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Section 5: Documenting Data from a Virtual Reality Project#

5.7 Description of archive#

Without documentation, only the developers of a virtual world are confident of its structure – which files belong together, what their names mean and what software was used for their creation. If this information is not carefully documented it will be difficult to preserve the resource for the future. For example, if no information is available on the software used to render the virtual world, it will be virtually impossible to archive it for the future (see Section 6.2).

To request detailed information on each file is impractical; however, a simple list of all files with more detailed descriptions of related files should be possible. The following information should be provided with a digital archive:

List of all file names
A list of all digital files in the archive, with their names and file extensions (e.g. 'NWPalaceTR.WRL', 'stone.mov').

Explanation of codes used in file names
A brief explanation of any naming conventions or abbreviations used to label the files.

Description of file formats
An explanation of which internal format is associated with a particular file extension (e.g. '.WRL files are VRML '97 files').

List of codes used in files
A list of any special values used in the data (e.g. '999 indicates a "dummy" value in the data').

Date of last modification
The date of last data modification allows the currency of the archive to be assessed.

5.7.1 File-naming conventions

Digital files should be given meaningful titles that reflect their content. It is recommended that standard file-naming conventions and directory structures should be used from the beginning of a project. If possible, the same conventions should be used for all projects by the same organisation, for example:

  • Reserve the 3-letter file extension for application-specific codes, e.g. WRL, MOV, TIF
  • Identify the activity or project in the file name, e.g. use a unique reference number, project number or project name
  • Include the version number in the file name where necessary.

5.7.2 Version control

It is extremely important to maintain strict version control when working with files, especially with data which may be saved and processed using a series of different treatments.

There are three common strategies for providing version control: file-naming conventions, standard headers listing creation dates and version numbers, or file logs. It is important to record, where practical, every change to a file no matter how small the change. Versions that are no longer needed should be weeded out, after making sure that adequate back-up files have been created (see Section 6.2).

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