Vaut le Detour? Adversaria as Database

Apologies for the long delay in my Persius project. As soon as I uploaded my first few Persius Adversaria, I realized that I needed to rethink the whole web-publication process, since blog posts with links to printable PDF versions would not suffice. It would be awkward enough comparing a text in forwards order with blog posts in backwards order. Worse, I found that blogging passages strictly in their order in the text was slowing things down way too much. I wanted to be able to blog them as I finished them, and move some of the more interesting ideas to the head of the line as I try to attract commenters.

What I needed was a way to blog the pieces bit by bit, while allowing readers to read them in their order in the text, or in the order in which they were published, as they pleased. I also needed to allow multiple versions of each note, since I was already itching to edit the ones I’d put up just a few days before. In short, I needed a database. (I like databases.) It only took a couple of days to put together the basic table, but several more to get the links working.

Each note now exists in four different formats, all interlinked, and will eventually exist in five:

  1. Each one is composed and edited as a Word document, with footnotes and standardized headers and footers. This is for my own use, and will probably never be seen by users.
  2. PDF versions for printing are easily made from these with Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Blog posts for commenting are made by pasting in the Word text and adding appropriate HTML formatting. Macros should be able to automate most, if not all, of this process, though I haven’t done that yet.
  4. With only slight changes in the HTML, the blog post version can be pasted into my Adversaria database table. This process will also be automated with a private PHP input module based on some I already use to update other database tables.
  5. Once the whole set of Adversaria has been edited to my satisfaction, I will be able to put all the Word docs together into one big one, make a PDF, and send it off to a POD publisher, if it looks like anyone will want a hard copy.

The Word, PDF, and Database versions (1, 2, and 4) will all have multiple versions, as I rewrite each note to improve the style or argumentation, meet objections, add suggestions, and so on. This is where the POTIS (Public On-Line Textual-Interpretative Seminar) comes in. Version control should be easy, as long as I’m careful to put changes in the Word version first.

The Adversaria database (4) is here. The buttons below the title allow the reader to sort individual notes by their order in the text (the default), date posted, and length of comment, all either upwards [Λ] or downwards [V]. Once I begin revising them, I will add an option to sort by date last edited, and anything else that seems useful.

I plan to add a Filtering option just below the Sorter: this will allow readers to see only notes that fall into particular categories: Textual, Exegetical, Realien, Meter, Puns&Wordplay, and so on: many comments will of course fall into more than one category. My next post will give my tentative list of categories, and ask for suggestions to improve it.

Some bits of the Adversaria software are hard-coded for Persius, but as soon as I parameterize them, I will start adding comments on other authors, some new, some recycled from published articles. The aim is to aggregate all my Juvenalia (for instance) in a form convenient for readers.

I should mention that it occurred to me just yesterday that I could use this software to compile a complete commentary on a text. All I need to do is to make the references more granular. Right now, they refer to poem and line of Persius, but I would need to specify author, work (if the author wrote more than one), book (if the work has more than one), poem, beginning line, beginning word, ending line, and ending word. (The last two or three will be NULL if the note refers to a single whole line, or a single word.)

I should also mention that the reason I haven’t yet put up my list of manuscripts, list of editions consulted, and bibliography is that I realized a few days ago that these also need to be database tables. (I was trying to decide whether editors should be listed alphabetically or chronologically in my HTML file when I realized that this is yet another case where the reader should be allowed to decide.)

Now what I need is comments. I’ve drafted a Comment Policy, which I will be posting later tonight. Even if you’re not interested in Persius, or do not feel qualified to discuss his text (some of the most difficult Latin ever written by a semicanonical author), you may have ideas about how an on-line textual seminar ought to be run. If this works out, I plan to start a couple more on the first of April.

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