QC vs. QA, IMHO

As my project moves along, our first batch of digitized audiocassettes from the Herb Pomeroy collection have just arrived back at MIT from the vendor. Leading up to this exciting arrival, a smaller group of representatives from the project have been meeting to determine exactly what the Quality Control (QC) steps will be, as distinguished from our Quality Assurance (QA) steps.

Semantics can be flustering sometimes, but nuanced distinctions between words and phrases can contain major implications. For our project – in defining Quality Control and Quality Assurance – the implications affect who is responsible for executing the actions and who needs to be trained on what tools, as the Collections Preservation and Reformatting (CPR) department is executing the Quality Control actions, while the Content Curators (CC) work on the Quality Assurance methods. Below you can see the isolated high-level “Transform Analog to Digital” workflow and the “Manage Digital” workflow and where the QC and QA steps fit.

A and D pipeline

The way I’ve been conceptualizing the distinctions we made between the two are: Quality Control is more like quantitative data checking and Quality Assurance is qualitative content assessment. So I wanted to discuss these distinctions, the methods that are included under them, and the tools we are currently employing to execute these processes.

Quality Control (QC)

As mentioned above, the Quality Control processes relevant for this project have really geared towards determining whether the data and files requested from the vendor is present and complete. Questions involved in our QC measure include: Are the number of recordings we expected on the hard drive? Are all of the metadata fields we needed filled in? Are the digital audio surrogates the length and stereo specification we requested? Here are some of the QC actions and the tools we are enlisting – though they will certainly evolve as the workflow matures:

QC Action Tool
Virus check Sophos
Checksum validation Karen’s Hasher or MDFiveCheck
Was reformatting done correctly? BWF MEtaEdit to check channels and stereo/mono
Are all metadata types we requested present? BWF MetaEdit
Correct file formats for preservation and access copies? DROID
Appropriate number and size of files? N/A – Eyeball the directory

Quality Assurance (QA)

The Content Curators are then in charge of the QA, listening to the actual audio (content) and determining:

  • Is this what we expected off of that analog audio material?
  • Can we use this after all, does it sound good?
  • The metadata fields are present, but are they correct?

It’s been a very useful conversation for our group, especially instructive for other members as to what ways digital archival content needs to be treated in order to maintain integrity, reliability, and authenticity. As this has all been a part of the group hashing out the workflow, it is another example of how documenting detailed, lower-level pieces of the workflow has clarified responsibilities and where specific tools can be leveraged. I’m very close to finishing documentation of the next portion of the workflow (the D sequence above), and I am excited to show everyone the work soon!

By JHOVE, we’ve done it –
Tricia P

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