On Aliases, the value of re-posting, and Anti-Asamothing
I had «fun» last week trying to create a new account here in Everything2. Not to escape anyone’s gaze, and not to try anything tricky, mind you. It was merely to finish a noding project that I believed to be not Public Domain (so it couldn’t be posted under Everyone’s account).
Specifically the account Gaius Julius Caesar was created to finish posting «The Gallic Wars»1 books 1–8. Work on these nodes is currently underway.2
But as I started preparing the text, I found that the existing translation and notes are based on H.J. Edwards’ work, which is most likely in Public Domain (Harvard University Press marks it as being first published in 1917) so it could be posted to Everyone after all! However, the Gods had already set me up with the account and it is never wise to reject gifts from above, so I decided to continue with the project with no further changes.
Two questions lingered in my head:
What’s the value of reposting? I re-posted «Guerrilla Open Source Manifesto» in the spirit of its text and as a tribute to its author Aaron Swartz, but I didn’t actually write it, I only added links to words and phrases I found interesting, but that’s hardly creative. So, why recreate it here instead of pointing at, say The Internet Archive?
I’d like to argue this based on redundancy of sources being a good thing in and of itself for future-proofing the past, but it’s a weak-ish argument. Instead, I think of re-posting to E2 as an opportunity, not just to augment the database, but to give new meaning to existing works through integration to what I posit is a unique medium. Sure, «De Bello Gallico» has authoritative translation notes at the Perseus Digital Library and is neatly categorized under Works originally in Latin in Wikisource. But it’s only here that it can be linked—both directly and indirectly—to nodes, writeups and ideas such as «These noders are crazy», «Teutonic greeting» and «Impregnation by Shoulder Tapping».3
I’d like to see this replicated elsewhere. The value of information sharing lies not just in the recreation of typed words, but in putting their ideas in new contexts, testing them and maybe even replacing them if no longer needed. The discussion and context where old ideas are placed can be fruitful.
Of course, this hinges on E2 having a very distinct personality compared to other sites. This sounds vague and superficial («Everybody’s special!») but the more I travel through the World Wide Web, the more I realize things are crystallizing and many places seem similar to each other. Deep down, no doubt, all these corners of the Internet have their own identities, but they seem to lie buried under layers of low empathy and gatekeeping masquerading as «sarcasm», «irony» and other labels. E2, for all its faults, is very transparent. The nodegel is around us and it doesn’t even take an account to see that this place is built on things like Live Nude Lesbians and Webster 1913.
What about valuable text that can and should be shared but isn’t Public Domain? Sometimes these texts are licensed so that they can be legally shared, republished and even remixed without explicit case-by-case permission from the copyright holder. They can be hosted here, of course and some of the justifications for doing so are shared in the paragraphs above.
But sometimes texts… disappear. The internet is fragile and text is both future-proof and extremely volatile.
We all know of the practice we call «Asamothing» which, in my humble opinion, is generally a loss for E2. I get that there can be millions of reasons behind it and I may even agree with some of them, but they leave holes in the nodegel, both in explicit ways (a nodeshell) and non-explicit ones («Remember that writeup about…?»)
This, of course, happens every day, all around the Internet. Take a look at One year ago… Take a look at MeFi’s «10 years ago»… there’s discussion around weird and interesting things that just don’t exist anymore and there’s no trace of who did them, or whether they exist in any other place. Today’s favorite tweet will be deemed obsolete later and will get deleted by the author.
I confess I resist this by doing my own backups of interesting texts. I copy and paste for personal use, I screenshot and run OCR. I use pandoc and sometimes I bring out the old pen and paper (some of your writeups, dear noders, are consigned to physical notebooks).
I resist those deletions through copying. Whenever that copying is legal, I try to also make it public. That’s what I will be using the account for.
A small question about this topic is coming in the near-ish future, look forward to it in Future polls.
Thanks for reading, rant over.
Small rant: whoever started the project under the account Gaius Iulius Caesar decided on the title «The Gallic Wars» which I find irritating, given that the original title is «Commentaries on the Gallic Wars» and the nodes are referring to the book and not the historical conflict itself.
Another rant: That account only bothered did not include translations in all chapters.
I swear it was softlinked under The Gallic Wars Book 2 Chapter 30 before I started this project