Dwight Wallis wrote:
> Has there been any documented instances where the varying
> appearance of a web site or document from different
> browsers led to a substantive fiscal, legal, or policy issue?
> Or was it the informational content of the site that was
> the issue? What is the value of the "moving banner" in most
> business applications? Is this something that is "nice"
> or "necessary"?
I don't know of any existing case law, but I would think this will vary
from one situation to another. If we assume that not all information
can qualify as a record, and that authentic records must maintain not
only their content but also their context and structure, then these
components could be extremely important. A stream of text that is so
different from its original presentation that it is not trusted as
authentic, no longer has record value.
If an employee uses his work email account to send out email promoting a
business he's running on the side, then a banner ad that was included in
that message is pretty important as documentation of his activities. A
message saved without that banner embedded in it just wouldn't be the
If I display an important policy to staff through a corporate intranet
and the only copy I store is missing all the visual formatting (since it
was applied to pages dynamically through a style sheet reference), some
of the text that was displayed as a GIF image, and several textual
components that were generated on the fly through server-side includes,
then the copy I've saved could be seen as a questionable copy of that
> What should our policy be in maintaining documentation that may
> generally be in the form of an external (very dynamic) web site
> "publication" not addressed specifically to our organization
> (for example, Peter's RAIN linkages)? We need to be careful
> about extending our circle of responsibility too far beyond our
> circle of authority - a common RM problem.
Certainly, most instances of mailing lists and things like RAIN are
purely informational and probably don't need to be kept as records. And
I don't think many people would say that it's the job of the sender or
the recipient to maintain a copy of every document to which they link in
an email message. (If that were the case, I'd be in big trouble.)
The nature of my question was more related to messages that clearly do
have record value for one reason or another (public relations documents,
newsletters, etc.) and need to be managed accordingly. In most cases,
message with lots of bells and whistles in them are probably just junk
mail (though even those have record value in cases such as the proof of
violating an email use policy). But as messages that aren't just ASCII
become more common (both through email and the Web), then more records
for which we are responsible will take those forms.
> Internally, shouldn't we maintain documentation at it's source
> in most circumstances? This would seem to simplify the issue
In most circumstances, I would agree. But in many cases, recordkeeping
on the part of the recipient is equally important, not only for
businesses but also for individuals.
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)
touches on this in Section 8 when it requires a "record capable of
retention by the recipient at the time of receipt" and "if a law other
than this [Act] requires a
record (i) to be posted or displayed in a certain manner, (ii) to be
sent, communicated, or transmitted by a specified method, or (iii) to
contain information that is formatted in a certain manner...the record
must contain the information formatted in the manner specified in the
other law." There is some ambiguity, though, since it seems Section 12
could be read to imply that it's only the information in the record that
Obviously, most HTML email and Web transactions don't constitute
transactions. But, when they do, I think we'll have to think very hard
about what the necessary components are for the reliability and
authenticity of records and how we plan to capture and maintain those
components over time.
Electronic Records Project Archivist
Kansas State Historical Society
Phone: 785-272-8681, ext. 280 Fax: 785-272-8682
"Obsolete power corrupts obsoletely."
- Ted Nelson