Hard Cheese

Tim Parks is a man who is pissed off because he had to do the footnotes for his own book. Big whoop. “It’s all available on the Internet, so why give page numbers?” Answer: Do you know how many dead sites there are on the Internet? Do you know how many “big” sites we all relied on are either gone or will be gone? Do you know how terrible the Internet Archive’s coverage really is once you start trying to use it for something useful? Do you know how often the “redundant,” “distributed” cloud services like Amazon AWS fail? Do you remember when Google just dropped¬†its news reader¬†service, used by countless millions? You probably don’t, Mr. Parks. Books are the original distributed database, seeded throughout the world in “austere libraries.” Wipe out one library, burn one book, the rest are still there. So put in those page numbers, and STFU.

2 thoughts on “Hard Cheese

  1. Tony Grafton’s _The Footnote_ gives all the reasons anyone could want for keeping the footnote as a form of thought. I think people who eschew footnotes in purportedly-factual writing are full of themselves and want everything they say to be taken on faith. Including the references, down to the page number, is a way of telling the reader, “You might come to a different conclusion. Here’s what I’m basing this bit on. Go have a look yourself and see if I got it right.” It’s a healthy practice and keeps the lines of rethinking open.

  2. I loved Grafton’s book (it was rather short, though, disappointing me). Just to harp on a theme, no one wants to realize that the Internet is held together with fishing line and duct tape. It’s only constant effort by people patching it up endlessly that makes it seem as though it works. I should add that now this rather small group is working against a significant number of people who want to make it not work, like the employees of Comcast and the NSA. (I don’t think that in the ’90s, anyone would have conceived of the idea of introducing deliberate errors into an Internet Standard in order to make life easier for one country’s spies.) So, for God’s sake, do not predicate the keeping of the permanent record of knowledge on the Internet, or you’re begging for a second fire at the Library of Alexandria. (Their problem: no branch libraries.)

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