Archive for April, 2005

The only true encyclopedia?

Friday, April 1st, 2005

I see one immediate use for this space: items I printed for possible use in Cites & Insights that turn out to be a bit too odd or difficult to use there–and, as a post later this weekend will show (I hope), topics I plan to cover that deserve a head’s-up earlier.

I’ve got several more items in the unending saga of Wikipedia in the Net Media folder, but as I look at “The political importance of the Wikipedia Project : the only true Encyclopedia of our days”, I think it deserves separate comment.

That comment might boil down to “Wha?” or “The French, they will be French.” Or it might not.

Jean-Baptiste Soufron subtitles this four-page essay “Wikipedia : Towards a new electronic Enlightenment Era ?” (Those extra spaces around punctuation are in the original; I can only assume they’re important for some reason. I quote the first three paragraphs:

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” — Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

I am convinced that Wikipedia is the only real Encyclopedia of our days because it’s the only one that relies on a real political goal : to pursue freedom over content and information.

On the other hand, books like the Encyclopedia Britannica are nothing else than simple knowledge compendiums without any political soul and usurping the term “Encyclopedia”.

Scratching your head yet? I love that first paragraph: Wales could give Michael Hart lessons in grandiosity. “The sum of all human knowledge.” Sure, Jimmy. Never mind that.

Were you aware that something is only an encyclopedia if it has a “political soul”? No, neither was I. Ah, but after trashing Robert McHenry and explaining why Wikipedia is inherently superior in every respect, we get the real stuff here: Diderot and d’Alembert of the French Encyclopedie, of the mid-18th century, had a strong political basis for that encyclopedia. So, “a real encyclopedia should be a place directed toward a political project of its own…”

What’s that you say? The word “encyclopedia” has Greek roots? According to Merriam-Webster, it was used in English as early as 1644–a full century before the French Encyclopedie?

That may be factually true, but I’d guess it’s irrelevant to Soufron. Once the French took over the word for a definition of their own, it is uncivilized for anyone else to give it any other meaning, even if that usage preceded the French usage. The Diderot and d’Alembert effort was “the original encyclopedia,” and nothing else can claim to be an encyclopedia unless it has a similarly political end.

Wikipedia’s goal? “The political goal of freedom over content and information.” Read that carefully: freedom is more important to Wikipedia than the actual content.

My only real comment here is: “I laugh in your general direction.”

Wow! Quoted in LJ!

Friday, April 1st, 2005

Well, LJ Online, that is.

Here’s the article. Here’s the essential paragraph:

Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association (ALA), has stepped down just months before assuming office. “It was the blog people, they did it,” said RLG’s Walt Crawford, a friend and co-author (Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality; ALA, 1995). “They made Mike’s life a living hell,” Crawford said in reference to the outcry following the publication of Gorman’s essay “The Revenge of the Blog People.”

If you know how likely I am ever to call Michael Gorman “Mike,” you won’t even have to pay attention to the date of the item… (the “outcry” will be commented on in the next Cites & Insights, by the way: out some time next week).

Welcome to Walt at Random

Friday, April 1st, 2005

It’s been a short time coming (and a long time avoiding), but today seemed like the ideal day to start this weblog–the significance of the day matches the significance of the blog.

For those of you who read Cites & Insights and wonder how Walt at Random relates to it, the only possible answer is: I don’t really know yet. The blog may be an extension of (and largely replacement for) my LISNews blog lite. It may add those comments about cruising (on rivers and oceans, for those looking for ambiguity), music, food, and all those other subjects that are still outside C&I‘s scope. It may include updates that seem to require immediate attention or comments too snarky for the journal.

It may even wither, like most new blogs. Maybe I really don’t have much more to say than the quarter-million words I typically publish each year. We shall see.

Some thanks right up front:

  • Dorothea Salo provided a range of useful suggestions on software, themes, and finishing touches. I never took her doubtless good advice on proper ways to do HTML for C&I, but this time I listened to her.
  • Blake Carver
  • (this link’s for his LISHost persona) and LISHost, for providing the hosting, installing WordPress, downloading the theme I wanted, and downloading the Creative Commons plugin. And for providing worthwhile feedback on the aesthetics of the site. Neither Dorothea nor Blake can be held responsible for what finally appears here!

  • All the people who did not follow Steven Cohen’s suggestion that they push me to start this weblog. I don’t generally respond well to pushing, particularly from people who don’t pay my salary. (Note that HTML portions of C&I didn’t show up until people stopped demanding them…)
  • And, of course, Michael Gorman. Without his LJ BackTalk, I might never have gotten around to starting a weblog.

I’m not a “blog person,” whatever that might be. But as of now, I am a blogger.

A note about comments: They’re enabled for now. Supposedly, the options I have set require that I approve the first comment from a given email address (and I won’t allow anonymous comments). It’s not clear that this function is working. I have no compunctions about deleting inappropriate comments. If comment spam proves to be a problem, I’ll take appropriate steps–but not until it’s necessary. And of course I’ll read comments!