advances in the uniformity of cribs

John Chambers

Message 26101 · 16 May 2001 17:15:17 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Peter Hastings writes:
| (after I wrote)
| > The main problem right now is the totally inconsistent
| > formats that are used for posting descriptions. This makes it nearly
| > impossible to feed them to any sort of software
| This is a problem ? No, it's merely another indication that cribs are
| essentially personal aides memoires and can usefully be standardised when
| cloning techniques are better understood and applied to the population as a
| whole.

Well, yes and no. You are certainly free to invent your own language.
But one of the main reasons for putting things online is to
communicate to others. If you use a private language, you can only
communicate with others who understand your private language. That's
fine, but it doesn't make you part of the SCD community.

One of the reasons for the success of the RSCDS world wide has been
its standardised dances and terminology. This means that you can drop
in on a dance group anywhere in the world and expect that you will be
able to dance with them. There is a certain value to this, at least
to some of us. Similarly, there is value to standard music notation,
and a standard repertoire. If you only intend to dance or play music
with your own home-town crowd, and don't welcome visitors, you should
have your own incompatible variants and your own language (and you
probably shouldn't subscribe to a world-wide mailing list such as
this one ;-). But if you want to be part of a larger community such
as the one that the RSCDS has created, standardised terminology is a
Good Thing.

The one new feature of putting things online is that they are not
just for human use, but can also be used by computer software. This
will create extra pressure towards more standardisation, so that
software can make sense of things. In the past, searching for a dance
has meant searching through your own note cards and dance booklets.
When such things are online, it becomes feasible for a computer to
search not just your own files, but everyone else's. Many dancers,
especially dance leaders, will soon come to see this as valuable. It
will only work if the file formats are somewhat standardised.

| > Still, I'd bet that in a few years, there will be a motley collection
| > of such files around on the web.
| Hey, it's possible ! - it must be worth doing

Well, not necessarily. I've always liked the saying "If it's not
worth doing, it's not worth doing well." A brief reading of any sort
of history will turn up lots of events that we would have been better
off without. But SCD doesn't harm very many people (except for the
occasional dancer ;-), and its wide success is due in part to a body
of literature that keeps it somewhat consistent from group to group.

The internet is just one more tool that can be used to maintain this
consistency, by making communication and sharing easier. So online
SCD info is worthwhile, and will happen as most of the dancers start
using email and the web as a routine part of their lives. The only
real issue is how we deal with the copyright issue, if there really
is one. My suspicion is that it's a red herring, and most SCD dance
devisers will support putting good dance descriptions online.

The simplest way to test this is to start putting a few dances online
and see what the response is. You'll note that my small set of online
dance descriptions does have the usual disclaimer inviting copyright
owners to object, and I'll remove the dance. I've had these online
for several years now, and so far nobody has objected. This is
probably because nobody noticed that they were there. But in the case
of online music, I have thousands of tunes online, at a well-known
site, and probably at least a few hundred are copyrighted by someone.
So far I've had exactly one request to remove a tune, which I did. In
all other cases, when I've contacted a tune's owner (and taught them
about abc notation), the response has been to request that I add
their email address and/or URL to the tune's headers, which I did.

I'll make the prediction that we will see a similar objection rate
with online dance descriptions. This means that for the maybe 10,000
SCD dances that exist, we'll have around 10 whose owners object to an
online description.

Check back in a few years to see if I was correct ...

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