Archive for August, 2008

Errors in electronic transmission

August 30th, 2008

Errors creep in. Even in electronic transmission.

Here are some errors Greetham pointed out in 1992. Mostly from his own experience!

  • Corrections to a printout could be made to an old file “representing an earlier state of the text”. “The result would be a mixture of the latest version of the pre-publication text with the earliest.” (Greetham 289)
  • An earlier version can be sent to press instead of the final, corrected version—a likely mistake when filenames are similar.
  • Photocopies can cut off lines of a text—even changing its meaning.

As I read down to the end of the first page of the copy on letter-size paper, all looked well, for there was an apparently perfect syntactic link between the end of page 1 and the beginning of page 2. It all seemed to make sense, except that the argument in the sentence appeared to be the opposite of what I knew to be Taylor’s general position on Shakespearean revision. Suspicious, I retrieved the A4 version to discover that the photocopying had neatly cut off the bottom line of the A4 in transferring to letter-size, and that this excised line (which syntactically could be omitted from the sentence without structural harm) contained a verbal negative which completely reversed the remnant of meaning in the photocopy. Lines can, of course, be omitted in any copying, but this particular omission, and the resulting inversion of meaning, was caused only by technological means (and, admittedly a little human fallibility in the selection of the wrong-size paper). (Greetham 290)

  • Typesetting codes can wreak havoc with formatting. (Sometimes, I’d add, with meaning.)

Other types of error peculiar to electronic transmission include improper changes in typesetting commands caused by embedded codes. For example, some of the alt commands entered by a graduate assistant to access special symbols (e.g., ü) in early versions of the bibliography for this book where read by my typesetting program as commands to switch on or off such features as italic or boldface, so that titles of books and their authors would slip back and forth from italic to roman without any apparent logic. Of course, the combination of a visual check of the print-out with an investigation of these hidden codes identified and then removed the problem (or, at least, I hope so), but the introduction of a new type of error demonstrates that the challenge of textual bibliography has not disappeared just because of the move from print to electronic transmission. (Greetham 289)

  • Corrections can leave remnants of earlier states.

In fact, electronic transmission can even have identifying typographic symptoms: thus, an article in the New York Times after the failed Soviet coup in August, 1991, invented a new ethnic/religious group when it claimed “the loss of its [Ukraine’s] 52 million Slavs would tilt the ethnic balance of the remaining union toward the Muslim oslems of Central Asia,” (August 26,1991: A10). These mysterious “oslems” were presumably created with a Times stylist noticed the form “Moslems” (rather than the preferred Times sytle “Muslims”), but instead of striking out the entire word left the initial “M” in place and inserted “uslims,” without, however, remembering to delete the offending “oslems.” The sequence of error would be impossible in a non-electronic medium. (Greetham 290-291)

“Every act of copying introduces new errors” and every technology “carries with it the possibility of determined or accidental variation” (289). 16 years later, I wonder, what new sorts of errors do find on the Web?

  • Copycat spam sites (determined variation there!)
  • Print stylesheet errors


Greetham, D. C. 1992. Textual Scholarship: An Introduction. Garland reference library of the humanities vol. 1417. New York: Garland.

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August 29th, 2008

Backing up my ginormous Zotero library was something of a deterrent, so I didn’t install Firefox 3 until Ubiquity (Introducity Ubiquity, Mozilla Labs) (Ubiquity Firefox Plugin) piqued my curiosity.

At first glance, Ubiquity strikes me as Quicksilver for the Web. I suspect it will be much more.

Ubiquity Contextual MenuInstall a single plugin, then summon Ubiquity’s command box with a keysequence. You can also use a contextual menu (right). Pre-installed commands are sorted in order of expected use. ‘Tag’ uses Firefox’s local tagging capability. To add delicious bookmarks, you could try delicious plugin code from Ryan Sonnek.

Aza Raskin’s Ubiquity Intro Video gives a sense of the current capabilities. For instance, Example #2 shows that highlighting Craigslist apartment listings and invoking ‘map these’ generates a map of the listings.

Step 1: Highlight Craigslist apartment listings

Step 1: Highlight Craigslist apartment listings

Step 2: Invoke Ubiquity's 'map-these' command

Step 2: Invoke Ubiquity's 'map-these' command

Step 3: Voila! Mapped listings. (Less clicking, more mapping!)

Step 3: Voila! Mapped listings. (Less clicking, more mapping!)

Nice, eh? Go try Ubiquity. Or, if you want to read more first, there are plenty of options:

Ubiquity Info for Users: Mozilla Labs Post | User Tutorial

More: Extra Commands | Ubiquity Herd (Stats/Dashboard) | Support/Discussions | post from Aza Raskin’s personal blog

Ubiquity Info Developer Links: Author Tutorial | Source Code | Google Group | Wishlist | Labs Wiki

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The Girl of the Butterflies

August 23rd, 2008

Every week, I take a look at old newspapers pulled from Chronicling America by Ed Summers’ 100 Years Ago Today feed. Sometimes my gaze is caught by events of the day—telephones, auto accidents, odd notions of gender roles. Just about every week I stare at the magazine section of the front page of The San Francisco Sunday Call*. Often I don’t know how to interpret these—do they really have something to do with the news of the week?

The Girl of the Butterflies, San Francisco Sunday Call, August 23, 1908

The Girl of the Butterflies, San Francisco Sunday Call, August 23, 1908

This week’s cover is particularly beautiful: The Girl of the Butterflies. So many questions arise from one simple image from August 23, 1908: Were there really so many butterflies in San Francisco 100 years ago? Would a woman really go netting in such a costume? What do butterflies have to do with anything? The wonderful thing about peering into the past is that it opens more questions than answers.

*The San Francisco Call wikipedia entry is a good start but needs some work.

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Shakespeare iphone app

August 16th, 2008

After seeing a great local production, I decided to reread As You Like It. Before I got around to digging out my Complete Works of Shakespeare, I got a copy for my iphone.

Reading on the iphone was a satisfying experience. The screen is crisp and paging down through the text becomes automatic. Just tap in the lower third of the screen. (Paging up is not enabled, but the upper 2/3rds of the screen allow scrolling up or down.)

I prefer reading in landscape mode:

Formatting of Shakespeare’s verse can be awkward in horizontal mode:

App name: Shakespeare[appstore]
Beware of losing your place when changing between landscape and horizontal screen modes. Pagination routines need to be updated.

  • Navigation and font size selection are only available in the horizontal screen mode.
  • Landscape mode is supported only within a text; it is not supported in the main, about, or help screens.

Features: 10 font sizes, changed by tapping buttons in horizontal screen mode. Navigating down through a text is easy: tap on the lower third of the screen.

Other reviews: A video overview starts at 1:18 of this T4 videopodcast.

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