Statement of Project

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In July of 2012, Jason Scott proposed the idea of Let's Just Solve The Problem Month. As described in his weblog entry, the idea was to use an agreed-upon month (November) to gather a large group of people and solve a problem, one that could be done online and which merely needed legions of labor to achieve, something most projects simply don't have. Whether there will be a "Just Solve the Problem Month" in years ahead remains to be seen.

For November of 2012, Jason proposed the first "Problem" to solve was "The File Format Problem", the issue that there is a lot of spread-out information about file formats in the world, and almost universal acknowledgement that there are too many to keep track of and too much information in too spread-out an area for it ever to be assembled. This Wiki is an attempt to bring together all that spread out information. As written in that entry:

In the last couple centuries, we’ve created a number of self-encapsulated data sets, or “files”. Be they letters, programs, tapes, stamped foil, piano rolls, you name it. And while many of those data sets are self-evident, a ton are not. They’re obscure. They’re weird. And worst of all, many of them are the vital link to scores of historical information. Everyone knows this problem. It’s why old novelists cry they can’t pull their first novel out of Wordperfect. It’s why someone who used U-matic tapes to record the first meetings of a famous protest group goes “oh well”. It’s why, in all things, someone looks at anything older than five years, and goes “bye”, figuring there’s nothing they can do. And I’ve had to listen to the mewings about this problem for at least 20 years now, in various forms. A lot. And then the person lights up about maybe solving this problem, and then dims and says “well, we can’t really solve the problem”. Because they know – it’d take an army of people to do it. Let’s make that goddamned army.

Therefore, this Wiki has been created for "Help Solve the File Format Problem", the first of what may be many such "Just Solve the Problem Month" projects for the future.

Over 30 days (and left to run afterwards), this Wiki will provide a central source for information on all manner of file formats, self-encapsulated information sets that suffer (over time) from falling into obscurity, losing documentation (and being unsearchable in the archive), and otherwise fading while still containing many works out in the world that might need recovery. By providing an institution-neutral, public-domain, easy to navigate site containing this information, the "problem" can be addressed both by users of the Wiki and the many, many related attempts to achieve this goal, all of which can pull this wiki's information back under their roof.

Please read the FAQ about the editing side of the project, or simply go to the Main Page and begin browsing through the collection.

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