Friday 28th February 2003

I have just deleted several annotations from the 25 February 1659/60 entry, sparked by a lengthy posting by Hhomeboy of an obituary of the historian Christopher Hill. Not only was it far too long but it was also irrelevant to the events of the day. This prompted much discussion of the worth of such a post.

If this was a general discussion forum I wouldn’t have deleted the comments; I don’t like censoring such things. However, please remember this is not a chat forum. Annotations should be as brief as possible and directly relevant to the day’s events or the current discussion. I realise that some of the most interesting threads have been when things have drifted “off topic,” which is perfectly fine, but do ask yourself whether your annotation will contribute to someone’s understanding of the diary when they read it in several years’ time. If you can’t find a suitable place to post something, ask me where it should go, rather than stick it somewhere it doesn’t belong.

As well as relevance, try and keep annotations to a maximum of 2-3 paragraphs (although there are always exceptions) and avoid repeating information from further up the page. Pretty much everyone is doing great on this front, but it’s just a reminder! Thanks so much for all the work so many of you are putting into this; it’s bringing entertainment and education to huge numbers of people. And, if anyone still wants an obituary of Christopher Hill, you can find one at the Guardian.

If people feel the need for a general discussion forum outside of the annotations, feel free to discuss it below. I’m all for it, but am also concerned important information might be posted there rather than to the diary annotations.

36 Comments

Phil   Link to this

As a starting point, the most obvious solution to me would seem to be an email list that is archived and readable on the web for those who don't want a lot of email. eg Yahoo! Groups or SmartGroups.

Paul Miller   Link to this

In 1998 I started the first Gospel of Thomas discussion group on the web called GThomas. This was for scholars mostly, but we had alot of very general posting so we decided to split the list into two, one for scholarly posting and one for general and this worked quite well with over 1200 people discussing still today. After much study of the Gospel of Thomas I lost interest and am not associated with the forum currently. I think if there is to be a Pepys forum this site should link to it and explain the purpose of the discussion list as opposed to the annotations at this site.

JonTom Kittredge   Link to this

Along the lines of the "two level" approach Mr Miller suggested:
It seems like people are enjoying the sometimes chatty daily discussion, but I can also certainly sympathize with Mr Gyford's wanting annotations that will be helpful to readers six months or sixty years from now. I wonder if it might be possible to limit the annotations to footnote-type content and have a separate "commentary" area to allow general discussion of the day's entry. Readers could choose either to "view annotations" or "view discussion."

The "comments" area would be open, but permission to add annotations would be restricted. My idea is that the annotator could distill the most useful "comments" to add as annotations. This obviously would be a lot of work to do day after day. Maybe a cadre of volunteers could be recruited, each having the charge of one day's entry to annotate every week or two.

Just a thought.

Warren Keith Wright   Link to this

The "headache of relevance" will be recognized by anyone who has annotated a text of any complexity. What information is mandatory for comprehension, as opposed to being diverting but perhaps contingent? Though new facts keep coming to light, Latham-Mathews did a thorough job, in their time, of covering the necessities---though now we can offer links for further exploration, cite sources they did not, provide online visual aids, &c.
Yet without a little leavening---speculations, for example, on Pepys's motives, the development of his pet interests, the character of the people he encounters---even such a worthy endeavor can become rather dry.
Perhaps one rule of thumb---only one, mind---might be: "Would I be embarrassed if I had to reread this in cold print a year from now?"
(The Commentator's Conundrum: why does Internet posting seem so prone to typos?) Meanwhile, due praise to Phil G. for persevering with the unforeseen consequences of the good deed.

Warren Keith Wright   Link to this

A further thought:
Given that the free text available has admitted lacunae and lapses in
transcription;
given that much information must be drawn perforce from Latham-Matthews, so that their edition can only be supplemented here, but not supplanted;
and given that the longevity of any cyberspace project is as yet
untested,---
it may be prudent to retain a healthy sense of proportion about what even such a worthy site as this can accomplish.
One wishes it long life, and an expanding audience; but if it excludes the friendly give and take of open and engaged discussion, you might as well stick with the print version.
What Johnson said a century after Pepys remains pertinent: “That book is good in vain which the reader throws aside.”

Paul Miller   Link to this

Warren, well said and good point!

Hhomeboy   Link to this

Given my recent censorship experience re: Christopher Hill Obit from the Times (Phil has linked to another far less useful one in the Guardian), I'd like us to start a Pepys forum right away...

All Phil has to do is post links to it on all his Pepys pages...anyone wish to volunteer to act as grundyator... 'probably no more than an hour's minding per week, if that...probably the only censoring will involve random trash-talking vandal visits, which are quite rare.

Posting a FAQ section with an undertaking that the moderator will NOT respond to sundry queries should solve any bothersome a-mail headaches....clearly some queries may be of interest to Phil but I doubt it.

The one 'moderator driven duty' I feel we are all in need of are some 'hosted' sessions with experts or academics; I think Phil may wish to try this in the coming months/years himself but hey--the more the merrier!

Here's a solid free forum site which I can recommend as a good friend of mine with a high-traffic news site (Bourque.com) uses it as his discussion forum:

http://www.voy.com/

I note JT Kittredge's take above on Sr. Miller's predilections re: dual posting modalities and want to suggest that whereas Keith Wright's 'headache of relevance' metaphor is perhaps apt, there needs be a place for ebullient exchanges and exegetic theories cum pet premises, plus lots of talking out loud and lively badinage, readerly impressions, etc., n'est-ce pas?

Having said all that, using a 'movable type' based forum which was archived and searchable (over a period of several years) and organized by topic categories plus a sort of daily bear-pit/omnibus commentary category would be best...

I know I have lots of 'does anyone else remember' X,y,Z etcetera. type flashes and blockages/mental lacunae...and would like to be prompted/reminded by others.

Also, if we had such a facility, we could all agree to meet for a pub crawl and walking tours and/or an out-of-London visit--eg. Cambridge via Sam's routes-- once a year.

Michael Hayward   Link to this

The questions of whether to edit/censor readers' annotations, and how to keep annotatations (of presumed permanent interest) from straying too far into "mere" discussion or chat have no easy answers.

My suggestion would be to err on the side of non-intervention as much as possible. If there is to be editorial cleanup (in service to "posterity") along the lines of the annotations (and their removal) which sparked this "Guideline for annotations", then I would prefer that the cleanup occur much more after the fact - on the order of 2 weeks, say, rather than 3 days. By then the discussion could be presumed to have moved on to more current diary entries.

michael f vincent   Link to this

annotations: " to make or furnish critical or explananatory notes or comments". The w cubed is a cross between speakers corner for the "hoi poloi" and debating group on parkers piece (moved to Rose tavern to wet the whistle, or may to the backs )
Any way this allows diverse groups to get another view of the world. History has always been written by the successful; now those who failed 11 plus to become cannon fodder or worse a factory production line we can be edulcorated;

Phil   Link to this

Michael [Hayward]: On this occasion the editorial cleanup was not in service to posterity but to immediate usefulness. People had already complained about the length of the post (1,477 words). It was also entirely irrelevant to the diary entry and did not continue on from any previous annotation (which makes topic drift more acceptable).

Phil   Link to this

Hhomeboy: I would have linked to the same obituary as you posted but The Times' site goes out of its way to prevent one from finding the URL of past articles. After a bit more work though... http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1...

Pauline   Link to this

"It was also entirely irrelevant to the diary entry..."
But not irrelevant to the diary. It only needed cutting and a place found for it. It was relevent to the entry inasmuch as we had progressed with events to a point where discussing the revolutionary nature of events was natural. From the obit: "The work for which Hill may be best remembered was The World Turned Upside Down. Previously, the events of the mid 17th century had been glossed over as merely a rebellion or an interregnum, but Hill turned upside down the historical picture of the period. His book contained some of the most comprehensive demonstrations of Puritanism

michael f vincent   Link to this

Anon "Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them"

from
http://website.lineone.net/~stolarczyk/trivia2....

Phil   Link to this

Pauline: The post *was* irrelevant to that day's entry. Sure, it was relevant to the diary as a whole, so the poster could have emailed me and asked me what should be done with it. I'd probably have posted it in this section.

Censorship was used to make the site more usable for people and remove irrelevant annotations -- once the original annotation was removed the handful following it were also irrelevant. They certainly weren't removed to "save faces".

You ask if someone can be censored for "a dogged interest in some topic raised by an entry." Although there are limits the general answer is no, because it would be a topic raised by an entry, whereas the annotation concerned was not related to the entry.

Simone   Link to this

A "lurkers" thoughts on annotations...
I have being reading this excellent site since it's inception (Phil, you deserve an award!), I read both diary entries and their annotations on a daily basis. I am much less inclined to read the background info sections, as the reason I visit this site is for an insight into a by-gone time, not necessarily an intense history lesson.

As such I find the increasing number of long annotations to entries irritating. IMHO entry annotations should concisely explain a specific in the entry - any longer discussion or background is for the background info section.

As a solution I was wondering if it would be possible to limit the length of annotations to entries. This would force people to be concise and to think about the relevance of their post. Annotations to background info sections could be any length - allowing the longer, essay-style annotations some seem to prefer.

Pauline   Link to this

"(Phil, you deserve an award!)
I agree with Simone. For her praise of your work, Phil, and the rest of her comments.

My questions (above) were rhetorical.

Keith Wright   Link to this

What one reader deplores as egregious over-explication, another will prize as welcome enlightenment. When footnoting a diary on a daily basis, "unaware" of future developments, the problem of relevance is compounded by the difficulty of distinguishing what's foreground from what's background.

Maybe the easiest way to deal with these scholarly conundrums is to adopt a time-hallowed strategy: when you the reader find an annotation uninteresting, prolix, or just plain dumb, skip.

Phil   Link to this

Replying to Hhomeboy's comment here: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/03/05/#2657

First, I posted "commentary" on that page to tell others I'd noticed your error in posting another overly-long annotation and that the matter was being dealt with; to prevent further off-topic posts.

Second, as the FAQ states, entries are posted at 11pm UK time. Sometimes I make a mistake and it doesn't happen then. So sue me. I'm not going to log on every day at 11 for the next nine years to make sure things are up-to-date.

As *you* are aware, I am working on a discussion forum. But I have to work for a living and a decent long-term solution is not going to happen overnight. I'm sorry if you're too impatient to wait 7-10 days (which I mentioned over email) until you can post your lengthy thoughts on the diary.

If you think I have an obsession with length you are looking at my complaints superficially. My utmost concern is with making this a site that others find valuable, enjoyable and usable. Lengthy posts that have no immediate relevance obstruct this aim.

I may well be asking for moderators for a forum. However, I can assure you that if I do I'll be looking for people who have shown evidence of sensitivity towards their fellow diary readers and and the ability to follow a service's ground rules.

If you continue to post long annotations that have little immediate relevance to the day's entry I can and will stop you from posting. I'd prefer not to because, as others have said, you have valuable things to say. But it's possible to say them far more concisely and to hold back on other material for a week or two.

maureen   Link to this

Long ago, when I was a Management Trainer, I would say to class after class,

"If you can't summarise your argument on one side of A4 and/or you can't express it in plain, elegant English then you are not ready to present it yet. Go and do some more work!"

I was banging my head against a brick wall then: I probably am now.

In an ideal world I'd be asking for 500 words maximum per posting plus, as appropriate, a link to a site or an invitation to people to say whether they want to hear more.

I'd make an exeption for straight information which can be broken up and made readable as a list, something David Q does well.

C.Short   Link to this

I must agree with Maureen's post and applaud the stand that you are taking Phil. There seemed to be an unstated understanding for a while about what was acceptable, it's too bad that you are forced to articulate it now. Thanks for this incredible site and your reasonable, beneficent stewardship.

Django Cat   Link to this

Phil

Could I be amongst the first to nominate Hhomeboy as moderator of a separate Pepys discussion site? That way I can stick with reading the always stimulating daily annotations and he can drone on off-topic and blow his own trumpet without me having to wade through his tedious and prolix postings.

I'm sure I speak for many as someone who does not have an academic background in history, and in fact knew little about the Restoration Period (well, apart from the plays and poetry), but who has been avidly following this site since day one and been learning from it on a quotidinal basis (oops). The great appeal, of course, is in seeing what Sam is up to every day and how the actions of the great and good are progressing, but also in reading the interesting and well-informed annotations of scholarly contributors such as David Quidnunc and Language Hat, together with those additions from readers with a special interest or knowledge of a topic - Mary and others' comments as horse riders, for example, were particularly interesting when Sam rode to Cambridge a few days ago. I've tried to add what little I can when US-based readers have speculated about the parallels between Sam's England and the UK I live in today.

Phil, you are doing a fantastic job in bringing Pepys' world to us in a blog-like format suited to the net and the 21c, and of which I suspect Sam would have approved, together with valuble contributions. It's also totally understandable that you do not want to censor annotations.

As someone without a deep and professional knowledge of the 17c it's obviously time for me to shut up, study my dictionary and return the discussion to Henty (who he? - no, no, please, I've read enough about him already. Really. Honestly.) and Christopher Hill.

DC x

Django Cat   Link to this

PS - I thought The Guardian's obit of Christopher Hill contrasted markedly with that of The Times in its clear use of English and relevance and accesibilty to generalist readers. Now what does that remind me of...?

Hhomeboy   Link to this

"Dunce Caps" vs. tight-arsed Peckniffs...

Sr. Miller and others have suggested a bifurcated mode for "annotations":

1. pseudo-scholarly notes, clarifications, and explanatory footnotes re: dates, places, words, definitions and meanings, etc.--which should be edited prior to posting. Surely Quid Nunc and a couple of others might volunteer to share in this task...

2. a more wide-open, free-flowing set of comments, unedited, yet still keyed apposite the daily diary entries.

From both categories, an editorial board could help guide Phil or whomever he delegates to then cull and edit from both categories for the background sections, which require a good deal more work already and we're but scarcely 3 months in...

Suffice it to say that I find virtually every one of David Quidnunc's posts to have been useful and apropos; unlike some others, I find most of language hat's plagiarism-prone & smug, pedantic posts banal, and, for the most part, thoroughly unedifying.

As we all proceed together, it would be best if we approach this as a common interest worthy of attracting aggregating audience numbers...in order to accommodate a gamut of reader-participants, we should try and appeal to a whole range of tastes, sophistication, period literacy and exegetical interests--multi-level if you will.

In some of the

Hhomeboy   Link to this

Message for Phil...

Having just read this string, I find you a tad shrill, unappropriately argumentative and defensive...your active posters such as Pauline are your 'customers'; let them 'win' the arguments by refraining from engaging in immodest backchat...otherwise you may prove to be temperamentally unsuited to moderating and should stick to the nuts and bolts of design functionality....you are missing the point a bit here Phil--it's NOT your blog albeit with Sam's words--it's Sam's blogiary--you are merely the facilitator and, as you have readily admitted, you are neither knowledgeable about the period, nor a Pepys devotee.

What did Flaubert say about authors invading their texts...they should be like God in his universe-omnipresent but silent.

BTWE, I am not keen to moderate a Pepys forum but having been a respected and popular radio commentator on the CBC and other outlets, I can tell you that the only thing a moderator should do is set up topics and solicit some expert contributions or expert-hosted Q 'n A sessions.

Also, kindly refrain from your bumptious characterizations/aspersions--they're presumptuous, unkind, ill-informed and obnoxious.

Hhomeboy   Link to this

unappropriately=inappropriately

language hat   Link to this

Hhomeboy, go start your own site, as Django Cat suggests. You are pompous, longwinded, and so full of yourself you're oozing out of your every pore. You don't even realize that repeatedly insulting the hardworking proprietor of the site you're pissing all over is neither appropriate nor sensible. You're fixing to get banned, and I for one am eagerly awaiting the day.

Django Cat   Link to this

Totally with you there LH.

Hhomeboy   Link to this

LH and DJ:

You both are prats and sycophants!

If Phil can dish it out, he can take it--especially as my criticisms (unlike yours) have been constructive.

Hhomeboy   Link to this

www.languagehat.blogspot.com

L.H. (sorry, I forgot you preferred the cummingsesque, falsely modest lower case "lh"): since you post ad hominem attacks here but invite incoming vitriol on your own immodest, brittle, pointlessly effete (good links though) and sham Socratic site, allow me to repeat a quite deliciously trenchant comment posted there recently at your express invitation...the following comment nicely summarizes my own frustration with your rote pedantry on this site:

"Why do you assume being scholarly is just absorbing and regurgitating other people's ideas?"

c.short   Link to this

Hhomeboy, you are truly astounding. Have you so little sense of how you are presenting yourself? Your bombastic and laughably arroganct nature may have helped you in the radio business but in my opinon it has no place here. Find another place to show everyone how very smart you are.

michael f vincent   Link to this

re long annotations and opinions: a misquote by" Rabby" Burns" "Oh to have the gift to see ourselves as others see us"
I say thank goodness I do not , otherwise I would not be writing this piece
Please let us not express ourselves in minimum saxon seafaring expressions
all of you out there in cyber space appear to have a reasonable understanding of Universal English,
let us not use another of Robert Burns saying " where ere ye be let ... ... .. ...."
To all the masters of linguistics Elephants from the dung beetle.
C short is better more to the point
P.S. I don't like censoring but there are times ....

David Bell   Link to this

I think Hhomeboy wrote at excessive length in the annotations which have triggered this discussion.

If he'd put up his essay in his own web-space, and just put a short summary here with a link, there wouldn't be all this fuss.

There is, however, a downside to that method. It fragments the discussion, and may make it difficult to respond to his ideas.

PHE   Link to this

Hhomeboy a wind up?
This man is so over the top and extreme, I conclude he's just winding us all up with quite a clever practical joke. Quite entertaining in its way. (Though I must admit, I haven't read every word!).

yak   Link to this

PHE and c.short ...
I get the impression that Hhomeboy is very jealous that this site was started by someone other than himself. He is not winding us up, but trying to destroy the best site I have seen in years. When asked politely by phil to write less per entry his response was (almost) never ending.

Roger Miller   Link to this

Was it Pascal who said that he wrote a long letter because he didn't have time to write a short one?

Phil   Link to this

Thanks for all your comments. I think we can draw this topic to a close now, move on and concentrate on enjoying and investigating the diary. Thanks to all those who are making it a more enlightening experience for everyone.

Log in to post a comment.

If you don't have an account, then register here.