single database

I asked someone who used to have that job, what would it take to make the books viewable in full to everybody? I wanted to know how hard it would have been to unlock them. What’s standing between us and a digital public library of 25 million volumes?

You’d get in a lot of trouble, they said, but all you’d have to do, more or less, is write a single database query. You’d flip some access control bits from off to on. It might take a few minutes for the command to propagate.
why you shouldn’t use jstor

(the title’s to get your attention - read on to see what i really mean).

It’s that time of year that I start getting asked for study tips and the like, and while I will reiterate yet again that I will not do your homework for you, I do really love talking about education and getting the chance to help people out where I can, so I wanted to make a post about something that I realized in class today that apparently a lot of people don’t know.

That something is this: JSTOR is not the be-all and end-all of research. (Neither is Project Muse, or Francis & Taylor, etc, etc.) (JSTOR is great.  I love JSTOR.  I want their t-shirt.  But I also know that they hold a bit of a monopoly in the part of our brains that remember things like “how to find a source.”  I imagine this is at least partly due to some savvy branding on their part.)  

In fact, if you’re doing any form of textual studies, JSTOR shouldn’t even be your first stop.

Why not?

Because JSTOR is a database, it pays money to host the resources that it does, and then charges for access to it - which means that it’s limited in what it can offer you.  JSTOR does not have every single article on any subject in its collection.  It has a lot!  It is one of the best databases out there!  But it’s still a database.

Instead, where you should be going when you’re looking for sources is the MLA Bibliography, which is housed online by EBSCO, and which every university will have access to.  The MLA Bibliography is not a database.  What it is is the bibliography of the Modern Language Association.  This means that it keep track of every academic article published in the field of textual studies, across the globe.  All of them.  If you search for a subject in the bibliography, you will find an entry for every article ever written in regards to it.

Keep in mind the distinction I just made:  you will find an entry for the article.  You might not find the article.  Because the bibliography is housed by EBSCO, if EBSCO has access to that article, there will be a link available in the listing.  Sometimes links to JSTOR and Project Muse are also at the bottom of them.  Otherwise you will need to check and see if your university has access to that specific article.  You might even need to go into the actual library and look for the physical journal housing that article!  Imagine!

I do think an aversion to old-fashioned research is part of the reason some students don’t search this way.  But I also think that some of them just genuinely don’t know any better.  But I promise: that tiny little bit of extra work is worth it.  You’ll find way, way more sources if you search this way, which means you’ll be able to write a better paper!  Plus, profs will notice if you’re only ever citing a single database, and while I don’t think any of them would ever dock you marks for something like that, it’ll still look better if they can tell that you’ve done wide-ranging research just by looking at your Works Cited page.

You guys know what the otherkin community actually needs right now?? 

A single, cohesive information database. Not just a forum (though one could be attached), but an actual website that contains a compendium of knowledge related to otherkin that can be altered based on community consensus. Basically, an Otherkin wikipedia. 

But here’s the thing - it has to be popular and regularly updated.

If we had something like this, the spread of misinformation would slow dramatically both among the otherkin community and among trolls - then we wouldn’t have to endlessly repeat ourselves every time someone yet again asks “why there aren’t millions of insect-kin”. We could just send them a simple link, end of story.


In 1874, when the painter and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott was observing a small crowd of walruses on the Punuk Islands off Alaska’s coast, he was preoccupied with the appearance of their pustules and the precise texture of their skins.

“The longer I looked at them the more heightened was my disgust; for they resembled distorted, mortified, shapeless masses of flesh,” he wrote. Almost off-handedly, he noted their number — around 150, all male — before pondering their resemblance to “so many gnomes or demons of fairy romance.”

Now Elliott’s musings have been translated into a new sort of language:

“Latitude: 63.08049. Longitude: -168.80936. … more than 150 male walruses hauling out here during August of 1874.”

For the first time, scientists have built a single database showing where Pacific walruses have gathered for the past 160 years, including sites along both the Russian and Alaskan coasts. The tool, which was published last month, will be used to protect vulnerable animals. (You can download it here, and view it in Google Earth or other mapping programs.)

And it’s all thanks to Native hunters, Victorian explorers, aerial observers, anthropologists, biologists, geologists, conservationists and librarians.

What Does It Take To Map A Walrus Hangout? 160 Years And A Lot Of Help

Images: Ryan Kingsbery/USGS, Lisa Charlotte Rost/NPR and Wikimedia

Capella's Promise: Progess Report #2

Still making progress on translating Capella’s Promise, so I guess I will report it. What a concept. See, this is the real RPG, Capella’s Progress, which lasts weeks instead of hours.

(Note: This post gets into a couple of game mechanics, and has some teaser screens which may be slightly spoilery, if only for the characters in them. I’ll avoid anything major, of course, but moreso than the first report, you may not want to read this if you prefer to play the game “fresh” when the translation is done.)

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