Petter Reinholdtsen

Free software archive system Nikita now able to store documents
19th March 2017

The Nikita Noark 5 core project is implementing the Norwegian standard for keeping an electronic archive of government documents. The Noark 5 standard document the requirement for data systems used by the archives in the Norwegian government, and the Noark 5 web interface specification document a REST web service for storing, searching and retrieving documents and metadata in such archive. I've been involved in the project since a few weeks before Christmas, when the Norwegian Unix User Group announced it supported the project. I believe this is an important project, and hope it can make it possible for the government archives in the future to use free software to keep the archives we citizens depend on. But as I do not hold such archive myself, personally my first use case is to store and analyse public mail journal metadata published from the government. I find it useful to have a clear use case in mind when developing, to make sure the system scratches one of my itches.

If you would like to help make sure there is a free software alternatives for the archives, please join our IRC channel (#nikita on irc.freenode.net) and the project mailing list.

When I got involved, the web service could store metadata about documents. But a few weeks ago, a new milestone was reached when it became possible to store full text documents too. Yesterday, I completed an implementation of a command line tool archive-pdf to upload a PDF file to the archive using this API. The tool is very simple at the moment, and find existing fonds, series and files while asking the user to select which one to use if more than one exist. Once a file is identified, the PDF is associated with the file and uploaded, using the title extracted from the PDF itself. The process is fairly similar to visiting the archive, opening a cabinet, locating a file and storing a piece of paper in the archive. Here is a test run directly after populating the database with test data using our API tester:

~/src//noark5-tester$ ./archive-pdf mangelmelding/mangler.pdf
using arkiv: Title of the test fonds created 2017-03-18T23:49:32.103446
using arkivdel: Title of the test series created 2017-03-18T23:49:32.103446

 0 - Title of the test case file created 2017-03-18T23:49:32.103446
 1 - Title of the test file created 2017-03-18T23:49:32.103446
Select which mappe you want (or search term): 0
Uploading mangelmelding/mangler.pdf
  PDF title: Mangler i spesifikasjonsdokumentet for NOARK 5 Tjenestegrensesnitt
  File 2017/1: Title of the test case file created 2017-03-18T23:49:32.103446
~/src//noark5-tester$

You can see here how the fonds (arkiv) and serie (arkivdel) only had one option, while the user need to choose which file (mappe) to use among the two created by the API tester. The archive-pdf tool can be found in the git repository for the API tester.

In the project, I have been mostly working on the API tester so far, while getting to know the code base. The API tester currently use the HATEOAS links to traverse the entire exposed service API and verify that the exposed operations and objects match the specification, as well as trying to create objects holding metadata and uploading a simple XML file to store. The tester has proved very useful for finding flaws in our implementation, as well as flaws in the reference site and the specification.

The test document I uploaded is a summary of all the specification defects we have collected so far while implementing the web service. There are several unclear and conflicting parts of the specification, and we have started writing down the questions we get from implementing it. We use a format inspired by how The Austin Group collect defect reports for the POSIX standard with their instructions for the MANTIS defect tracker system, in lack of an official way to structure defect reports for Noark 5 (our first submitted defect report was a request for a procedure for submitting defect reports :).

The Nikita project is implemented using Java and Spring, and is fairly easy to get up and running using Docker containers for those that want to test the current code base. The API tester is implemented in Python.

Tags: english, nuug, offentlig innsyn, standard.

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