Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

A Question For You

I’ve been talking with Will Thomas at Ether Wave Propaganda about starting up a wiki, an open source database for people working on subjects in exploration. There is, of course, wikipedia. But a quick perusal of their main page on exploration lead me to think that this will only deal with nuts and bolts issues in the field (i.e. lists of explorers, timelines, regions, etc). What about a database that would include (perhaps even focus on) issues that were too wonky or obscure to be of use for a general interest resource like Wikipedia? As Will states in his post:

Wikipedia’s rules demand that pages be summaries of topics–not storehouses of all available information; and it is forbidden to post original scholarship there. Wonks need to turn elsewhere.

This, perhaps, puts some of us on edge. We don’t mind talking shop about general subjects, but sometimes it feels a bit dangerous to start revealing archival discoveries in advance of a published article. Perhaps this is a real concern, though I’ve never known someone to get scooped in this manner. When I’ve heard about it happening it was in the context of faculty members using material from research assistants or advisees without properly citing it.

The Exploration Wiki deep within Cheyenne Mountain

Even if it were true, it seems that there are all kinds of “common source” subjects that are both useful and non-proprietary. For example, I wrote a post last week on the historical connotations of exploration. This seems a bit too precise for the wikipedia discussion on exploration At the same time, my 500 word post is only the tip of the iceberg on ideas about exploration – I would love to know what others think about this: anthropologists, geographers, lit critics, and general public. Even if the wiki entry was nothing more than a compendium of various historical references to the subject, it would be useful I think. It also seems to me that a lot of us work on fairly obscure figures or ideas in the history of science and exploration – why not have a place for all of this esoterica to live?

Missing: Obscure Explorer, Needs Home.

At the same time, I don’t want to be pouring my energies into something that should be done through wikipedia, a blog carnival, or some other medium. Or, whether such a project should come under the heading of a larger wiki (e.g. the history of science) In any event, I would love to hear your thoughts, dear reader. Is this worth pursuing?


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