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Fire Hydrant for the Flames

From:Peter Clark <pc451@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 12, 2002, 23:59
Hash: SHA1

        I would like to offer to the group a counter proposal: namely, we institute
some system whereby those who wish to have their languages teased apart with
tweezers or chainsaws (your pick) may do so. Allow me first to summarize the
current situation:
        John Doe wishes to have his conlang Nonami critiqued. He posts a grammatical
outline, some vocabulary, and maybe a sentence or two, then asks for
comments. If he is lucky, he'll get a "Looks nice!" or, "I like feature X,"
but nothing really in-depth. If he is unlucky, his post will be lost in a
blizzard of email on a thread about how mean/nice those
French/Germans/Dutch/Americans/Brits are. Clearly, this is unacceptable.
People who post their language and ask for comments WANT COMMENTS.
        However, on the other hand, free-wheeling threads on rude (insert
nationality of choice here) are a part of the Conlang community. We all have
ways to deal with the flurry of posts, even if it means that our "delete" key
starts to wear out. :) So we want to preserve the community aspect as well.
        Hence, my proposal: we agree upon a system by which one person can submit
their language for peer review. I choose "peer review" deliberately. It means
that those of us who commit ourselves to the task deliberately and
methodically go through the conlang in question and post our comments on it.
It does not mean that you have to comment on every single conlang, but
hopefully, if we get enough people to agree to do so, there will always be at
least a couple of constructive comments.
        You may be protesting, "But I don't have time to go through all the
languages that fly by on the list!" And neither do I. As a solution, let me
propose the following: everyone who wants a peer review of the language sign
up on a list. It would be nice if this were a web site, as then the order
(first come, first serve?) would be visible to all. Then as your turn comes,
you post your language to the list, preferably with something like [PEER] in
the subject line so that those of us with itchy delete keys spot it. If we
had a regular system (say one post on Monday, one post Thursday) that would
mean two peer reviews a week. Much more managable, in my opinion. It would
also give three days for comments and exchanges. If more comments are
necesary, the threads could be easily taken off-list. But I believe that it
is important to have the threads on-list for a couple of days, so that others
can comment on the comments. We want open peer review.
        Note that I am not suggesting that this becomes the only way of having
people talk about your conlang. Rather, I want it to be the _guaranteed_ way
of discussion about your conlang. If you're way back on the list, or don't
feel your language is ready to be examined by peer review, you are still
perfectly free to say, "I'm thinking about using a split ergative, can anyone
comment on that?" You just won't be guaranteed a response. Which is currently
the present situation. I don't want this to be tyranical, but rather an
orderly method for giving people what they want: comments.
        There is one problem that I see with this: time. This list has over 300
members, and about 50 active posters, with new ones popping by all the time.
So let's say 24 people initially signed up for peer review. At two a week, it
would take twelve weeks, or three months, to go through all of them. So if
you are not quick enough, you may find yourself in for a long wait. On the
other hand, such a wait might be adventageous for your language; knowing that
in three months your language is going to be stretched out on a rack and
tortured with barbarian instruments of pain might make you put in some extra
effort before hand. My language would quickly confess to a multitude of
crimes, even before it was put on the rack, so I would definitely not want to
be early; thus I would wait until I felt I had ironed out the kinks. Others
might believe that their language is tough enough to take the abuse; there
ought to be some way when the queue is formed to indicate how much time you
want before your turn comes.
        Your thoughts and comments are certainly welcome.
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Aidan Grey <grey@...>
Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>Subject headers are the solution [was: Fire Hydrant for the Flames]