Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Pressure to post ::

At this busy end of the year (down here the academic year ends just weeks before the calendar year does, so this is silly season) finding time to blog is difficult - frankly finding time to read blogs is not easy. But so much good stuff has been going on. So many ideas and posts bookmarked and noted "for a post". And, since it is nearly a week since I blogged the pressure to write is huge. (Fascinating, for "ordinary" writing often the problem is "writer's block", with a blog the problem is no time to write...)

I'd love to take part in Christopher Heard's great blogussion of Philip Davies article from JHS - it would be interesting, fun, and a stimulus to read something that does not contribute very directly to any current work... but I can't.

I really want to comment on some of the provocative material Stephen has blogged recently, and I have four biblioblog posts marked to write about...

But I really can't resist at least pointing to the fine posts on if:book recently. The one on Ted Nelson's thoughts on the future of hypertext will keep, maybe while I am away for SBL I'll find the time to process and write a longer piece, but I must mention the discussions of Wikipedia and Wikibooks. "can there be great textbooks without great authors?" is not only a great title, but a fine question. For there to be quality material on the web quality authors are needed. The critique of one early Wikibook is trenchant (and probably not entirely unfair - though the Wikibook project is still in very early stages, one wonders how first drafts of Gardner's textbook read?) The post compares the Wiki Art History volume with a classic text the seventh edition of Gardner's Art Through the Ages which is now in its 11th edition! The Wikibook unsurprisingly shows both infelicity of style, and plagiarises Gardner. The $1,000,000 question asks whether this is a temporary "feature" or whether the Wiki format is doomed to mediocrity - to misapply a tagline "the textbook anyone can edit" is hardly a selling point!

The if:book post on Wikipedia points to much good discussion. For me, in doing so it raises the key issue. A scholarly web, that is a web with scholarly content, needs some form of evaluation and assessment, worthy material must be distinguished from dross. That's what AKMA's biblical studies seeded search tool is trying to do automatically. (With, to judge by my cursory testing, so far not very impressive results - I am not convinced straight Google is not better...)

Peer review, which we have discussed before, is a relic of the old "guild" system, and though designed (in theory) to eliminate personal considerations, in practice incorporates generous doses of quasi-mafia-style patronage. Paul Nikkel's open QA model does not yet sound sufficiently rigorous... (BTW Paul, are you planning on publishing that AIBI piece somewhere? If not how about making a version available on the web...)

So, for this hurried post, no conclusion, except that (along with funding) quality assurance is a key issue if we are to produce an "open" web-based "scholarship"...

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