Friday, 16:30

Friday, 2006-10-27, 16:30
Liam Quin, “The Angst of Markup, or What We Must Learn from the Amateurs”

[The common theme has become to start with a Julia-related anecdote. As with Ramsay’s talk, I can’t do justice to the dry humor that infused Quin’s…. Quin’s talk offered a series of thought-provoking questions, and my notes are rather fragmentary.]

“Three is a magic number.” Thus, three types of angst:

  1. Transcription angst. TEI is 16-18 years old (whether counted from first meeting or the publication of the first set of guidelines)
  2. Heritage angst
  3. Teenage peer pressure

How much detail should we capture when we transcribe? —e.g., scanning an engraving: if the details are finely captured, we can study the image to see who produced the engraving, but not if it’s only to current recommended standards (300dpi). Recording individual minims, versus stockbroker transactions—what to buy, how much, price—where anything extra is, well, extraneous—versus a finding aid where only collections appear rather than individual books. One records what one needs for one’s work, but can’t predict what others will need.
In trying what cannot be done, are we neglecting things that can be?

How much should we worry about whether we made the right decision? Serves own needs, or intellectually complete / elegant, or doesn’t interfere with other uses? (If one marks minims individually but doesn’t connect them as letters or connect the letters into words, then one can’t search for words.)

Right if it’s useful, maybe.

Does what’s produced in the TEI community differ much from what the W3C envisioned when designing XML? (Markup angst.) “We knew you when you were young….” The primary editors of XML were also involved in TEI, often, and interested in document(ation).

Enough markup is enough, but document what you did and why. “‘Many have done less with more’–Mary Renault.”

“When we are done and gone, what will be left?”

Extended example: verse from 1581 Geneva bible, translation issues, and relative longevity. [Luke 2:14?] —glory be to god in the high heavens, and peace on earth, good will to men, vs. good will to those on whom his favor rests. Do sugary quotations last longer, or is it that established ideas become entrenched, or that new ideas take awhile to spread? Or is it about license and social factors?

What can we learn about the Web? Biggest problem in hypertext is data integrity—where all the links are. Licenses, accessibility, internationalization, global community…. One reason the Web succeeded is it’s free: not only in currency but unencumbered IP-wise. SGML requires one to read the spec, Web stuff doesn’t really (royalty-free licenses).

Longevity and remembrance—not only historical artifact but cultural one. Can we affect which edition is remembered 500 years hence? Google rankings—people search for modernized spelling in Shakespeare editions, not the carefully recorded variants in their original spellings.

Distribute work widely—object lesson = how many copies of the Battle of Maldon survived? Zero after the Cotton fire (perhaps), and now there’s many, effectively.

Rethink the “for non-commercial use only” clause of licenses. It keeps things within the indoctrinated small community and limits scope of use; maybe it’s more useful to have the info widely disseminated than to have control over it. Remember that you’re never alone when you do work that involves the Web: consider using unrestrictive licenses and share the love.

Ramsay: what about university administrators who feel that stuff given away freely is worthless? (Tenure and promotion considerations re: credit.) Quin: Not sure. We can talk.

someone: so, what about Creative Commons? Quin: minimal CC says attribution is required, which is sensible; one might want to say that other licenses are available if attribution is impossible in the way it’s specified.

someone: re: asking for permission, licenses cannot be transferred, often, without permission of the original person; that’s another problem. Quin: [basically, yes, transferrability of licenses is a problem.]

someone: what about people who pick up a freely distributed thing and slap their own pricing on it? Quin: if a text is under copyrightt and the publisher is making money, the publisher needs to see whether they’d sell more if things were also available for free. E.g., Bitstream font for Gnome desktops: people send a document using it, and the recipient goes and buys it. Can’t retract a free thing once it’s out, though. Possibly also increase findability via Webrings or similar. Publishers are a difficult sell (as it were). Perhaps also chunk up the material so that people can’t do a mass-download script to grab things for themselves.

Bauman: three questions: 1. concerned when you say [something I missed about permission distinctions] re: fair use / free use: consider Weird Al, who always asks permission though he’s using things well within fair use. Quin: there’s finessing. You needn’t say “used by permission”—needn’t spread the theory that people must ask for permission, but equally, one doesn’t want to say that someone need never ask.
2. synopsis of thing under which W3C XML spec is published? Quin: W3C copyright, with royalty-free patent policy. Copyrt is tricky but allows commercial use, governs how copies can be made; deployment matters most. Copyrt part is okay.
3. I notice you’re wearing shoes. Quin: okay, known for wearing funny hats and no shoes. The first time I go to a new conference, I wear shoes.