Friday, June 24, 2011

1940 U.S. Census RFI Q&A

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I posted NARA is Looking for a Host and Search Engine for the 1940 U.S. Census on 1 June, and now the Federal business Opportunities webpage for the RFI for the census has been updated, and now includes:

Notice Details - with the RFI

Packages - includes the Questions and Answers submitted by prospective vendors

Interested Vendors List - only 6 listed, none of them the expected "players"

The Questions asked by the vendors and the Answers provided by NARA shed additional light on the requirements that NARA has for the 1940 census.  See Answers to 1940 Census RFI Questions.docx  for the complete set.

I found these questions and answers to be of major interest:

Question 10. Will the government allow us to set-up a membership based fee for access to the documents and pictures?

Answer 10. No. NARA’s intent is to provide free access to the 1940 Census records.

My comment:  wow!  The documents and pictures (maps?) will be free to access.  Totally free.  A surprise to me - it doesn't say "within NARA facilities" - it implies from anywhere! 

Question 22. Will there be any SSL traffic where users will need a username and password?

Answer 22. NARA does not expect usernames and passwords to be used.

My comment:  Same as above. 

Question 16. Beside developing a search engine and search display interface what are the other requirements for website development?

Answer 16. NARA’s other requirements include the ability to browse, zoom/pan, and download, scale to accommodate additional concurrent users, etc. These are all included in the Requirements section of the RFI.

My comment:  Could the vendor require a username and password, and charge for use of the search engine?  I'm unclear. 

Question 4. What are the expectations for the size of the downloaded image file? Is it the full 4 MB file size provided by NARA or a compressed file size?

Answer 4. To achieve the best text detail for viewing and printing, NARA expects the vendor to provide the full 4 MB image file size (as provided by NARA) for download.
My comment:  A 4 mb image size is manageable on relatively modern computers.

Question 7. What is the intent in supporting the download of all images from a given Enumeration District at once? What use cases are envisioned to be supported by this functionality?

Answer 7. NARA anticipates that users will want the ability to download the images associated with a particular enumeration district.

The following use case describes this functionality: A researcher searches by an Enumeration District Number (e.g. ‘1940 Census New Haven 5-269’). Assuming there are 50 census schedule images associated with this enumeration district, NARA would like to provide users the ability to download a single, multiple or 'All Images' from a particular search to their computing device.

My comment:  If each image is about 4 mb, then 50 images in a typical ED will be 200 mb. This will make downloading a lot of census pages pretty easy, I think. The file sizes are large, but it will be necessary to do this for a full ED before there are search engines.

Question 1. Can you please explain “no-cost contract”? Does this mean Firm Fixed Price?
Answer 1. NARA is seeking a solution which will be provided at no cost to the government or to individuals seeking access to the 1940 Census data. This does not mean Firm Fixed Price.
My comment:  Actually, it means the equivalent of a $ 0 contract Firm Fixed Price, doesn't it?

Based on the Q&A offered so far, it seems to me that NARA wants someone to host the images, provide a capable viewer for the images, create and provide a search engine, and provide a search display feature to NARA's taste.  For no cost to NARA, and with no ability to charge users for the services.

My question is:  Who besides the major players in the genealogy industry - I'm thinking Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, FamilyLink.com, Archives.com, etc.) - can afford to provide this for free?

A better question is:  Who can afford NOT TO provide it for free?

The URL of this post is: http://www.geneamusings.com/2011/06/1940-us-census-rfi-qa.html

(c) 2011. Randall J. Seaver. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to re-publish my content, please contact me for permission, which I will usually grant. If you are reading this on any other genealogy website (other than through an RSS feed), then they have stolen my work.

2 comments:

John said...

I can think of only one player other than the ones you mentioned who could afford to do this, & might have an interest.

Google.

(There are other search engine specialists who might be able to afford it, but I think they would have less interest.)

Daniel Dillman said...

I agree with most of your analysis of these particular questions and answers. It sure looks like NARA wants the access to be free of charge in any way.

One comment on Question #4:
Question 4. What are the expectations for the size of the downloaded image file? Is it the full 4 MB file size provided by NARA or a compressed file size?

Answer 4. To achieve the best text detail for viewing and printing, NARA expects the vendor to provide the full 4 MB image file size (as provided by NARA) for download.
My comment: A 4 mb image size is manageable on relatively modern computers.


The image size is certainly manageable for modern computers, including tablets. The concern I have is for people still using dial-up access (many more than you'd think!) for which these files are quite large. It would be nice for them if there were a lower-resolution alternative. I personally would always grab the largest available, but I have broadband access.

Nice post!