I\’m Too Sexy for My Master\’s Thesis

The Text Outline Project

Posted in collaboration,scholarship by Rae on 2 June 2006

The following letter was sent out on the SPARC Open Access mailing list yesterday. In "super sexy wednesday 4," I mentioned Lawrence Sanger's piece on "The Future of Free Information." Lawrence (or Larry) authored the following letter, too:


You've probably heard of a little encyclopedia project called Wikipedia.
I conceived, started, and led the project in its seminal first year, and
was probably more responsible than any person for crafting the set of
policies that have made it the (qualified) success it is today.

Well, I've had an idea for a reference project–for a brand new *kind*
of reference–and I'd like to ask you to consider joining me in starting
a better community. This *is* going to happen. I am more excited about
it than I ever was about Nupedia or Wikipedia.

This new project is actually a side-project of the Digital Universe
(http://www.dufoundation.org). It's called the Text Outline Project or
Textop (http://www.textop.org), and it is itself a set of projects,
managed by a strong collaboration among a global group of scholars, with
the aim of organizing the information contained in books, dictionaries,
opinionated essays, and news articles–and perhaps other sources–into a
single outline of human knowledge. It will be an "open meritocracy."
Built by volunteers, the result will be free and noncommercial.
Top-level summary: http://www.textop.org/textop_summary.html

The Collation Project (http://www.textop.org/collation_summary.html),
the flagship, will analyze various public domain works studied by
scholars (e.g., Classics and history of philosophy) into approximately
paragraph-sized chunks; summarize the chunks; and place these chunks
into a single outline. Each node of the outline will not have more
than, say, a half-dozen chunks, so the outline will be constantly
expanding. This will provide a single reference point for comparing the
detailed content of scholarly works from throughout history and
eventually, it is to be hoped, more recent works as well.

We have a really impressive Advisory Committee:

Also of interest:
Proposed screenshot: http://www.textop.org/screenshot.html
Project manifesto: http://www.textop.org/TextAndCollaboration.html
Example outline: http://www.textop.org/outline_help.html
Letter: http://www.textop.org/letter.html
Proposed software requirements: http://www.textop.org/reqs_v1.html

What next? What can you do? Please join me and some really smart
people on the Textop mailing list:
That's where it's all getting started; get the "digest" (all posts in
one day) if you want all the mails for a day at once.

We're starting up a pilot project on the project wiki:
We'll begin by "collating" some classic works of philosophy.

Please do join us!

Larry Sanger
Director, Collaborative Projects, The Digital Universe Foundation
Director, The Text Collation Project

I support open content projects, though I'm not entirely sure what I think about this particular one. But, there are lots of opportunities for involvement (by scholars, professionals, grad students, etc.), and I have a thing for collaborative projects and tend to find them irresistable.

I'm curious to know, what do my readers think of this project?

a community of shared ideas

Posted in collaboration,thesis by Rae on 3 May 2006

A few weeks ago, the Word Choice blog posted about the desire to produce amazing research versus solid research:

i tend to find myself always in search of the “new,” the “exciting,” the “totally innovative and creative” interpretation that will do amazing things in my field….for me, fox was a reality check that good history occurs in a community of shared ideas. yes, its incredibly important to acknowledge our intellectual debts, but i appreciate his realistic approach that encourages a focus on what is happening as ideas circulate as opposed to what happens when they sit alone in our brains.

I've dealt with this in my own research. I want to produce totally original work (which isn't required for a Master's) plus I want to find the sources that no one else has. Finding cool stuff like that is great but not necessary to produce great work. Your work needs to be your own, but that doesn't mean it needs to be far off the beaten track. After all, that beaten track (also known as a literature review to doctoral students) is there for a reason.

And it's true that "good history occurs in a community of shared ideas," which is why it's terribly important to attend a school that has a strong focus on your area of research. If it doesn't, you have to scrounge around for faculty guidance and your fellow students won't know what the hell you're talking about.

On another note, there is a faculty member at my university (he's not in the History department) who's interested in my research and knows something about my topic. He responded to a paper I presented at a symposium in March, and we're planning to meet some time during the next week to discuss my research further.