Have you updated your Mormon Literature Database entry yet?

A quick note to all authors (and filmmakers), agents, publishers, publicists and fans out there: what’s the status of the Mormon Literature Database entry for you (or the author you love/represent)?

Authors and agents (and I bet that publicists with close ties to the author would be accepted since most authors publishing in the Mormon market don’t have agents) should fill out the MLDB Submission Form.

For fans or publishers who want to submit data on multiple authors, here’s what you should do:  “If you wish to submit corrections, updates, or other information about a given author, please do so by sending email to the MLDB Committee at MormonLit@byu.edu.”

I’m going to work on the info for my entry (and yay for actually having stuff to submit) this week.

50 thoughts on “Have you updated your Mormon Literature Database entry yet?”

  1. Are the updates going through in a more timely fashion, these days? (I seem to remember reading a while back that there was a backlog.)

  2. I have no idea. That’s why the ideal would be a wiki-style format (but with very clear editorial and formatting guidelines and sole approval by the BYU folks).

  3. There is. The problem is that I’m not impressed with its navigation. I don’t like the advertising (although I understand why it’s there). And it is sometimes is very, very slow. Both databases pretty much showcase the issues with institution-supported, gatekeeped vs. crowdsourced, open source, free solutions. It’d be nice if well could pour our resources in to one solution (and if, for example, the AML hadn’t changed their URL structures a broke all the links to reviews).

  4. The problem is that I’m not impressed with its navigation.

    So fix it. 😉

    More seriously, what don’t you like about it?

  5. Didn’t Kent have a wiki or something? Or is my remembery all messed up?

    Quite frankly, the MLDb is a nightmare to navigate. Perhaps for people who are used to it, it’s fine, but I’ve never had a happy experience there.

    Looks to me like the wiki that Sean linked to is still in pre-Alpha, not even beta, and it also look like a one-Katya shop, so I’d cut it a lot of slack since the task is so monumental. Unlike, you know, BYU, who can’t seem to make a decently navigable database.

    IOW, I like it.

  6. .

    True. When you consider that that wiki has been, to date, a one-girl show, hats off to Katya. She showed it to me a couple months ago and she has already taken it much, much further.

    The good thing about any wiki of course is that, unlike the MLDb, we can do more than complain about its inadequacies — we can actually fix them.

  7. Part of the problem with the MLDb, as I understand it, is that the structure was developed a while back and is not well suited to improvements.

    As it happens, I recently had a conversation with Gideon Burton, who pretty much owns the database. It sounded like he was as frustrated as anyone else with the way it’s currently set up (and the fact that the work of updating it is largely centralized at this point). I think he’d be quite amenable to discussions about how it could be improved–and how the work could be spread around. (I know, for example, that Marny Parkin simply takes care of all the sf&f stuff that feeds into the database.)

    William: Perhaps you should contact Gideon and invite him to post something here about the MLDb, ways he’d like to see it improved, etc.? Then everyone could chime in with their own suggestions, offers to help, etc.

  8. Mojo (6) wrote:

    Didn’t Kent have a wiki or something? Or is my remembery all messed up?

    While I suspect that “rememberies” are always wrong, in this case, I can say for certain that your information is not correct. I have two wikis related to Mormon literature: Mormon Translation (for doing cooperative translations of Mormon works into other languages) and Mormon Terms (a wictionary-like listing of Mormon words and phrases).

    I also suggested in a post here that we need a rough “canon” of what the important works of Mormon literature are, and I somewhere expressed frustration that items I had submitted to the MLDB took so long to be added.

  9. As for what should be done about access to the MLDb, I can only add that I agree generally with William that the BYU project needs to be more open, with appropriate safegards and clear policies about what should be included and what should not be included and how the information should be presented. In general a wiki would be ideal, but we need to remember that the chief software used for wikis (mediawiki) is NOT secure to the degree that BYU seems to want. Whenever this subject is brought up with the mediawiki development team, they respond that the software isn’t designed to give strong control over who can edit.

    BUT, having said that, in my experience it is secure enough when you have a good community of users or owners who regularly police the wiki.

    I was surprised to find out here about Katya’s project, and I wish I had known earlier so that I could have tried to dissuade her. This is one of those times when competition is probably a bad thing, and Katya is competing directly with the MLDb. The only reason to create a competitor is if those running the MLDb won’t cooperate in giving their database the functionality needed.

    The idea of creating a competitive database had occurred to me also (I may even have threatened to create it — perhaps this is what Mojo is remembering). But after throwing a minor fit over the fact that my submissions were taking so long, Marny talked to me and arranged to get my data added.

    At that point I asked if it would be possible to get access to add the data myself (with appropriate oversight, of course), and Marny explained (as I remember it) that the tech people at BYU are currently only allowing edit access for BYU employees and students for security reasons. IMO, they need to allow alumni a similar access, which would solve probably 75% of the problem.

    Still, I must admit that my frustration is rising again. So much more could be done with the database, and the quality of the data (as well as the quantity of data) would rise significantly with access allowed to outside volunteers. I don’t understand the hold up. I’m technically oriented enough that I would readily converse with and needle the appropriate BYU technical staff if Gideon asked me to.

    But I’m not yet ready to jump ship. From what I can tell the MLDb has at least 17,500 works listed (compared to less than 600 works AND authors in Katya’s project — although I’ll bet Katya has more than a few that haven’t made it to the MLDb yet). Until I become convinced that the BYU project will never open up in any reasonable timeframe or will not add works that clearly should be added, I can’t even help a competing project. I’d rather put what little time I have into needling the proper people at BYU to get the open MLDb that we need.

  10. From what I can tell the MLDb has at least 17,500 works listed (compared to less than 600 works AND authors in Katya’s project

    Yeah, but she’s only been doing this for three months. By herself. How long has the MLDb been in existence?

    I think it’s a wee bit shortsighted to write off Katya’s project because… Well, actually, I don’t understand the objection.

    Katya is competing directly with the MLDb.

    I don’t see it that way. Katya’s enterprise is a living document (albeit in fetal state), whereas the MLDb only breathes when someone gets around to putting the oxygen mask back on it. Tortoise. Hare.

    The only reason to create a competitor is if those running the MLDb won’t cooperate in giving their database the functionality needed.

    I guess I thought that WAS the reason Katya had created it.

    IMO, its time has come. MLDb is mired in bad functionality and slow response times to add content, and Katya is…not.

    Upstarts with ideas. You gotta watch out for ’em. They sneak up on you when you’re not looking.

  11. One more thing (kind of a brag, really).

    While in Utah on vacation the past couple weeks, I found a couple of unpublished pre-1860 works of Mormon literature by one of the most active authors of the time. I am transcribing them now, and I hope to publish them soon.

    They are not listed in the MLDb, nor do they appear in worldcat.

    Despite the fact that it could hurt me, I would be willing to add them to the MLDb myself, ahead of my publication, if I were given access. (Sorry, using the submission form is NOT what I mean)

  12. I’d be interested to know (from those who have worked with it more than I have) what the frustrations are with MLDb, aside from the slow update time. Are those issues that could be addressed while working with the current structure?

    And again, if we’re going to have a discussion of the flaws of the MLDb–including offers to help improve those flaws–I really think we should try to get Gideon over here to talk about it. Seriously. I mean, if the Church can set up a system for millions of volunteers to contribute to a genealogy database, surely it ought to be possible to set up a system of qualified volunteers to help with the MLDb…

  13. Mojo (12), did Katya actually talk with anyone running the MLDb? Have you?

    I do see problems. But when I talked to Marny, and my past interactions with Gideon lead me to believe that they are interested in fixing the problem. I suspect they are suffering from being impeded by the technical staff, and not having the budget to pay for the technical staff time to correct the issues.

    I’m not willing to write off the MLDb just because BYU’s tech staff hasn’t yet been persuaded to do what needs to be done. And I’m especially not willing to write off the MLDb without talking to Gideon and others involved and understanding what the problem is.

    Lets give them a good chance to fix the problem.

  14. .

    If BYU took the MLDb seruiously, they could hire some undergrads to get new issues of Dialogue and Irreatum inputted. They could get Deseret Book to upload their own books into the database. All these things would be simple.

    It’s clear that BYU is not prioritizing the project. (Please note how carefully I am not equating Gideon with BYU.) If they were, I would consider donating money to the MLDb. But they aren’t. They are not. It got off to a terrific start but it has stalled and the year is 2009 and if such a database is going to exist in the fullness it should, then it will get done Katyastyle.

  15. Mojo,

    Earlier, you responded to Kent’s comment “The only reason to create a competitor is if those running the MLDb won’t cooperate in giving their database the functionality needed” (11) by stating, “I guess I thought that WAS the reason Katya had created it” (12).

    Within that context, it makes sense to me to ask Kent’s question: “did Katya actually talk with anyone running the MLDb? Have you?” (15).

    In short, a claim that the MLDb is uncooperative should be backed up by evidence that you’ve tried to cooperate with them. Let’s not assume that it can’t be fixed before we’ve talked to the people who *could* fix it.

    And by the way, there are some significant advantages to an institutional sponsorship like BYU’s, if the system can be made to run right: such as the fact that they *do* have ongoing funding, since this ties into the BYU Library’s highest priority of keeping an up-to-date collection of everything published related to Mormonism.

    Then too, there’s the fact that there’s generally more stability to institutional servers. One of the problems Gideon mentioned in our recent conversation was that the old database of AML reviews was unilaterally moved from one server to another a while back – thus breaking all the links from the MLDb. If done properly, that wouldn’t be a problem if the collection were hosted on a university server somewhere.

  16. .

    this ties into the BYU Library’s highest priority of keeping an up-to-date collection of everything published related to Mormonism.

    Question begged: Does the HBLL already have a more complete version that the English Department just doesn’t have access too?

  17. In short, a claim that the MLDb is uncooperative should be backed up by evidence that you’ve tried to cooperate with them. Let’s not assume that it can’t be fixed before we’ve talked to the people who *could* fix it.

    I see. I didn’t read it that way.

    I’m looking at this from a mostly outsider’s perspective (outside MLDb, I mean), seeing Katya’s project getting trashed just because she had the temerity to get up and do something, and not liking it.

    Not only that, but I don’t think it was fair to jump the gun on the link when it wasn’t even out of alpha phase, and trash her efforts when it’s been very clear it’s just a little project she’s going on.

    Whether SHE contacted them or not, I can’t say, but considering all the complaining going on about MLDb’s lack of responsiveness, I’d think the question had no need of being asked since it’d already been answered.

  18. MoJo,

    I guess I didn’t see it as a trashing of Katya’s project (which I haven’t looked at or tried to comment on) – just a thought that rather than start something new, we should possibly see if the existing structure (which has already had a lot of work put into it) can be fixed before throwing it out and starting over.

    Believe me, I’m not an MLDb insider; I’ve seldom used the thing, and just happened to have a conversation recently with Gideon Burton that touched on it in passing. But I like the *idea* of a comprehensive literary database of Mormon literature, as I think we all do.

    One of the biggest problems of the free-information universe is the constant duplication of effort. Sometimes that leads to great results and original solutions. In the case of a comprehensive bibliography, though, it seems more likely that one really good one is all we need – IF it will be truly comprehensive and do what the users need it to do.

    My main argument was: Before trashing the MLDb, let’s try to talk to the people who are involved with it. And I certainly agree that no one should be trashing Katya’s effort either. At the end of the day, I’d just like for there to be SOMETHING that does what the MLDb is supposed to do – whether that winds up being the MLDb or something else.

  19. Jonathan has made my arguments for me.

    I’m not sure where Mojo sees that Katya’s work is being “trashed” — the only thing negative that I remember saying is simply that if I had been consulted, I would have told Katya not to start the project. Now that so much work has been done, I certainly wouldn’t delete anything, and I can even see continuing to update it with information that doesn’t fit the structure of the MLDb at the moment.

    Now, having said that, I will add that I think the decision to start the wiki on Wikia is unfortunate. The ads are annoying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wikia was the source of the complain that it was slow. Staying on Wikia also limits the ability to add customized extensions, which could be useful and navigation and branding of the site are also very limited.

    But, I will say that Katya is right that a lot of the navigation could be improved by additional users simply modifying the pages and adding the navigation. A lot could be done with templates to solve the navigation issues.

    BUT, as I said above, I can’t bring myself to help without arriving at the conclusion that the BYU MLDb won’t become what we want it to be. And I’m not there yet.

  20. Wow. I lost track of this for a few days.

    1. BYU MLDb is a great idea. And the people behind it are of good report (I don’t know Gideon well, but he seems like a great guy!) But the database seems kind of clunky and dated. And perhaps too dependent on too few individuals. Also, if I felt so inclined, I could argue that the problems associated with BYU sponsorship outweigh the benefits.

    2. I can’t imagine how a crowd-sourced solution constitutes harmful competition. Or why anyone would discourage Katya from starting or continuing such a cool project.

    3. My gut feeling: the Wiki approach is the one with a future. If the BYU MLDb and the Mormon Lit Wiki were to somehow join forces (I smell literary database socialism!), it should be under a Wiki-type platform of some kind. Because power to the people, y’all. This information wants to be free!

  21. S. P. Bailey (23):

    I wasn’t suggesting that a “crowd-sourced solution” is harmful, but rather that ANY competition is harmful, simply because it splits the effort into more than one place, and means that we duplicate efforts. Why reinvent the wheel, until you can’t dissuade the inventor from making square ones?

    As for wiki vs. a structured db like the MLDb, I’m ambivalent. I like wiki’s a lot, but there are some things that they aren’t very good at — such as searching in detailed, non-intuitive ways. Unless someone from the start has put pub dates into the right format, a wiki won’t let you search, in one operation, for all Mormon works from 1974 through 1987, for example. The search form just allows you to search for the words or dates that appear on each page.

    BUT, I do agree that a wiki is so flexible that the benefits might outweigh the problems, especially if one of the problems continues to be inability for information to be added on a timely basis.

  22. .

    Why reinvent the wheel, until you can’t dissuade the inventor from making square ones?

    Because the other guy has no idea what he’s doing? Because he doesn’t have any proprietary rights? Because, as you said yourself, you can’t really do anything about his square wheels? And just spinning my own is a waste of time?

    In other news, I’m with Shawn.

  23. “Because the other guy has no idea what he’s doing?”

    I’d prefer both that you tone this down a bit, Theric, and the subsequent comments don’t escalate the issue. I don’t like the way this has become the MLDB vs. Katya discussion. There are major, major issues with both approaches.

    I was trying to be subtle and politic here, but that’s seems to have gone by the wayside.

  24. .

    I apologize.

    When it comes down to it, I’ve never had an issue with MLDb’s navigability which seems to be one of the major issues people have with it. My only issue is that it doesn’t really seem to get updated that much. It’s still, at present, the closest thing to a comprehensive source we have. But if it’s dead (in the not-growing sense), then it’s time to move on. Did anyone ever invite Gideon to this discussion?

    I think what bothers me is this notion that having two databases mean neither will survive. I am perfectly happy having two databases. That can only be a good thing. Two witnesses and all that. Long live them both.

  25. No worries. Ostensibly, I agree. But at the same time I am concerned that so many projects get started and then stranded or abandoned or diverted. Of course, I also understand frustration with slow or unresponsive organizations, projects, people, etc. Trust me, I’ve had my share of feeling such frustration and, I would guess, causing it.

    Perhaps what we need is a big virtual Mormon narrative arts pow wow and hash out some collaborative projects with a realistic framework and distributed efforts.

  26. William (28), that sounds like an excellent idea. There are enough projects and ideas floating around, and enough people interested in helping that it has to be confusing and perhaps daunting to many.

    The problem with competition that I alluded to early in the comments to this post isn’t that competition is in itself bad, but that well-motivated cooperation is much more efficient, especially when the area is relatively new or undeveloped.

    I think the “pow wow” William is talking about could minimize the competition and maximize the cooperation, and probably take the field of Mormon letters much farther than it can go with each of us simply doing our own thing.

  27. I think the first step is to identify the potential players — specifically creators of content who would benefit from being included in a comprehensive database and those interested in capturing and collating bibliographic data. I’ll put together a list and circulate it to the AMV team for additions/subtractions. I don’t know that I can say what is or isn’t possible and what would or wouldn’t work without analyzing that list, first.

  28. This currently is nothing. And I’d say that neither of those two are really alternatives of each other.

    This is me vaguely stating that before we can go whining and/or coming down on sides or giving up or splintering in to more projects, we should at least do some thinking about what really is needed and who has a stake in any solution — should there be one.

    Be prepared for the status quo.

  29. Wow. Step away from the conversation for a bit and I’ve become a lightning rod! Let me see if I can address some of the issues brought up here.

    First, I don’t really see my wiki as being in direct competition with the MLDB. I actually started it to help organize a completely different project and I wasn’t terribly familiar with the MLDB at the time. Since then, I’ve obviously come to know the MLDB very well and I’ve had to think long and hard about whether I’m doing anything more than reinventing the wheel. Clearly, I’ve concluded that I am, not because I think I can do it so much better, but more because I’m curious to see what I can do with a different inventory of tools.

    For what it’s worth, I envision my project more as a way to tie together disparate communities who may not be aware of each other and less as the mother of all Mormon bibliographies. My favorite thing about Wikipedia is the links and categories and I’m having a blast reading all of the interviews and discussions I’ve come across in creating my own site.

  30. Let me just chime in again with support for the idea of a collaborative pow-wow – and apologies if anything I said contributed to making the discussion more heated than it needed to be.

  31. I’m overjoyed that the MLDB (actually the MLCA: Mormon Literature & Creative Arts database) has gotten so much discussion. Thanks to Theric for finally inviting me to the discussion.

    First off, I hope to put to rest any sense of the database being closed to updates or to innovations. The fact that others are starting wikis or apparently making competing resources is a great sign, in my opinion. It means there is more interest in general for Mormon arts, and since it appears so many of us are on the same page about developing these sorts of resources, I’m optimistic about possibilities.

    The MLCA has been on hold for a bit, which I will explain, and there are impediments to its development, but there is no resistance to its being revamped and improved except from the inherent friction in the system that comes with requesting the limited time of programmers (upon which, sadly, the database does depend) or choosing to coordinate this project with others at BYU (which may be worth it, and which I will also explain).

    A little history can put this in perspective. First off, I inherited from Eugene England a small bibliographic database that he’d put together based on the Mormon Lit bibliographies BYU Studies used to assemble. Since two librarians at BYU, Robert Means and Connie Lamb, had independently been working on a Mormon authors project, we got together after an AML meeting years ago and combined forces. First we put up a primitive PDF version of the authors project, then spent six months sitting down with programmers to map out the database that now exists. It went up in 2003, and has undergone a couple of major upgrades, most recently with the addition of several thousand Mormon films (thanks to Randy Astle’s research and in connection with the 2007 special issue of BYU Studies on Mormons and Film). I have subsequently spent many months working with Janet Bradford, BYU’s music librarian, preparing the database to include LDS music. This is a complex task, since music has many attributes that literature does not, and mapping the various database fields and figuring out the design is no small feat. But Janet has a database of some 8000 works of choral and recorded LDS music, and we think it would really add to the database since there is so much crossover among the arts, and the database is set up to map those relations. For example, if you check the entry for Saturday’s Warrior, you link between the play and the film, and (when the next phase gets implemented) the same would be true of the cast recordings and sheet music for that musical.

    Let me explain why the database has been put on hold and how I’ve envisioned its future. I think you will find I am very much in line with where I see most of you leaning.

    First off, despite my efforts to create a distributed administrative model for the database, this has only ever worked partially. Marny Parkin does maintain the sci-fi and fantasy part of it (thank you!) but most of the updating falls to me to do either directly or indirectly. Librarians have loaned me student worker hours for doing some input, and I have enlisted the help of students in my Mormon Lit classes. To date I have trained over 100 people to do data entry in the database. That takes time to train people, and time to check their work and fix errors. I’m not against people outside BYU working on the database, and there is no policy precluding this if I have okayed them, but it’s a purely technical problem: administrative access is via BYU authentication, and if someone is not a student or employee, they can’t log on. That’s not an insuperable problem, but it has blocked me from inviting people from off campus to help with the database.

    By the way, for every public, full-text resource we could find out there, students were assigned to make the links from the database entries to full texts. We have had problems with this, since we used URLs (not URIs) and so we’ve had link rot, but not all the sources we’ve linked to (church magazines, AML’s review archive, etc.) have had URIs to link to. Anyway, there is a lot of backlog for the database, both of author entries and for ongoing publications.

    One of the things that took me away from more active maintenance of the database was my assignment to a university committee for scholarly communications. This has immersed me in research on the evolution of scholarship and led to my advocacy blog, http://AcademicEvolution.com. In short, I have become completely converted to open scholarship, to crowd sourcing, and to breaking down the formal barriers in knowledge creation that exist between academia and the public.

    It is more apparent to me than anyone that the current MLCA is a walled garden, woefully Web 1.0, and that it cannot survive unless it becomes converted to something that can be socially maintained, as a wiki. There simply is too much data for even a small team of librarians to maintain, and this might not be the best way to do it anyway.

    Now, some of you may be saying “duh,” but it is hard to turn over control of carefully designed projects to the masses. I am a huge Wikipedia fan, on principle, but I also know that there has been a great deal of value added to the database by the way that we have structured it, set up genres, and especially made relational links. All of that depends upon more than wiki-style hyperlinking or a simple search-it-all box. The database currently allows for some pretty sophisticated sorting and analysis based on dates, genres, etc., and of course better interfaces could do even more to take advantage of the inherent data structure we put in place by using fields. Much of that could be lost in a wiki-type format. Nevertheless, I do know that no matter how nifty we may craft the database, if it is not open to public editing then it will surely die, since the institutional sponsorship of the database does not extend to anyone curating it full time.

    Alright, so all we have to do is get BYU to allow us to convert the MLCA to a wiki, eh? Maybe.

    One thing I have learned in doing many years of digital projects is that it is always wise to see if others are doing something similar, not only so that you avoid duplication, but also so that you can help one another. The more I worked with librarians on this Mormon-oriented project, the more I discovered other Mormon digital projects afoot in the library — Mike Hunter’s Mormon studies page (http://www.lib.byu.edu/sites/mormonstudies/), various resources in Special Collections, etc.

    Why do I bring this up? Well, you guys are not the only ones to think about creating a Mormon-themed wiki that looks at arts and culture. In addition to LDS-related entries in Wikipedia itself, there is the MormonWiki.com (not a huge player, but there it is), and others have been named. But the really big gorilla about to come out of the gate is the Encyclopedia of Mormonism — the wiki. That’s right, BYU got the rights from Macmillan for this grand opus of Mormon studies, and via Jack Welch at BYU Studies, this is now up in wiki format (though not editable), with the anticipation being that experts would be invited to update the bibliographies and articles of that encyclopedia. Here’s the link to its entry on Mormon Writers: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Literature/C_Mormon_Writers_of
    (Since I am no longer at BYU Studies, I do not know the terms by which they are choosing to maintain it or how open it will actually be.)

    So, I felt it was prudent to wait a bit until that project got its legs before wiki-fying the MLCA. It would make some sense to combine them, or port some of the data reciprocally. And frankly, I still have some real concerns about going the wiki direction. Sometimes you really need lists, you need the sort of data output that only comes by tightly structuring data the way a good relational database can do. And wikis make things very messy in all their unstructured social glory. There are experiments underway that I have followed (such as “freebase” which attempts to be something between a wiki and a database, and has an important social component to it), but that has not really taken off yet.

    Now, let me address the issue of whether something like this should be sponsored institutionally or not. First off, I am one of those power-to-the people guys that rejoices at the way online tools make amateurism a significant and important mode of knowledge in the digital age. You want to make your own wiki? Go for it! I grow extremely impatient with the slow cogs of institutions when the means to spread knowledge are so available. Believe me, I think anything that can be done outside of an institution should be, since there is a high red tape tax to any sponsored project. I have even been trying to learn programming so that I could maintain the database without having to depend upon those very hard to get programmers in the library.

    But here are some reasons to put up with institutional sponsorship. First off, as was pointed out, you have very strong hardware support, seamless backup, and permanence. You also have librarians paid to think about knowledge structure and access. Librarians are trained as digital curators (some of them), and you have a sense of protocols for digital scholarship – metadata, content management systems, etc. And in the institution you have a chance for continuity that extends beyond the first people that get involved with the project (especially when a digital resource gets linked to academic programs and their inertia). The Internet is littered with cul-de-sac projects that a few enthusiasts plugged away at for a few weeks (or even years) but abandoned. Myself, I would like to devote my energies to something that will have some staying power, and not disappear from the cloud when someone decides they don’t way to pay that annual fee to maintain a domain name or a web hosting setup.

    I propose that this conversation continue, but that it take the shape of working toward a proposal that I can take to the library. The library at BYU is amazingly open to progressive digital projects, though there could be some sweating over the prospect of letting the public edit anything sitting on a library server. But rather than debating the ethics of that or whining about such idiocy, I suggest we proceed in our deliberations on the assumption that the BYU library will in fact be very accepting toward a reasonable proposal. I will agree to carry this forward. I would LOVE to divide up the labor of maintaining this information, and I am not married to the “clunky” format of the database. It’s the information that matters. (Frankly, I advocate Open Data protocols, so I’d really like for us to advocate an open API that will allow the data to be accessed and re-mixed or re-used however anyone would like. Let a thousand Mormon arts electronic projects bloom).

    Gideon Burton

    P.S. If you do wish to update your current info for the database, don’t use the online form (which may not be fixed yet). Send an email to MormonLit@byu.edu (I get that email)

    P.P.S. If you REALLY want ANYTHING updated in the database, and you are the slightest bit annoyed at the delay, for heaven’s sake just write me and tell me–again, if necessary. I truly don’t wish to hold anything up, and if I know it matters to you I will make it a priority. With so much backlog, I often don’t know where to begin.

  32. >22.

    a. Advertising

    Paying for server space myself (or with a little help from my friends) means that I assume the wiki will never become so large I (or we) can’t pay for it, which assumes, if not failure, only moderate success. (Plus, even if I did have the money to throw at a project like this, I’d rather send it towards an organization like the Association for Mormon Letters or the New Play Project.)

    Of the 25 largest wikis (those with 10,000+ pages) listed in the Wikipedia article “List of wikis,” 12 include advertising, 4 are funded by the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia, Wikisource, Wikibooks and Wikiquote, plus Citizendium, a Wikipedia fork funded by its own foundation), two are hosted by search engines (Baidu Baike and Knol), one (Uncyclopedia) is supported by Wikia and possibly by inter-wikia links, one (Susning.nu) was funded by a gentleman in Sweden but has been mostly disabled since 2004, one’s funding is unclear (WikiWikiWeb), although it seems to be entirely text-based, which would make it cheaper to host, one (Conservapedia) is apparently bankrolled by Phyllis Schlafly’s son, one (International Music Score Library) was advertising-based until it was sued and subsequently taken over by the shadowy Project Petrucci, and one (Davis Wiki) is supported by community donations.

    If you can convince Google or Phyllis Schlafly or the good citizens of Davis, California, to fund my wiki, I’m willing to listen. 😉

    b. wiki farms

    I went with a wiki farm instead of setting up my own domain because I didn’t want to have to install MediaWiki on my own or pay to set up my own domain name (for the above reasons).

    c. Wikia

    Wikia is the most highly trafficked wiki farm by an order of magnitude (according to recent Alexa statistics), it uses MediaWiki (the most well-known wiki software) and I was already familiar with a couple of its other successful subject-based wikis (Memory Alpha and Muppet Wiki). Plus, three of the top 25 wikis mentioned above are hosted on Wikia. (Also, for what it’s worth, most of the advertising on Wikia disappears if you’re logged in.)

    I have definitely noticed speed issues on my wiki, but I haven’t noticed them on any of the other Wikia projects. My hope is that it’s an issue of “growing pains” which will be mitigated once the wiki reaches a decent size and more information can be cached.

    Branding / skins are another issue, and Wikia unfortunately opted to limit skin choices right as I was setting up the wiki. Perhaps if the site becomes large enough, they’ll let us customize the skin, since most (all?) of the other large wikis had a chance to do more customization in that area. (It also seems that skin customization makes the ads blend in with the site a bit better, but maybe that’s just me.)

    I’m open to hearing more about what I’m missing out on in terms of “customized extensions.” I’d also like to hear more about what people mean by “navigation issues.” (I’m very aware that the front page looks like crap and the sidebar navigation hasn’t been optimized — like MoJo said, I wasn’t even starting to beta-test the site when this thread exploded — but I need to know more about what’s confusing about the page-to-page navigation.)

    BUT, as I said above, I can’t bring myself to help without arriving at the conclusion that the BYU MLDb won’t become what we want it to be. And I’m not there yet.

    This is entirely understandable.

  33. One more thing, and I’m not sure how to say this without sounding like I’m blowing my own horn, but I am a librarian.

    I hold an MLS from UIUC — one of the two top-ranked programs in the country — with dual emphases in cataloging and digital librarianship. I currently work as a cataloging / metadata librarian at a state university, where I handle almost all of the material that goes to special collections, as well as anything other problems that our monographic copy catalogers run into.

    In addition to the subject cataloging I’m paid to do, I’ve done volunteer indexing for a database of over 5,000 text files, plus set up a hierarchical (polyhierarchical, actually) database of the index terms I established. In setting up my wiki, I’ve pulled many category terms straight from the Library of Congress Subject Headings, as well as setting up names to sort by the Library of Congress authority files for personal headings.

    In short, a lack of duly trained librarian oversight is not a problem. (Possibly the reverse . . .)

  34. .

    Gideon: I had not looked for awhile and did not realize the nonlit portions of the database were finally up. Yay! This is good news.

    On Katya: She’s a librarian’s librarian. I assure you there’s been a great deal of thought put into her work thus far.

  35. I’m trying to figure out what the next step is now. Gideon, I gather, is interested in help preparing a proposal. William has suggested a “pow wow” to cover this same ground, but involve the major players. Should we combine the two? Or should we create a space somewhere for working on a collaborative proposal? Do we need a discussion space (such as a forum or email list)?

  36. Hmmm. More than 24 hours with out any additional comments. Please tell me that we’re not going to just let this subject drop!

    Who will participate in helping Gideon to draft a proposal?

  37. I’d be happy to help — I haven’t had much computer time of late and will not be online for the next 24 hours or so. I suggest we move this to e-mail (and anyone who is interested in helping should e-mail me and kent at our first names @motleyvision.org). Should we reach a point where feedback from a lot of folks is necessary, we’ll post something about it.

  38. Or should we create a space somewhere for working on a collaborative proposal? Do we need a discussion space (such as a forum or email list)?

    Or a wiki! *ducks*

  39. .

    Oh, incidentally, I’ve decided not to participate for two reasons:

    1) I am particularly low on time at the moment.

    2) Although I laud Gideon’s plans for the MLCA, I would rather, with the time I have, effect change in little tiny pieces. So as I have moments for helping, I’m going to work on Katya’s project. I hope both projects will be successful and fill whatever holes the other has. And maybe someday BYU can pull a buyout and make Katya rich. Right, right?

  40. .

    I was just on Katya’s site and I got to thinking that perhaps the greatest parallel to what we want here is the IMDb. And it started out quite humbly indeed with just some guys trying to track hot actresses. Now it’s one of the biggest and most reputable sites of its type.

    So it takes will and no-how and time but it may not take institutional oversight.

    (Caveat: lot more interest out there in movies than mormon lit.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s