this a difficult task.