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  1. Morgan's Avatar
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    #1


    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
    My blog: Mythoi (http://mythoi.tolkienindex.net/). My Tolkien collection: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/User:Morgan/Collection

  2. geordie's Avatar
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    #2
    . I have the older edition, without the index, so therefore I have a searchable pdf version of the work.

    Would this be an authorized version? The reason I ask is, that one major issue which I have with internet sources is that of copyright. Folk seem to suppose that because something is available on the net, it's ok to use it, whether legal or not; and here on the Plaza there's a definite policy against such use.

    I'd respectfully suggest that a copy of the later edition of Letters, with the index (compiled by Hammond and Scull incidentally), would be preferable to messing around with what sounds to me like a dubious resource which, as you say, also suffers from the disadvantage of being unreliable! - and has therefore to be verified by using the legitimate, printed source.

    Open internet platforms (like Wikis and forums) don't carry the problems of updating and accessibility - it's quite easy to update a wiki,

    But here we have the problem - who updates them? Say someone like Tom Shippey wrote or corrected an article. What's to stop someone else - any Tom, Dick or Harry - from 'correcting' it further? Or to take a much less illustrious example; myself. I'm (usually) very careful about what I write about Tolkien on the net. I should be most upset if I wrote something, then found it changed or edited by someone who knows less about the subject than I do.

    The thing is that, when it comes to Tolkien on the internet, mis-information is rife. Someone reads a piece of rubbish on one site, and up it pops up on another, unchecked. Events of this kind occur in paper publishing too, but not as frequently; and there is the fact that (until recently at least) people other than a book's author will have looked over the text, and thus given the chance to pick up any obvious errors. But in internet terms, there is no necessity for this, and in my view there are problems with editing something after publication, along the lines of what I wrote above: who is going to be accepted as a competent editor?

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  3. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #3
    For what it's worth, it's not at all hard to limit editing on wikis and other online encyclopedias to only the staff or people who have been deemed qualified. Of course, the vetting process could be flawed, but it's by no means impossible to fix the reliability problem so that only with demonstrated knowledge can edit the database. This would, in my opinion, make the source far more reliable than an open wiki, the latter being good only as a stepping-stone, and even then only for articles that cite their sources (an overall minority).







  4. Good points, and it's good to be aware of the differences between different formats of information
    Perhaps the more important aspect than the format of information is authorship. With a book, an internet forum, or an article, you have a specific author or set of authors who are to a certain degree identifiable (here books have an edge over posts written, to go by the names, by fictional characters). So David Day's books are hardly reliable, despite being in print, but I can learn this, and find out that he is not a trustworthy author. Similarly, if I find a poster on a forum who is consistently misleading or inaccurate, I can take this into account when I read their writings. Same deal, really.
    This is one reason why I don't trust wikis all that much, though: no identifiable authors, and so no way to tell one entry's quality based on other entries. It might be mostly accurate, but there's no way to tell which bits are better than others. To a certain extent, the community of editors as a whole might be seen as collective authors, in which case their standards as a group can be evaluated to a certain extent- but I haven't used any wikis enough to become familiar with their authorship practices.
    I suppose I should add that the flipside to all this is learning who istrustworthy- that is, not people who always have The Truth, but people who try to be accurate (and usually provide references), and are willing to be corrected (though it never feels good, I'm sure). Generally, I put what most of these people say into the 'probably true' category (bearing in mind the differences between assertions, arguments, and speculations), particularly if they're presenting what they say as the products of checked research, but there's always got to be that grain of salt. In a sense, authorship just allows for the reader to determine how big that grain of salt should be.
    Of course, for someone unfamiliar with any authors, websites, or forum posters, there's no real good way to tell the wheat from the chaff. Books will sometimes offer warnings or recommendations about other books, and forums have a nice trait that if someone says something inaccurate others will usually offer a correction (and you can ask posters very easily for clarification or references). But for those of us who spend a large chunk of our time on things Tolkien, I think authorship (and a healthy sense of pessimism about anything ever being absolutely 100% accurate) is really the key to how we take any Tolkien knowledge, and this won't change no matter what format is used (and we'll probably see the mix of electronic and print--and face-to-face--sources all together for a while; really, all they are are different ways to talk to one another).





    Edited by: Lord of the Rings
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  5. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #5



    "This is one reason why I don't trust wikis all that much, though: no identifiable authors, and so no way to tell one entry's quality based on other entries."



    That's not entirely true. A lot of wikis require or at least give the possibility of creating an account before editing and even if a user does not do so you can still track edits by their IP address. Most wiki software also makes it possible to view multiple former versions of all articles so you can see exactly what was changed, and when, and by whom. This still allows for a level of quality control, particularly when the staff ban people who sabotage the wiki (this happens all the time on Wikipedia).



    Edited by: Eldorion



  6. Well, that's why I suggested that in theory a community of editors might be viewable as authors. But the process is still rather fraught, both on the wiki's end (the community as a whole establishing sufficient standards to make the grain of salt worthwhily small), and on the reader's (reading enough articles to be satisfied that good authorship is a general trend, not just in some articles; delving sufficiently into the wiki's membership practices to figure out how that would affect authorship issues, etc.- certainly very few people are going to take the time to look at edit histories to try and figure out what information is reliable).



    Anyway, in my comment about why I personally don't use wiki's much, 'identifiable' might be better replaced by 'obvious' or 'easily recognized'. Most wikis I've used (which isn't all that many) don't have any prominent authorship for their articles (and this is enhanced, in what I've seen, by a tendency to strive for a 'house-style', making posts less, rather than more, individual). I applaud any wikis that might have a better authorship system, but as long as the project is the source of information rather than the individual author (I mean in terms of primary credit), I suspect there will be some tension regarding the evaluation (though not necessarily identification) of authorship.
    To be fair, the same problems apply to a certain degree to printencyclopaediaswhere each article isn't attributed to its author(s). Theoretically the authors have been vetted, but there's no real way to vet the vetting. I tend to avoid that kind of thing just as much as I do wikis- in both cases I have other sources which are easier for me to evaluate, so I'll turn to them first.
    EDIT: When authorship is identifiable solely to a specific individual, I see no need to treat them differently. I sat in on part of a course on Japanese historical linguistics, and the professor assigned us the wikipedia article on the subject. He knew the man who had written it (and checked to make sure it was still his work), and so could vouch that considering his views would be a worthwhile project (though it turned out the professor disagreed with several key points made in the article). I'm not trying to be dogmatically 'anti-wiki', but I think I have fair reasons for treating them with some caution.

    Edited by: Lord of the Rings
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  7. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #7
    I wasn't trying to say you should trust wikis, I just wanted to point out that it is possible to identify authors on them (though it could certainly be easier). I certainly agree that one should be cautious: as I said in my first post, I don't think wikis tend to be much good as serious sources.



  8. Eldorion


    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  9. Morgan's Avatar
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Eldorion
    I wasn't trying to say you should trust wikis, I just wanted to point out that it is possible to identify authors on them (though it could certainly be easier). I certainly agree that one should be cautious: as I said in my first post, I don't think wikis tend to be much good as serious sources.
    I basically agree too (what a merry joint agreement we have!)
    But what I like about wikis is that you get a good start for researching a subject since you are given a lot of references (in those cases references are given in a wiki entry - which every good wiki should do, of course!) By looking up those references you can make an opinion of your own.
    Let me give an example, I'm not especially proficient in elvish linguistics. On the wiki I prefer to use (Tolkien Gateway), there are some competent editors contributing with entries on the meaning(s) and etymologies of elvish words. Now, since the knowledge base of elvish linguistics is spread over a whole field of publications (Parma Eldalamberon, Vinyar Tengwar, HoMe, etc), it is a tricky for a newbie like me to remember in which publication I would find the appropriate info. But by accessing the entry I will easily and quickly find the source.



    My blog: Mythoi (http://mythoi.tolkienindex.net/). My Tolkien collection: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/User:Morgan/Collection

  10. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #10
    That's only good when the authors of the page have bothered to cite their sources, which quite often is not the case. Tolkien Gateway is better than some with this (next to lotr.wikia.com they're the Tom Shippey of Tolkien encyclopedias) but it's still a chronic issue. This could be fixed if wikis enforced higher editorial standards but I've yet to see one that sets the bar so "high" as to require sources.

  11. halfir's Avatar
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    #11


    I never use wikis for Tolkien even those which have some semblance of a pedigree. I doubt very much the overall ability of open source information sites-in their current state- to ensure qualitative information- a point ably put by geordie.
    Conversely I can understand that wikis to some might be the only easily accessible source available to them. If this is the case then I would suggest only using those that provide detailed reference information, and that this is then used in website search to -hopefully- discover more by credible authors.

    And I would point out that it is strict Plaza Policy to reject any post that has clearly made use of information obrtained by ignoring copyright law- of which a pdf file of the Letters would -I suspect- be one!
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  12. Morgan's Avatar
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    #12


    Quote Originally Posted by halfir
    And I would point out that it is strict Plaza Policy to reject any post that has clearly made use of information obrtained by ignoring copyright law- of which a pdf file of the Letters would -I suspect- be one!



    Thank you geordie and halfir for pointing that out. I respect the policy of Plaza (and so went back and edited the first post).
    Perhaps there are other threads on the Plaza which discuss the grey zones of copyright law, the problems of different laws in different countries, and the tension between morality and legality (i.e., in a philosophical perspective). But since since these questions seem to be part of the "future of Tolkien knowledge", I'll scribble some thoughts here.
    I had a gut feeling that it was legal in Sweden to have a copy of a work you own. I therefore looked at the web page of the government, on the section of the Ministry of Justice, which says "It is no longer legal to make a copy of a whole or large sections of a book" (http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6143; use google translate if you want to double-check the validity). The "no longer" is interesting, before 1 July, 2005 (when the new law was established), it was legal in Sweden to make a copy of whole book. Actually it is still legal to make "a few copies for yourself, your family, and friends" of other works like music albums, films, photographs, etc.
    I remember reading a post here on the Plaza by one of the members (having participated in this discussion) about referring to his/her photocopy of an early work by Tolkien. The intention was to buy a proper edition, but since the work is out-of-print and rare, the member was forced to rely on the photocopy (although eventually buying the publication when it turned up for sale). However, according to Swedish law, at least, this would probably be illegal, even it was before 1 July 2005. But somehow we have the "moral intuition" that a private copy of an unavailable work is okay, don't we?
    Myself, I always try to acquire the "authorized" editions of a work (buying new or antiquarian). For example, I have bought all the Parma Eldalamberon issues that are currently available (i.e., volumes 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18). But what about issues 12 and 13 (out of print) - is it moral/legal to have a private copy of those?
    Another example is the annual journal Tolkien Studies 7. I just ordered my copy from West Virginia University Press. I will admit, I had to really harden myself - 70 dollars is quite much money (didn't tell my wife about the order- now that is immoral!) - especially since I suspect that it will turn up as a digital copy soon (as have been the case of the former volumes). But in this case my moral intuition told me it would have been utterly wrong (and of course, illegal) to acquire a digital copy, since the publication is available for purchase.

    Edited by: Morgan_TG
    My blog: Mythoi (http://mythoi.tolkienindex.net/). My Tolkien collection: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/User:Morgan/Collection

  13. geordie's Avatar
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    #13
    I remember reading a post here on the Plaza by one of the members (having participated in this discussion) about referring to his/her photocopy of an early work by Tolkien. The intention was to buy a proper edition, but since the work is out-of-print and rare, the member was forced to rely on the photocopy (although eventually buying the publication when it turned up for sale). However, according to Swedish law, at least, this would probably be illegal, even it was before 1 July 2005. But somehow we have the "moral intuition" that a private copy of an unavailable work is okay, don't we?

    I'm only a layman in these matters, but speaking for myself I've always worked on my understanding of the principle of 'Private Study', which under the copyright laws, allows some photocopying of a work. It's a bit complicated; I've found a useful site.

    Look Here

    It's all in the books...

  14. especially since I suspect that it will turn up as a digital copy soon (as have been the case of the former volumes).



    Here it depends in part on how you are accessing that digital copy. Project Muse has what I believe are entirely legal copies available, but you have to have access to Project Muse to see them. I'm actually at an annoying time this summer where I no longer have such access through my college, and haven't yet gotten access through my next university- but while I'm a student at either place, I can access Tolkien Studies through my institution at no personal cost to me (I assume this is because the universities handle the cost for Muse generally).
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  15. Morgan's Avatar
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    #15


    Quote Originally Posted by geordie
    I'm (usually) very careful about what I write about Tolkien on the net. I should be most upset if I wrote something, then found it changed or edited by someone who knows less about the subject than I do.
    This reminds of the text that shows when you edit an entry on a wiki: "If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at
    will, then do not submit it here."

    In theory (or "in the best of worlds"), I guess a wiki would not function as a mere collection of opinions, but rather as a place where the gentle but compelling force of the best argument would yield entries that slowly would produce "objective" knowledge about, e.g., subjects related to Tolkien and Middle-earth. In my experience, I would say that 99% of the contributors to a wiki want to create well-researched articles - so once you add a source that can be verified, to support your argument, the wiki entry is improved.
    But I agree that different constraints for the contributors often make the knowledge in a wiki unreliable - time constraints, knowledge constraints, language constraints (especially when you're not a native English speaker), etc.

    My blog: Mythoi (http://mythoi.tolkienindex.net/). My Tolkien collection: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/User:Morgan/Collection

  16. geordie's Avatar
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    In my view, a Knowledge constraint would be a pretty serious handicap for anyone writing anything about any subject! There can be no excuse for writing something which is not true, then claiming that lack of knowledge makes it excusable. It's one thing for me to do something like that in an informal Plaza discussion (as I did the other day) and quite another if I'd declared something as fact on a site where people expect to receive accurate information.

    In case of doubt, I'd like to direct the reader to one of my 'Oh dear me' threads, where I point out factual inaccuracies (well, fibs), made by folk such as the staff of tourist agencies who fabricate connections between Tolkien and their own part of the UK. If I, on a wiki, were to dispute someone's assertion that Middle earth was inspired by Sutherland in Scotland, then I should not be happy if someone were to 'correct' my post later; certainly if (as I would expect) that person had no evidence to show that he or she was right.

    No, it's not good. I'll stick to the books. I know where I am with books.



    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...





  17. Quote Originally Posted by geordie
    . I have the older edition, without the index, so therefore I have a searchable pdf version of the work.

    Would this be an authorized version? The reason I ask is, that one major issue which I have with internet sources is that of copyright. Folk seem to suppose that because something is available on the net, it's ok to use it, whether legal or not; and here on the Plaza there's a definite policy against such use.
    Copyright laws differ quite a lot. In Denmark, for instance, it is perfectly legal to create a digital copy for you personal use of any work to which you have legal access, whether music, video or book. A few years back they changed what was understood by 'legal access' so that it no longer included works that you had, for instance, borrowed at the library, but there is no problem ripping a CD or DVD or OCR scanning a book that you own yourself as long as you don't get help from any person outside your household (disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so the above is still, 'as I understand it.' The current Danish law is 'lov om ophavsret' of February 27 2010: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms...aspx?id=129901 - obviously in Danish, but I'm sure Google translate can help. The relevant paragraph is §12 regarding the production of copies for private use).

    In the US, as I understand it, you are not allowed to e.g. use an OCR scanner, and so I know of at least one person who has meticulously typed out the entire Lord of the Rings on his computer in order to have a legal and searchable copy.

    None of this allows you to distribute such copies, of course, or to obtain copies in other ways, and I certainly denounce such practices, but I don' t think there is any reason to presume that any digital copy is obtained illegally or even, at least in my opinion, immorally.


    Edited by: Troelsfo
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    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  18. Quote Originally Posted by halfir
    I never use wikis for Tolkien even those which have some semblance of a pedigree. I doubt very much the overall ability of open source information sites-in their current state- to ensure qualitative information- a point ably put by geordie.
    Wikis in general are far better than their reputation (one survey put the large Wikipedia at the same overall level of reliability as Encyclopædia Britannica), but it requires some effort to learn to use them so that you can identify that which is reliable and that which is not. One problem is that the errors are not distributed in the same way as in a traditional encyclopædic work, but they tend to cluster in a wiki.

    One of the biggest problems, in my experience, with most of the Tolkien-related web-sites is that they don't provide sufficient source references and in this respect the wikis are often no better than other sites.

    Quote Originally Posted by halfir
    And I would point out that it is strict Plaza Policy to reject any post
    that has clearly made use of information obrtained by ignoring copyright
    law- of which a pdf file of the Letters would -I suspect- be one!
    Well, you may rest assured that what digital copies I own are all perfectly legal according to Danish copyright law (I re-checked the latest version this morning just to be sure ) — but it would clearly be illegal for me to share them in any way.
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  19. halfir's Avatar
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    #19
    One of the biggest problems, in my experience, with most of the Tolkien-related web-sites is that they don't provide sufficient source references and in this respect the wikis are often no better than other sites.


    what digital copies I own are all perfectly legal according to Danish copyright law
    Given the generosity of Tolkien Scholars and artists to the Plaza, as well as that of Harper Collins we are particularly sensitive to anything that compromises their legal entitlement to gain profit from work they have carried out/published. In other words we don't bite the hand that feeds us!




    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  20. Findegil's Avatar
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    #20


    Morgan_TG wrote:

    . . . updating and accessibility are two difficulties that paper publications cannot avoid.

    Although a publication online certainly can be updated more immediately and cheaply than one on paper, wikis tend to change with alarming frequency, and not always with improvement. We look in horror at some of the 'view history' pages on Wikipedia, with their dozens of links to major and minor edits and reversions. Publications on paper represent at least relatively fixed points in history, while an electronic text open to revision is a moving target: the material seen online by a researcher may be quite different (or no longer extant) when consulted by a reader referred to it through a citation.

    As for 'accessibility', meaning that electronic texts can be searched with software, naturally that can be very welcome, especially when a work has either no index or a poor index. But a good index, prepared by someone who understands the subject matter of a work as well as the mechanics of indexing, may be far more useful by including allusions, alternate forms of names, etc., beyond obvious keywords, not to mention sub-topics and cross-references. Fortunately, the marks of a bad index - lacking important terms, missing citations - such as the one that appeared in pre-1999 (U.S., pre-2000) printings of Tolkien's Letters, soon become apparent in use.

    . . . 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.

    Again, the problem with online searches is that the article or forum post one wants may not include the keyword used in the search, but rather some variant on it, or a misspelling. And some very large databases are not easily searched, if the search mechanism is slow and the timeout level is low.

    However, reliability [in wikis] 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.

    To be fair, reliability is also a concern with printed books and journals, which may have their own share of opinions, hearsay, and guesses. The danger, on paper or online, is when these are stated as fact, and subsequently repeated as such.

    Another problem with platforms for TK [Tolkien knowledge] relying on the internet is theirephemeral nature.

    We came upon this very problem just the other day. In April 2004 a man named Walt Sheasby published an article online in which he claimed that ecological elements in Middle-earth were influenced by Tolkien's acquaintance with Sir Arthur Tansley, Fellow of Magdalen College and Sherardian Professor of Botany at Oxford from 1927 to 1937. Wayne queried Sheasby's assertions, such as that Tolkien and Tansley had collaborated in a standing seminar, and Sheasby replied that he had taken the information from an online post by one John Bellamy Foster, a writer and researcher he admired; but in that post Foster provided no supporting evidence, while our own research showed no contact between Tolkien and Tansley. Sheasby died a few months later. Now, however, someone writing a biography of Tansley got in touch with us to ask about the Tolkien-Tansley story, and in the process of going over our notes about it from 2004 we found that the John Bellamy Foster post was gone from the web - indeed, we've learned, the server it was on was discontinued not long after Sheasby published his article. We don't recall if we printed it out, and if we didn't, it's too late now. Sheasby's article can be read online, and it contains a link to the Foster post, but the link is dead.

    As geordie said,

    when it comes to Tolkien on the internet, mis-information is rife. Someone reads a piece of rubbish on one site, and up it pops up on another, unchecked. Events of this kind occur in paper publishing too, but not as frequently; and there is the fact that (until recently at least) people other than a book's author will have looked over the text, and thus given the chance to pick up any obvious errors. But in internet terms, there is no necessity for this, and in my view there are problems with editing something after publication, along the lines of what I wrote above: who is going to be accepted as a competent editor?

    Rife, you say? We see from the history record for the Wikipedia entry for Wayne that for a brief moment last week, he was being confused with an Australian field hockey player of the same name; and (which shows how much we look at these things) since June 2006, Christina's Wikipedia entry wrongly credits her with 'several Harry Potter projects, including Harry Potter clues from book 5'. And good heavens, click the 'view history' and 'discussion' tabs for the Wikipedia article 'Tolkien family': what a mess, 'currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved'. And that is likely to be a problem, unless some ultimate editorial decision can be imposed.

    Thain of Edoras wrote that

    it's not at all hard to limit editing on wikis and other online encyclopedias to only the staff or people who have been deemed qualified. Of course, the vetting process could be flawed, but it's by no means impossible to fix the reliability problem so that only [those] with demonstrated knowledge can edit the database.

    That would indeed make the product more reliable than an open wiki; but how to judge 'demonstrated knowledge'? A few years ago, we read in the New York Times about an Internet site one could visit to ask questions of declared 'experts' on various subjects. We were naturally curious about the experts on Tolkien, who turned out to be fans who decided that they could do the job having read The Lord of the Rings once or twice; but their replies consisted mainly of links to web sites such as Wikipedia and the (then freely accessible) online Encyclopaedia Britannica, rather than actual expert knowledge. Even if, though, a project could attract well-known, published Tolkien scholars, you would have demonstrated knowledge but not necessarily agreement on key issues such as, say, when did Tolkien begin and complete The Hobbit, or his intentions in his writings regarding Fate and Free Will. So even in that case, a community of authors cooperatively writing wiki articles would be problematic. (The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia had a community of expert editors overseeing authors, including themselves, writing individual articles. We weren't involved in that project, so can't say at first hand how well that worked out, but some of the articles are very flawed - some are very good - and we understand that errors were introduced by the publisher's copy-editors at the eleventh hour, too late to be corrected.)

    Morgan_TG
    also wrote:

    But what I like about wikis is that you get a good start for researching a subject since you are given a lot of references (in those cases references are given in a wiki entry - which every good wiki should do, of course!) By looking up those references you can make an opinion of your own. . . .

    This is true only if the wiki author(s) know enough about the subject to be able to choose good references, which for Tolkien means largely sources on paper. The Wikipedia authors seem to be particularly ignorant of our Companion and Guide, for instance. (We do not intend to become Wikipedia authors ourselves in order to correct this omission.)

    Troelsfo wrote:

    Wikis in general are far better than their reputation (one survey put the large Wikipedia at the same overall level of reliability as Encyclopædia Britannica)

    Keeping in mind that the Britannica now features articles much shorter and more basic than it once had, long, long ago, and is available in full only by subscription, then yes, Wikipedia would compare favourably. The Wikipedia article on Tolkien, for instance, has its flaws, but is considerably longer than the Britannica article - which, however, was written by Wayne (replacing one which had many errors) and includes (we think) a better bibliography, so high marks for quality control. The Britannica article could easily have been longer than it is, but there was a word limit. Wikipedia also includes long separate articles on The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, etc., which the Britannica does not.

    Wayne & Christina


  21. halfir's Avatar
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    #21
    the Wikipedia entry for Wayne that for a brief moment last week, he was being confused with an Australian field hockey player

    So that's what he does in his spare time!

    Thanks for an excellent contribution Wayne and Christina.
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  22. geordie's Avatar
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    #22
    I invite anyone who has any doubts about what I say about wikis and such to see what Tolkien Gateway has to say about Tolkien's 'English and Welsh'.



    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  23. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">Oh dear oh dear.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  24. 'Oh dear' indeed. It's also interesting that that article has been revised several times- mostly just changing the links, but with two of note. Firstly, someone added a comment about the essay's publication history without correcting the confusion (indeed, I have no idea which essay they're referring to in the publication history paragraph). Perhaps at the same time, the bibliographic citation was removed- replaced by a comment in the text, but I find it very strange to remove a citation for any reason. The proper cite, for instance, had the ISBN of the book- not critical info (and not found in many academic cites), but helpful nonetheless, and there's nothing gained by getting rid of useful information.
    I've browsed around Tolkien Gateway a bit, just to see what else is there. Most articles aren't that bad, but I've found a truly distressing lack of sources. There's a comment that Tolkien didn't like the term 'Anglo-Saxon', instance. I'm not sure what comment of Tolkien's they're basing that claim on, but I remember Tolkien himself using the term 'Anglo-Saxon' in a private letter to Christopher (#90 to be precise). This is probably just(?) a case of being taken in by what John Garth calls Tolkien's 'mischievous hyperbole' (Tolkien and the Great War, p. 189), but without the reference to their evidence, there's no way to follow up on the article's claim. Something I'm somewhat immediately disappointed by actually, since I'd kind of like to read a bit more on Tolkien's views on the name of 'Old English/Anglo-Saxon'
    Still, I should mention that most of the articles there basically accurate, and other than the fairly dramatic confusion about English and Welsh, nothing even remotely approaches the David Day level of nonsense, at least.
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  25. Eldorion's Avatar
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    #25


    Quote Originally Posted by Troelsfo
    Wikis in general are far better than their reputation (one survey put the large Wikipedia at the same overall level of reliability as Encyclopædia Britannica), but it requires some effort to learn to use them so that you can identify that which is reliable and that which is not.
    That is true, but they still have highly variable quality and are best used as a portal (when they have citations). That said, I agree that people drastically over-state the problems with them. Most don't seem to understand that there are large staffs on hand to prevent vandalism, that people can be banned, etc.
    Anyway, as a Wiki-geek, I have a couple of nitpicks. First, it wasn't a survey, but a study by the well-respected journal Nature. Second, it wasn't about Wikipedia's overall quality, but specifically that of their scientific entries. Britannica objected to the results - no surprise - but you can see Nature's response &gt;here&lt;.


  26. geordie's Avatar
    Hugo Bracegirdle
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    #26
    Troelsfo also wrote:

    One of the biggest problems, in my experience, with most of the Tolkien-related web-sites is that they don't provide sufficient source references and in this respect the wikis are often no better than other sites.

    That's my main beef about these sorts of sites. Until they start providing proper source citations, I'll maintain my poor estimation of them.


    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  27. halfir's Avatar
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    #27
    You old misanthrope you!
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

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