16.656 help with the moving target

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 02 2003 - 02:21:58 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 656.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 07:16:39 +0100
             From: Robert Kraft <kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
             Subject: Re: 16.650 consumptive humanities


    This may be a new thread, but it piggybacks on the active and stimulating
    discussion of practical as well as theoretical issues in how us humanists
    can continue to operate effectively in relation to the rapidly moving
    targets of computing technology and products. The immediate catalyst for me
    is Wendell's comments about XML (below). Thus my problem:

    As I edge my way into active retirement, one of the projects that I want to
    address is the transfer of a large collection of old "gopher" files
    (including important linguistic data on ancient Greek and Hebrew texts)
    into something that can be accessed by the new generations of browsers
    (they refuse to read the old files! I still use an old version of Netscape
    for this purpose! Complaints from previous users abound, asking why we have
    removed the files -- which we haven't!!). Can you still get to


    (as a stopgap, we have created -- but not yet publicized -- this "mirror" site

    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/gopher/text/religion/Biblical/ )?

    I am skeptical about doing all the desired transfer myself -- and my old,
    fondly remembered programming skills are certainly both badly outdated and
    probably rusty beyond effective repair -- so I envision using graduate
    student help from persons who know the relevant natural languages (Greek,
    Hebrew, Latin, etc.) but have minimal computer skills even compared to my own.

    The files need to be made much more useful, in addition to receiving
    further verification for accuracy in some instances. Some of them would
    perhaps be more effective in some sort of database configuration, although
    over the years I have avoided abandoning "flat file" presentation to avoid
    the vagrancies of incompatible updating in more complex formats. I have
    become proficient in using Dreamweaver for HTML conversion and creation
    purposes, but suspect that there are more efficient and effective ways to
    proceed, and that I probably should be jumping directly to XML at this
    stage and eliminating the middle element (HTML).

    I'm wide open to suggestions. How does Wendell work directly in XML, and is
    that something I should be doing -- or training my incipient staff to do?
    If not, do I have better alternatives than mentioned above for my
    particular purposes (web accessibility, linking of various sorts both
    within and between files, addition of images [e.g. paleographical
    features, odd forms], and the like)? I'm looking for shortcuts to the most
    effective path to the unforseen future, now that a relatively productive
    past has become passe. This old dog is willing to try to learn new tricks!

    Aimee wrote:
    > >i've written a text editor of my own, and let me tell you, it didn't get
    > >my essays written any faster or better.

    Wendell responded:
    > Hee! I bet not. (I'm sure it had its fine points though.)
    > On the other hand, you may well also have made yourself an XML tag set that
    > rides on top of someone else's editor (as the running vocabulary rides on
    > top of the dictionary), and it *might* help you get essays written better
    > (at least by doing lots of scut work) or easier to publish, anyhow....
    > Personally I almost never use a word processor any more; my XML is just
    > better for what I need to do. (Haven't designed any killer db apps though.)

    Thanks for the anticipated spate of conflicting but stimulating suggestions!

    Bob Kraft
    Faculty Director of CCAT
    Co-director of the CATSS project (ancient scriptures)
    PI for the Penn segment of the APIS project (papyri)

    Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
    227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827

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