[tei-council] a letter to the Board and Council

Piotr Bański bansp at o2.pl
Tue Aug 9 15:46:25 EDT 2011

Dear Martin,

On 05/08/11 06:05, Martin Mueller wrote:
> Attached to this email is a long letter to the Board and Council in which I have tried to think through various TEI issues. 

Thanks for your letter -- it provides a good incentive for discussion,
on more than one plane.

I will restrict myself to only brief comments, at least for today (head
somewhat swimming):

* I was shocked to learn about the numbers of individual subscribers --
I had been kind of hoping that we would be able to fill at least a
sizeable lecture room, not merely a sizeable closet. This makes me very
curious as to what effort the Board has been putting into changing that
state of affairs and whether there exists at least a log of past
failures, places not to go back to, so that the way forward is made
clearer. It also seems to me that some kind of sliding scale might
become useful to increase the numbers of individual subscribers, but
that obviously is not enough. Anything allowing to increase this number
is a good investment... after all, this isn't just about income, it's
about some sense of belonging, word-of-mouth PR, extra effort put into
the organization that I am co-funding and in some way feel responsible
for, proud of, etc. I only remember talk of addressing this issue; it's
a pity not to see any results (or has 2011 started differently? the
TEI-MM is still the crucial point where possible changes can happen).

* I'm wondering, without any experience in this regard, if lowering the
big institutional membership fees may result in a financial blow, at
least for one year, when (some of) the existent members will expect
their fees to go down while the potential legions of the new ones will
not yet start arriving; while the proposal sounds interesting, maybe a
financial reserve should be prepared for such a moment, in advance.

* Concerning the Board/Council proposal -- I think I see your rationale,
though one remark that comes to mind is that given the changes aiming at
drawing a smaller income from a larger set of subscribers/members,
perhaps the ratio of institutional members to Board/Council members
should not be so scary anymore.

I don't know about the working of the Board, I do hope it is efficient
and justifies the number of its members. I've only participated in one
Council meeting and had a feeling that the members present (including
one online) were not wasting the time paid for by the TEI-C. Obviously,
some of us performed worse than others, but it seems understandable to
me that the unseasoned Council members are given some leeway at their
first meeting, and some credit towards their future engagement.

On the one hand, there appears to be something attractive in bringing
together the Board and the Council -- as a Council member, I am indeed
somewhat interested in the workings of the Board (especially having
learned of the numbers of subscribers). OTOH, I am not especially keen
on participating in financial debates, and I'm not eager at all to be
called a Director -- I'm absolutely fine as a Council member in charge
of technical maintenance/development of the system. And somewhat
conversely: while in the current Board, I can easily count five and more
highly technical members, an asset to any Council, I am not sure that
your projected general committee of 5 would include just these people,
and well, I'd rather talk about technical matters to technical people,
and have less technically- but more managerially-minded people do their
job in quiet, because the nature of that job is different.

* Concerning the TEI going directly into tool building -- there is also
the business of tool maintenance, and the TEI already has some nice
tools that would surely benefit from more publicity and more effort
directed in their way.

* About the 90 elements that do the job -- this is naturally an old TEI
Lite idea, also successfully present in the split between TEI P3 and the
CES. Surely, the 90 elements would have to be different among the
modules, and such a baseline encoding (also in some form present in the
(X)CES). Let me add to that something generalized from conversations
with Laurent, namely a formalised visual model for each module, as a way
of coming towards a non-fully-XML-ised encoder. Not a week ago, I talked
at the Balisage conference about (surmountable, in my view) difficulties
in implementing something like that for the Dictionary module. In
general, if we don't become friendlier towards average developers, we'll
only keep the most hardened pointy-bracketers, with the rest turning to
easier, specialized systems.

* Points completely minor in the context of the rest: the name of the
language is "Perl" (writ large), and similarly with XQuery. Corpus
linguists are not the same as NLP people, and they often tend to
appreciate structural elements in the encoding. And, for many of us,
nested is much better than flat... ;-)

Thanks again for your effort. I hope that at least some of the above
remarks may be helpful.

Best regards,


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