15 February 2012

Link Sausages Evolving Toward Dismal Consciousness

... as in "the dismal science."

  • Here's why I do not trust Wikipedia for anything: You can't fight received wisdom, even when it's wrong. And there's a helluva lot of incorrect received wisdom on Wikipedia, especially (ironically?) when it comes to civil rights and freedom of speech issues (as more than tangentially related to the particular example here), intellectual property, biochemistry, literary and legal history and theory, and military affairs. I'm sure these areas are not unique... but in these areas, I have enough expertise to not only spot many inaccuracies, but counter with valid references for better statements.
  • But I won't make any Wikipedia corrections with citations to Reed-Elsevier journals. I've been on the Dark Side of the Editorial Desk; I know what adequate peer review, editorial attention, typesetting, etc. actually costs (as opposed to how publishing accountancy allocates those costs); and most — perhaps all — of those journals are at least break-even before considering the considerable income from advertisements. They won't be carried on the books that way, but accountancy is as difficult to make reflect reality as is Wikipedia. The further irony that these are, in many ways, vanity press publications — because the authors must pay "page fees" to publish — just makes my disdain for the current model more intense.
  • Some of Reed-Elsevier's journals include those that long ago refuted the purported "productivity" of brainstorming as a problem-solving methodology. Because I was by training a scientist, I was comfortable using those journals, with their arcane citations and uncomfortably obtuse writing styles, in a way that the management gurus of the 1970s and 1980s (who so influenced the "management" side of the military) were not. Without revealing anything classified, one can read between the lines of both General Powell's autobiography and General Schwartzkopf's autobiography and discern that the original, rejected plan for the Desert Storm was a product of brainstorming... while the successful one was the product of a focused, objective-based, resource-constricted planning process involving only a handful of people who did criticize ideas as they were thrown out. Again, without revealing anything classified, there are a lot of other military histories out there that demonstrate the same thing... not to mention the civil rights movement.
  • The three preceding link sausages each contribute some spice and substance to the question of how much to pay authors. This particular article demonstrates a logic problem with expanding the IP clause of the Constitution to all creative activity. The IP clause presumes, at its core, that the profit motive is both a necessary and a sufficient motivation to engage in creative activity that advances the progress of the useful arts and sciences. If that were true, however, the Kenyon Review (to link directly back to the article) not only never would have been revived: It never would have existed in the first place. And the same goes for the way that Reed-Elsevier actually extracts money from those engaged in creative activities.

    Conversely, Big Media's attitude toward copyright (reflected in the work-for-hire doctrine, SOPA/PIPA/ACTA, etc.) is very much like the Wikepedia editorial staff: Because the dollar figures attached to its products are so large, that's where the "weight of the evidence" is... even when those dollar figures are as much accounting fiction as anything else, even when there are clear counterexamples demonstrating that "common" does not mean "universal." In short, copyright (and patent) policy is being set by the 1%... who are, almost by definition, not the creators themselves.

After that depressing platter, I think you need something a little more heartwarming, more appropriate to yesterday's commercial holiday. How about this blind date for Valentine's Day? I'd suggest that they get a room, but they already had one... it's just that it had glass walls. And calling this a "blind date" does sort of insult the best eyesight found among coast-dwelling sea life!