Spurred by another thread, my intention is to raise some discussion on the problem(s) of presenting and evaluating Tolkien knowledge (TK, hereafter) in wikis, publications, forums, etc.
I'll start by some personal reflections.
1. Traditional paper publications
When I need to look up some facts about Tolkien's life, I usually start by grabbing my copy of The JRRT Companion and Guide. Now,Hammond and Scull are to be given praise for keeping a regularly updated errata and corrigenda on their web site. However, the existence of the errata always compels me to also have a look on their web site, to see if anything has been added or changed concerning the issue at hand.
Another problem occurs when searching for a specific term in paper publications which lack an index. In theory, it would be nice if each publication you buy also came with a (copy-protected) digital version for quick searches, IMHO.
In conclusion, updating and accessibility are two difficulties that paper publications cannot avoid.
2. Internet platforms: Wikis, forums, etc
Open internet platforms (like Wikis and forums) don't carry the problems of updating and accessibility - it's quite easy to update a wiki, or write a reply in a forum thread, and you can easily make a search of a whole database. However, reliability is a major problem - which we recently found out in this thread. And, to a certain extent, this a continuous problem:well-researched facts will always be mixed with opinions, hearsay or plain guesses.
Another problem with platforms for TK relying on the internet is theirephemeral nature. For example, I have myself contributed a lot to a wiki called Tolkien Gateway. Some weeks ago, something went wrong when the database was moved to a new server - now the wiki cannot be reached hardly at all (only for a few hours per day). What if the administrator (which I don't want to blame - it's a non-profit project) abandons the project, or cannot solve the technical issues? All the effort would be wasted. In contrary, my copy of The JRRT Companion and Guide and the rest of my "paper-based" Tolkien library stays with me 'til I die (if not my house burns down...).
In conclusion, reliability and preservation are two difficulties that internet platforms cannot avoid.
Edited by: Morgan_TG