Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2011 Feb 10 | Online Citations

The Chronicle just published an article by Tushar Rae about how E-Books' Varied Formats Make Citations a Mess for Scholars . I think this was prompted by the Association of Internet Researchers thread " Citing from a Kindle ", which touched on a number of interesting (and annoying) issues of how to best cite digital sources. In Good Faith Collaboration (GFC) my approach was to make use of the accessibility of the Web and, also, hope for the best:

However, I recommend consulting the online bibliography where I include hypertextual references whenever possible, including for printed sources now online. This is common for recent works, sometimes as preprints or author’s copies, and for older works in the public domain; I use the publication date of the version I used. For older works, if necessary, I often mention the original publication date. Page numbers might refer to the original pagination or to an online printout; I hope it will be clear to the reader which is the case. [References]

However, for those who might like to cite GFC once the complete Web edition comes out (at the end of this year) one will be able to link (via URIs with fragment identifiers) to every chapter, section, and paragraph. For example, here's a link to the 15th paragraph of chapter one:

2011 Feb 10 | Italicizing Wikipedia? CMS15 v. CMS16

In my writing up to now, I italicize Britannica because it is a book. I never italicize Wikipedia or blog names because as The Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition notes: "websites, if titled, should be set in Roman, headline style, without quotation marks" (8.199). However, the new 16th edition says much more:

General titles of websites mentioned or cited in text or notes are normally set in roman, headline-style, without quotation marks. An initial the in such titles should be lowercased in midsentence. Titled sections, pages, or special features on a website should be placed in quotation marks. Titles of the types of works discussed elsewhere in this chapter (i.e., books, journals, etc.) should usually be treated the same whether they are published in print or online. Some websites share the name of a printed counterpart, and others (such as Wikipedia ) are analogous to one of the types of works discussed elsewhere in this chapter; these titles should be styled accordingly. ( 8.186 )

I presume Wikipedia should be italicized since it is done in Chicago's prose above. Looking for a justification, we see that in the documentation section for blogs:

Titles of websites are generally set in roman without quotation marks and capitalized headline-style, but titles that are analogous to books or other types of publications may be styled accordingly. Titled sections or pages within a website should be placed in quotation marks. Specific titles of blogs—which are analogous to periodicals—should be set in italics; titles of blog entries (analogous to articles in a periodical) should be in quotation marks. ( 14.244 )

And for "Dictionaries and encyclopedias online" we see:

Online versions of encyclopedias should be cited like their printed corollaries. In addition, in the absence of a posted publication or revision date for the cited entry, supply an access date. If the article includes a recommended form for the URL, include it; otherwise, include a short form of the URL (as in the second example) from which interested readers may enter the search term. If a DOI for the article is available, use that instead. ( 14.248 )

Now, I always feel hesitant to infer a prose guideline from the bibliographic guidelines, but since the change is apparent in the bibliographic guideline, and they give an example in the prose guideline, I suppose this means we should italicize online reference works and blogs?

However, I don't feel quite prepared to leave the trusted 15th (published in 2003) and it will take a while for software (such as David Fussner's biblatex-chicago-notes-df ) to follow.

2009 Jun 25 | Our Work After Us

At the beginning of this year, I was sad to learn of the passing of Peter Kollock . He was one of the first to carefully think about cooperation and online communities. I've been citing his 1996 paper " The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace " for a long time now.

Unfortunately, while checking Web references, I discovered the above link to his paper no longer works (i.e., 404). This is the link that appears on his Wikipedia page and dozens of online bibliographies. It appears UCLA yanked his whole web space. The lack of institutional commitment to preserving work and providing stable URIs has always been a great irritation (e.g., see my entry on digital posterity about the links in my dissertation that were soon broken); at the W3C we would frequently talk about this frustration and how to best maintain our own commitment to preservation. And it's not only in death that our work soon disappears. After my time at the Berkman Center, subsequent to a Web site reorganization, I noted all the links to my work there were broken. They were able, and kind enough, to restore the HTML files though my biographical page looks screwy because of broken CSS and relative links -- so I don't even link to that anymore.

In the case of this particular paper by Kollock, it was fortunately published in a book, and I found a PDF version as well -- though I preferred the HTML.

Kollock, P. (1999a). The economies of online cooperation: Gifts and public goods in cyberspace. In Smith, M. and Kollock, P., editors, Communities in Cyberspace. Routledge Press, London. URL

2009 Jun 25 | Anderson and Citing Wikipedia

Chris Anderson's " apparent plagiarism " of Wikipedia has prompted me to post something I was experimenting with last week about citations and URLs. Anderson claims that his text, which is very much like that of some Wikipedia articles, previously quoted and cited Wikipedia as a reference. However, in discussions with his publisher, there was some uncertainty about how to treat URLs (since Web pages might change) and Wikipedia (since it is collaboratively authored). Hence, he attempted a "write-though" for the "case of source material without an individual author to credit (as in the case of Wikipedia)." This is obviously problematic and Wikipedia, on every article, gives guidance on how it can be cited, including the use of a permanent link to a specific version.

However, I can sympathize with the ugliness of long URLs and "last accessed" requirements. Since I began work on my Wikipedia manuscript an aspiration has been to create a work in which the vast majority of historical and ethnographic sources are readily accessible to the reader. This means I have a lot of references. So, as I give thought to the book in print and online form, I wonder how to strike the best balance. I've moved on from the dissertation's APA author-year towards Chicago Manual of Style notes format. Yet, I noticed that notes with URLs can get rather ugly. Particularly if one has more than one citation in a note. (Otherwise it looks like a law review paper.) My notes only implementation of Chicago, where the first reference is a full citation and subsequent references are short but include the oldid since I make use of different versions of the same article, is below. Imagine pages of this stuff, it's not easy to read:

  1. Wikipedia, "Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View," Wikimedia, September 16, 2004, Neutral point of view & oldid = 6042007 (accessed March 5, 2004); Wikipedia, "Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View," Wikimedia, November 3, 2008, Neutral point of view&oldid=249390830 (accessed November 3, 2008).


  2. Wikipedia, "Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View (oldid=249390830)."

In the context of the Chicago notes variants, I've made the following experiment in my manuscript:

  1. Long (end) notes upon first instance (including URL) and subsequent short notes (with version number noted in title of Wikipedia pages, such as in note 63 above) subsequently yields 396 pages.
  2. Exclusively short (end) notes followed by bibliography with full citation (including URL) yields 452 pages.

Option 2 is more readable, but requires another redirection by the reader if they want full bibliographic detail, and adds pages (and weight and cost) to a book. Another option is to use an adaptation of Option 1: standard long-then-short Chicago without URLs in the printed book, which are provided online. This make a practical sort of sense (and this is what Anderson says he was planning to do), but is non-standard and I'm not sure how it would be received.

However , this difficulty doesn't mean that one should simply "write through" one's sources (whatever that means) and remove the attributions all together.

2009 Jun 11 | The Informed Analysis of New Media

I recently finished two works about the "free culture" movement, each of which are polar opposites -- and in a way that is unsettling. The most recent is Mark Helprin's Digital Barbarism: a Writer's Manifesto . I have long found it ironic that critics of "Web 2.0" -- to use a problematic term for this larger new media phenomenon -- end up adopting the evils they attribute to their subjects: visceral, from the hip, slapdash. Lawrence Lessig excoriates Helprin in a review so I need not waste any words here; even so, I continue to be surprised at what passes for informed criticism. On the other hand, David Bollier's Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own is an excellent history of the Creative Commons and Free Culture movement.

However, am I only praising those works that are congruent with my sympathies? While Bollier is not presenting criticism (pro or con), it is a favorable portrayal. But I don't think I'm being unfair. I consider myself allergic to unalloyed "Net boosterism" and the "Boing Boing" crowd. In my work on Wikipedia, I admit that I am fond of it but I try to take a "Neutral Point of View" as a scholar and an intellectual hobby. By this I mean that beyond academic concerns, I personally enjoy learning about different perspectives and trying to understand how people come to differing opinions. (So I'm identifying as a "skeptic" more so than an academic.) In fact, I was delighted to read Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Is Stupefied as Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future: or, Don't Trust Anyone under 30 . While it sounds like another rant, it is a well-founded critique of how digital media is damaging literacy and civic preparedness in youth. He argues that while screen-based technology might further spatial cognitive skills, knowledge is being replaced with a narcissistic preoccupation with social peers and popular culture. And he actually makes logical arguments based on citations to research. One doesn't have to agree with his argument, but it deserves one's full consideration.

This is why I was disappointed a few semesters ago when I recommended Bauerlein to an otherwise excellent student who was a Net enthusiast. She treated Bauerlein as if he were a Keen or Helprin, cursorily brushing him off as someone who didn't "get it." This was counter to the spirit I was trying to inculcate in that class and began my musing on whether we have a genuinely informed and vital discourse.

2009 Jan 22 | Rethinking Expertise

Given my interest in Wikipedia, pseudo-science, and skepticism I'm fond of works which at least help us identify the implicit (social) concepts we invoke when we talk about knowledge, authority, and expertise. Evans and Collins (2007) Rethinking Expertise is an interesting treatment of the topic: well-written (though more explicit definitions of the terms would be useful), engaging (via examples from the literature on the sociology of science), and satisfying (solidifying some of the things I've been thinking myself).

In order to best understand the terms of their "Periodic Table of Expertises", I reproduce it in my (mindmap) notes with hypertext where appropriate. I thought I would share it here too. For those interested, but not yet convinced, there are a number of reviews [ 1 , 2 ], the one by Michael Lynch and a response from the authors are evidence of some of the theoretical differences in the Sociology of Science (i.e., the distance between the "ground" of actual practice and analytic categories).

2008 Nov 25 | Wikipedia, Citizendium, Peers and Disciplines

Interdisciplines is running a forum on " Scientific Publications 3.0 ", where Kathleen Fitzpatrick speaks to the implications of " Peer-to-Peer Review ." Beyond pointing out that I think Citizendium is getting short shrift, I conclude :

In any case, one of the alleged benefits of free and open source software (i.e., Linus' Law) and "Web 2.0" is one of peer review. Consequently, and simply, the question to consider is to what extent has the definition of a "peer" changed? In my work in code and prose I have received excellent feedback from non-credentialed peers. While getting feedback from credentialed peers is extremely valuable, it can be difficult to obtain in a timely fashion. (I appreciate, we are all busy, and these new technologies don't really change that, they might even make it worse.) One of the effects -- if not implicit purposes -- of traditional peer review is to define a discipline: to establish sensibilities, formalize methods, and develop a canon of literature. Therefore, a possible consequence in the opening of what is considered a peer (including colleagues from other disciplines and even expert lay practitioners) is a possible smudging of the disciplinary boundaries.

2008 Aug 22 | Chicago Notes in BibLatex

I am indebted to the help I received on comp.text.tex in formatting my dissertation and dealing with bibliography issues. When I turned to the book manuscript, I decided I wanted to move from APA parenthetical citations towards Chicago footnotes. Unfortunately, this is a complex system, and nothing was up to the task. Fortunately, the biblatex package, an absolutely brilliant piece of work by Philipp Lehman for defining bibliographic styles, became available in beta form. Unfortunately, there were very few styles available in this format. Luckily, I found a work in progress by Charles Schaum, and began making my own changes to improve compliance with the Chicago Manual of Style. I worked on this through a number of revisions, but eventually came up short. Now, David Fussner has published an amazing package using and demonstrating the power of biblatex. I don't imagine there is any bibliographic system out there that is as accommodating to the nuances of Chicago footnotes style.

2008 Jul 22 | Interdisciplinary Research on Wiki Communities

I don't often post CFPs and I won't be able to attend WikiSym this year, but I am looking forward to reading the submissions and papers. I've been mulling over what it means when people describe "interdisciplinary" -- or "multidisciplinary" -- research and haven't reached any definitive conclusions, but as Inigo Montoya once said to Vizzini , I sometimes think: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." In any case, I hope this workshop might shed some light on the question in the context of wiki community studies.

Interdisciplinary Research on Wiki Communities , September 8, 2008

The array of approaches to studying wikis is a source of wealth but also a possible source of confusion: What are appropriate methodologies for the analysis of wiki communities? Which are the most critical parameters (both quantitative and qualitative) for study in wiki evolution and outcomes? Is it possible to find effective interdisciplinary approaches to augment our overall understanding of these dynamic creative environments? This workshop intends to provide an opportunity to explore these questions by researchers and practitioners willing to participate in a "brainstorming research meeting".

2008 Feb 06 | Digital Posterity

I have over 1000 primary sources in my Wikipedia research mindmaps. In accumulating some of those sources, I have already been confronted with their ephemerality. (And these are public sources only; I know lots of e-mails I would've liked to have access to by the likes of Wales, Sanger, and Stallman that apparently no longer exist.) So, doing a quick check-link analysis of the largest mindmap I find the following: 941 of those resources are "OK"; 21 are "404" (no longer there); and 10 "Timeout". So, just within a few years ~2% aren't readily available. For example, the link to Sanger's 2005 information about his (then) new Digital Universe project is already broken; but I must say news sites are the worst. Then, there are the URLs that don't have what they use to, those that are now password protected, and those that have new URLs because of a site reorganization -- blogs seem to be the worst on this front. Of course, I don't know if this rate is a linear trend and I would be interested in any research that shows longitudinal decrepitude rates of an existing corpus of links.

In any case, I expect my own modest historical inquiries are only the beginning; I think people will be writing histories of Wikipedia and the larger free culture movement decades in the future, though I am not sure how much of what we have today was still be there for them. I was surprised, and happy, to find that someone else is already making use of my Nupedia-l archive , so I thought it would do something similar for my other sources. I don't think this would be of much use to anyone today, and is somewhat "tainted" in that it is my own analytical take and selection of sources -- absent summaries, annotations and excerpts -- but it might be of use in the future.

This archive includes the HTML versions of two mindmaps and a copy of the online resource to which they link to. If you do make use of it, you can continue to refer to it as part of the "Reagle Wikipedia Archive."

This collection wp-sources.tar.bz2 was made by placing the HTML version of the mindmaps ( wikip-primary.html and field-notes-cat.html ) on a Web server and then issuing:

wget --restrict-file-names=windows -c --recursive --level=1 --span-hosts --convert-links --execute robots=off -t 4

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Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle