eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

This came in a couple of days ago on Classics-L; I thought it might be of interest to some of the people here.

From: Wm Annis
Date: Sunday, February 22, 2009, 4:02:45 AM
Subject: [CLASSICS-L] A new web project: www.scholiastae.org

After years of hoping fruitlessly for web-based software to work up texts in the same way I do for Aoidoi.org, I finally gave up early this year, and learned how to write MediaWiki extensions to produce it for myself. After weeks of testing and comments from a few people, I'm ready to release this to the world.


At the moment two small poems, one in Greek, one in Latin, are the only fully commented texts on the site, but one of Lucian's Dialogs of the Dead is nearly complete. There are a few more prose works (Lucian, Plato) I'll be working on over the next few months, but I hope others will be inspired to create accounts and share commented texts.

William S. Annis

Views: 137

Comment by Chris Francese on February 25, 2009 at 12:43pm
This is a beautiful interface and an important concept. We need an easy way to create wiki commentary on classical texts. This has the potential to increase access to ancient texts in the original, and to expand the canon of authors with commentary. One question is, what kind of annotations are most useful? Who exactly is (are) the audience(s), and what kind of information to they need?
Comment by William Annis on February 26, 2009 at 8:17am
One question is, what kind of annotations are most useful? Who exactly is (are) the audience(s), and what kind of information to they need?

There is no fixed audience in mind. When I started Aoidoi.org, I imagined only other amateurs like myself would be involved. It turned out that classics students do use the site, as well as those high-tech autodidacts that manage to find it.

The wiki is flexible enough that I imagine several audiences can be accomodated. Someone might put up a text with only very light annotation — say, no more than two comments a paragraph — along with a giant references section, while another might put up something quite like the Catullus 48 example I worked up, with lots of vocabulary and grammar help intended for beginners.

At the moment Scholiastae's outlines are only very lightly drawn. As people use it the picture will become clearer. Fortunately, a wiki provides lots of canvas space.
Comment by Raphaela on February 26, 2009 at 8:23am
@William: Hi -- I had no idea you were on this board at all!

For my own part I was wondering just how narrow the definition of "classical" is when you talk about classical texts in the outline. As my own reading these days is pretty much exclusively late antique/mediaeval/renaissance, anything I myself might be able to contribute would be well outside the confines of the strictly classical canon. But the appearance on the site of Old Occitan material would suggest that there's a fair bit of leeway and one might get away with uploading the odd bit of, say, Erasmus?
Comment by Chris Francese on February 26, 2009 at 8:29am
One good way to populate the site might be to ask teachers (and there are many) who write their own school commentaries and notes for their own students, to start delivering them via scholiastae. It might be a hard sell, both because classsicists are modest about these kind of things, and might be leery of exposing themselves in this way to critique from colleagues, and also because they might not want to let go of their hard work, or have it modified by others. But if you could get them to part with the stuff, it could form a base.
Comment by William Annis on February 26, 2009 at 8:53am
@Raphaela: I joined today just to comment on Chris Francese's comment.

You are correct that I'm interpreting "classical" very broadly. The whole thing about classical languages is that people keep using them in various ways after the native speakers are gone. People are still banging out not only Latin — and Atticist Greek to a much lesser extent — but things like Pali and Sanskrit. So I'm happy to see any "dead" language still cultivated for literary or cultural purposes on the site, even though I obviously see Greek and Latin as the inspiration. Old Norse commentaries would be welcome, for example, but not Hittite or modern Spanish. Erasmus is absolutely welcome, along with any other Neo-Latin, though I'd rather Scholiastae not become a testing ground for budding Neo-Latin poets to display their newest compositions.

@Chris: the other major bottleneck for adoption is simply that creating commentaries can be so incredibly tedious. I know from years of running Aoidoi now that while technology can help smooth off some of the nastier rough edges, it's still a lot of fussy work to get these in good shape. The collaborative nature of a wiki could reduce that burden somewhat, especially if people grabbed colleagues they were already comfortable working with to join forces to comment a particular work they wanted for their students. I see that as the biggest selling point for educators to share their work this way.
Comment by Chris Francese on February 26, 2009 at 9:06am
Amen, on the effort issue. I did one for the Life of St. Martin by Sulpicius Severus, and I put a ton of work into it (http://wiki.dickinson.edu/index.php?title=Sulpicius_Severus). So I feel naturally proprietary about it. Honestly my real dream model for this is more akin to BMCR: a board of editors, qualified authors. Then, ideally, you pay them. In this way it promises essentially an alternate economic model for textbook publishing, and I think potentially a very good one.
Comment by Laura Gibbs on February 26, 2009 at 1:14pm
Hi all, having a wiki like this is a wonderful resource. My first real experience with a collaborative classical wiki has been the digitization some of us are doing of Comenius's Lexicon over at http://comlex.pbwiki.com. I left it open so that anybody with a PBWiki account could edit, and so far we have had no vandalism of any kind. Of course, it will be easy to set up a more strict access policy if we run into trouble, but I've been amazed and delighted at people's participation, all very useful, all very good-willed. I really wasn't sure at all what to expect, but it has gone amazingly well!

As for alternatives to traditional textbook publishing, I had had really good experiences with Lulu.com, which is a print-on-demand publisher. Unlike a conventional publisher, with Lulu (or any similar operation), you retain all rights and editorial control. This is good for the short-term (anything you do with a traditional publisher is, by definition, going to go very slowly, with a long initial delay in getting your book out because of the publisher's existing commitments), and it is also good for the long-term because you do not give up your rights. That means if you find another publication channel that you prefer to Lulu.com, you just switch your publication channel - you are not at the mercy of your publisher. Plus, you are free to main the book and web versions of the content side by side - while a publisher will set very strict limits to what you are allowed to reproduce freely in an online format.

So, while I just did a book with a conventional publisher as a kind of experiment to compare against my Lulu experiences, I would say that Lulu.com definitely suits my needs much better, since my main goal in publishing is not to make any money (nobody is really going to make any money off of Latin and Greek I don't think, unless they want to do a super-conventional mainstream textbook)... instead, my goal is just to get the material out. I have found it very congenial to publish drafts in blog and wiki form... then, I've published two books with Lulu.com that represent the outcome of my blog and wiki experiments.

What's nice about this wiki, if I understand it correctly, is that we could contribute a text to the wiki as an online publication, while also doing a Lulu.com print publication independently, is that right? My goal is eventually to have my work available BOTH online AND in print, so that people can choose the format that best suits their own needs.

For this summer, I plan to work on my edition of Abstemius's Hecatomythium. I have a very rough version at my own wiki (http://aesopus.pbwiki.com/abstemius) - and I was planning to re-edit the texts there, but if I could do them in this collective environment, that would be great. I was then planning to self-publish a book form of them at the end of the summer, using Lulu.com as I've done for my Latin Via Proverbs and for my Vulgate Verses book.

Would that be something that fits in your vision of how this could go, William? I would love to have my Abstemius texts be part of a larger Latin library than having them be off to the side on their own.
Comment by William Annis on February 26, 2009 at 4:13pm
@Chris: I have several competing dream models in my own head, but decided to start with a few parts of that model first. If I had waited for the complete dream, I'd still be struck dumb trying to decide how even to begin. Nothing in my dream, however, involves paying anyone. I come from a long background in the Unix world, where giving away useful tools is part of the culture — κλέος/fama is the reward, to say nothing of the value of reciprocal gift-giving. Since all my sites traffic mostly in text, my hosting costs are quite modest. My own technical expertise — for which I pay myself in chocolate and a new banjo — would probably be one of the greater costs for a random, professional classicist to set up such a site.

I do have in mind that at some future point there will be a collection of editors responsible for certain areas, and that some means of indicating editorial approbation will be concocted. The site needs many more submissions before I'm going to start worrying about that too much, though.

@Laura: the group transcription wiki is great. I've often felt it would be a service to budding Homerists to have Monro's grammar in a searchable format. I'm not sure Scholiastae is quite the right place for such a project, but a wiki with a few decorations will certainly work. I've always liked that the Suda Online has fields indicating how often an editor has given an article the once-over. Some wee wiki template to make such a notation easy might be useful for even non-transcription wikis.

I have no objection at all to having works that are destined for print publication on the site. The current copyright notice (which link is available every time someone edits a page) says things are under a CC "attribution-share alike" license, so I don't know how you feel about that. I could probably be convinced to let people license things differently on the site, but it is still an open wiki — I'd rather not have a profusion of license types. I would also suggest yet another half-banner template, making clear any document that was providing the foundation of a print publication, so anyone tempted to edit it will know (with no obligation for anyone to either use or ignore their work).
Comment by Laura Gibbs on February 26, 2009 at 4:28pm
William, that kind of flexibility would appeal to me!

I'm not a big fan of books myself (I do all my work online and rarely buy books anymore), but over and over again I've heard from teachers that they really need to have things in book form for the classroom, which I can really understand, especially given that so many schools regularly block the kinds of hosted web services that I rely on (Ning is blocked, Blogspot.com is blocked and so on on many K-12 school systems, sad to say, so they often cannot even access my web publications in the classroom over the school network).

Attribution-share-alike wouldn't quite work since Lulu.com charges for the cost of printing, but why don't you see how things go over the next months and when I get ready to tackle Abstemius when school lets out in May I will get back in touch and see how things are looking. For me it would be a big plus to have my Latin texts be part of a larger library, but it is also my goal to have things available both online and in print, too, at least eventually!

After all, when I publish something in book form, it temporarily convinces my mother that I actually do something other than just "play on the computer all day long," ha ha. :-)
Comment by William Annis on February 26, 2009 at 4:53pm
@Laura: I don't believe that CC license prohibits commercial use, and if it does I've screwed up and need to go change the notice. As I understand it, the by-sa license should allow any distribution (free or paid) so long as the author's name stays attached. Derivative works are also permitted, again so long as the original author's name is still mentioned and the deriver doesn't try to place the work under a more restrictive license.


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