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Whither goes the isfdb?

By Port Forlorn in Culture
Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 09:39:17 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

Help please!! There are a number of Science Fiction fans who hang out here on kuro5hin and I have a question for them and the community at large. The Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase is one of the largest and most complete of the on-line SF data sources. Currently, the isfdb hosts direct queries only but it does encourage users to submit updates. The staff does all the validation of database inputs and corrections. The workload is pretty heavy (and largely manual) for the volunteers. They really do need to find a better way . . .

Update [2000-12-13 15:54:28 by rusty]: Apparently, after more than a year in a stasis field, the user updates capability of the IFSDB has been re-activated. How about that.

At one time, the site allowed user submitted additions and corrections. Later, this feature was disabled. The problem was that not all of the new book information or corrections that were submitted were useable. Some submissions were incorrect while others were incomplete or duplicated existing entries. While this feature was operating, numerous errors crept into the database, creating extra work for the staff. Now, the update feature is disabled and all the additions and changes have to be e-mailed to the editors. This approach is also a lot of work for the staff and they are hard pressed to keep the isfdb current.

I've been in contact with the editor-in-chief and suggested that he consider a multi-user moderated web site (perhaps based on kuro5hin's 'scoop' engine) where many of us can share the burden of keeping the database current and accurate. I think it would be relatively easy to tailor an existing weblog engine to allow several levels of user editors to submit and review changes to the database. This multi-user moderated site would allow submitters to "earn" status as valid reviewers by submitting correct info. After enough status was earned, a user could submit corrections that needed no review - and were automatically included in the isfdb. They would also review and rate the submissions of the less experienced submitters. These users would be qualified or "reviewer" users. Any user without such status (i.e., a novice user) could submit new data or corrections but their inputs would be held for review and approval by the "reviewers". (I think anything like a discussion group moderation engine would be a little too ambitious for now but that would be an interesting future addition.)

There are a couple of difficulties (of course.) Unfortunately, the current site won't allow standalone processes - like a networked database front end to MySQL, for instance. What they would need is about 80-100 MB of storage (and 10 MB a year for growth), a host for a moderation engine and a query engine client for a MySQL or postgres server. (Or even distributed engines). Since this is all volunteer, the cost would have to be very small. The other problem is that I don't know which engine would work best for this application.

My first question is if there is a free or cheap site that would host a (tailored version of a) weblog engine to service queries and user supplied updates to the database?

A second question is whether a kuro5hin-like engine would make a good basis for a tool for querying the database and "moderating" user supplied updates? < troll> . . . or would slashdot reimplemented in java be a better idea? </troll>

Any suggestions would be appreciated and I'll forward then to the editor. Thanks!


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What's the best way to provide a better engine?
o Modify kuro5hin's scoop engine? 29%
o Modify technocrat.org's squishdot engine? 4%
o Modify slashdot's slashcode? 0%
o Build a new site based on zope? 16%
o Build a new engine in java? 16%
o Build a new engine in perl? 25%
o Build a new engine in python? 8%

Votes: 24
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Scoop
o Kuro5hin
o Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase
o isfdb
o Also by Port Forlorn

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Whither goes the isfdb? | 4 comments (3 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Perhaps... (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by macman-g3 on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 01:19:14 AM EST

Something based on half-empty's engine, soon to be released as OSS, we hope. I've been thinking about modifying this engine to be used for a user-controlled literature site.

-- Occam's Razor: The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is the most likely to be correct.
how does CDDB do it? (2.50 / 2) (#3)
by Friendless on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 01:29:37 AM EST

CDDB is an example of a publicly modifiable database which works. I don't know for sure, but I expect how it works is that changes to the DB are sent from the user to the DB engine in a particular format, implemented by the GUI client. The submission is then reviewed by a human, who forwards the submission to an engine which will make the changes automatically. Hence there is human moderation, but only enough to make sure that the change is not absolute nonsense. Anything which looks sensible gets through.

Domain Specific might be best (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by markk on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 11:31:36 AM EST

I have thought about this somewhat in different contexts, and it seems for an area like references to literature, the best solution is usually domain specific. Imagine the following
(brainstorming here - winnow this down later.)

The point would be to reduce (not eliminate) the workload of the maintainers.

SF literature (written) can be short stories or Novels. If a full length published book, it will have an ISBN Number. If published in a magazine it will have a Magazine title Volume and Page. All will have authors.
These can uniquely identify the document so there can be standard forms with known "pull down" publishing sources. If someone submits something that does not fit, then the maintainer needs to look at it. e.g. web published, personally published, fanzine, etc.

Second some category check programs need to be written that try to cluster things so that a maintainer could see obvious problems. This is even more domain specific, but it helps tremendously in just identifying odd entries.

This does not deal with content quality. Here is where some kind of "moderation" or rating system might help.

As usual though, the disadvantage of moving in this direction is that popular areas will be excellent but the rest will slowly "rot" because no one checks them. I don't know of a good solution to that.

Whither goes the isfdb? | 4 comments (3 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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