Subject: Re: Free software and free music have some similar problems.
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 05:04:47 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Bernard" == Bernard Lang <> writes:

    Bernard> From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
    >> Not the same procedures, but the same functions.

    Bernard> No ... in paper technology the filtering has an essential
    Bernard> economic role since it is not feasable to print
    Bernard> everything and distribute it.

Filtering is about saving attention of readers.  This is an "essential
economic role" that cannot be avoided.
    Bernard> Hence filtering must precede dissemination ...

Given that filtering _must_ occur, filtering before dissemination
saves paper.

I don't see any way at the moment to prove that this is why we see
the pattern that we do; both our theories are consistent with the
empirical fact.  But I think that "pre-filtering" is an accident of
paper cost; "post-filtering" is probably more appropriate to the

That is, I see professional journals be run by professional
publishers.  The professional publisher of the future will do the

    (1) Maintain a web site with archival copies of the refereed
        versions (to keep people from, eg, referring accesses to their 
        famous papers to their new ones, or adding their students'
        papers to reference lists ex post publication), as well as
        pointers to preprints and updates.
    (2) Manage financial aspects (buying hard drives and renting T1s,
        as well as paying secretaries and "postage").
    (3) Support editors (with communications and secretarial services, 
    (4) Provide infrastructure for handling the refereeing process.
    (5) Provide editing and web support services (for multimedia
    (6) Provide paper versions for those who want them, and CD-ROM
        versions of the archive (maybe).
    (+) And probably lots of other stuff I can't think of at the moment.

It is true that the volume:issue:article structure we are familiar
with is likely to change; we'll probably see something more like
Usenet threads.  It will be interesting to see how competing journals
handle cross-journal threads.  Cross-licensing or pay-per-citation-
hit, maybe.

But strong editors will continue to gain following, resulting in a
concentration of high-S/N "threads" in a fairly small number of sites.
These sites will be managed by professionals, not by the editors
themselves.  (I realize that FSB is an exception already.  But few
economists will have the wherewithal to manage even a mailing list
without unacceptable distraction, let alone a slick Web site.)

    Bernard> When interested in a topic, I can use a search engine to
    Bernard> catch the literature on the web, white, gray or black ...

My experience has been different.  I have found search engines very
useful for tracking down obscure texts, or getting information about
black-and-white topics (eg, hardware specs).  But for broad
controversial topics with more than a decade of history, there's no
comparison with getting the library index for the topic and sitting in
the stacks among reams of paper.  Once I have absorbed the prefiltered
information, I can then go to the Web (where I usually give up in
disgust after a few minutes _unless I have an author or editor to key
on_: The Filter Returns).  This will take a minimum of a decade to

    Bernard> And I get documents I would never get on paper, certainly
    Bernard> not in a timely fashion, and probably never at all in
    Bernard> most cases.

This works both ways---because those introductory texts and
peer-reviewed literature surveys don't appear on the Web yet.  (That
is why I'm talking about a decade of change.)

    >> I think it is the attention deficit of the individual members
    >> of each research community.

    Bernard> Good point ... but what matters is not the attention of
    Bernard> each member but the attention of all (permanent or
    Bernard> temporary) members of the community... so that anything
    Bernard> gets a real chance of being noticed.  Free software
    Bernard> teaches us that is it the global action that matters.

A wise man has said that the wisdom of a group is equal to the maximum
of the wisdoms of the individual members.  I'm not that pessimistic,
but it is clear that wisdom (filtering) is violently subadditive.
Free software, on the other hand, is _super_additive.

    Bernard> In any case, the burden of the filtering function cost is
    Bernard> not on the publisher. Most of what he does can be fully
    Bernard> automated.

But what can't be automated (eg, site and host maintenance) will be
done by professional publishers, not by researchers.  Eg, how much
math is Stephen Wolfram doing these days?  I wonder if he ever regrets

    Bernard> sorry if I ahev been repeating myself some.

Not at all (speaking for myself).  It's been very instructive.  But
you haven't convinced me (yet).  (I do hope I'm wrong.)

    Bernard> Must rush to vacations ... bye


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