This post is a open draft! It might be updated at any time... But was last updated on at .
The online version of the SIL Bibliography contains a subset of over 29,000 citations from the more than 40,000 publications representing 75 years of SIL International's language research in over 2,700 languages.[ref 1]
Finding Resources through SIL.org's (as of 2 August 2012) Bibliography can be a challenge at times - Maybe even a time-wasting endeavor. Time wasting because it might not be very useful to consult the online Bibliography.
The challenging aspect which affects usefulness is primarily three fold:
- Items known by SIL to have been created by SIL staff may or may not be listed. (The on-line Bibliography is a sub-set.)
- Items listed in the Bibilography may or may not have digitally accessible resources.
- Items created by SIL staff may or may not be in the bibliography because they have not been submitted to the Language and Culture Archive (managing division of the SIL Bibliography).
The Use Case
I am doing research again, this time putting together a paper on User Experience, the design of keyboard layouts for languages with romanized (or latin) orthographies and diacritics, and the responsibility or impact that language documenters can or do have with respect to bringing writing in Minority languages into the digital age.
So one of the first places I look for inspiration is my social networkIn some of the discussions I have had with other researchers, they have pointed out that their first behavior is to consult the LLBA through their university library. So, I may be unique in my behaviors. By consulting the SIL Bibliography there is the opportunity to discover many of the . This happens to be filled with many experienced colleagues in the field of orthography development and in scripts development and implementation. Many useful things have been written about some of the fringes of what I am looking to write about, but nothing spot on. One might say that I have a unique twist in what I am trying to present.
The second place I turn to look is Google. Lots can be found out about ergonomics of keyboard and keyboard design, in fact some really good stuff for my research, most of it from computer programmers looking for more efficient input methods for programing, but there is also some stuff about minority language keyboard design[ref 2] . Here is the disappointing part:
In my Google searching I come across a document complied by Klaus Wedekind titlted: The Development of Writing Systems: A Guide[ref 3] . This resource has some really good information in it, so decided I am going to cite it. Now, Klaus has not added his full name as compiler or editor in the resource. It simply says: K. & Ch. Wedekind. So I do a Google search for K. & Ch. Wedekind. I find a rather nice website where I find that Klaus has quite a few linguistics resources. I also find something else which makes me suspect that Klaus might be affiliated with SIL International.
So, I fire up the SIL Bibliography and sure enough Klaus has 55 publications in the SIL Bibliography.For technological reasons, it is also interesting that a Google search for an individual on the World-Wide-Web does not return rank results from the SIL Bibliography very prominently in the search results.Now, being the good comparativist I am, the first thing I want to know is, is everything on Klaus' list on the SIL Bibliography's list? And lo and behold the lists are different! And different in more than one way:
- Klaus' list has more items (including some of the same items).
- Klaus' list has PDFs which are readable, downloadable and usable.
This leads to some very obtuse conclusions about the usefulness of SIL's Bibliography (that is if SIL's Bibliography is indeed designed to be a gateway to accessible information).
If Klaus's list has PDF's which are readable and freely available, which is more useful? Which should be the first destination for a user to click on in a set of returned results? Which of the two pages should Google rank higher?
- The SIL Bibliography?
- Klaus' personal website?
The question is one of User Expectation: Should the website user expect to be able to obtain resources from the website? What constitutes a resource - a PDF, a digital document, a power point presentation, an image or photograph, a sound recording? Obviously, this depends on the purpose of the website, but if we contextualize this to the SIL website context, then we might ask the following questions: Is the purpose of the Bibliography to be a list? or Is the purpose to be a resource provision (a gateway)? or Is the website there only to point to the many endeavors which SIL staff have undertaken — in some sort of "You can't touch this" kind of way? If the Bibliography contains about 29,000 entries of 40,000 known works produced by SIL what are the other 11,000 works and why are they not listed? In a way the bibliography might have started out to be a list at one time to give credibility to the organization, but time have changed. Not only have the contexts changed, but the people and the expectations have changed. The intro to the online bibliography says:
In 1992 this bibliography was published in paper format, and in 1997 a portion of the bibliography was made available on the Internet for the first time. The vast majority of works are published, but there are a growing number of manuscript works listed here, many of which supplement research reported in publications also listed here.[ref 4]
I hope that the bibliography website might be there to provide access to the actual resourcesThere are a few cases where SIL (or any archive) may not be legally able to distribute. For instance, a copy of an item in a professionally published journal where SIL did not procure dual copyright (where the publisher of the journal holds non-exclusive copyright). Or where an SIL person published a chapter in a book and the person did not provide the archive with a pre-print version of the chapter. In these cases, if the archive has a physical copy then the object refereed to in the record, then the record should say it is a physical holding and not a digitally accessible item. If the primary publisher has a DOI or a URL to their version of the digital object then this linking should be provided.. But is this just a pie-in-the-sky expectation, a hope or is this reasonable expectation?
I suggest that finding actual resources attached to citations is not a pie-in-the-sky expectation. In fact a growing number of internet users expect to find meaningful and useful the results to their searchers.[ref 5] A growing number of internet users and information providers also expect their searches to terminate with some sort of action. Trends in research and trends in internet usage haven both shown us is that lists are useful. But today's internet behaviors lend themselves towards the expectation for data to be accessible and actionable. That is, today's internet users expect not to use the intent to find out about a resource but to be able to get the desired knowledge so they can make a decision and the following necessary actions.[ref 6] On the part of the users there is a growing behavioral assumption that if I can not find it then it does not existThe corollary of this is also true: That if something does exist that Google will know about it. .[ref 7] This is compacted by an expectation that if Google can not find it and return it within the first 10 results then it also does not exist (or at least is not findable).[ref 8][ref 9] While both of these behaviors are absurd they are very much a reality of how many people use the internet. Academics are not exempt from this generalization, they are just more cunning at describing it. I was at one conference where I overheard on young linguistics professor say that if he can not find a digital copy of the resource on-line then it is not worth his time to cite the resource - all relevant resources should be recently published anyway right? (BTW: I disagree with him. Not all relevant resources are digital.)
However, is this expectation for resources to be accessible through the SIL Bibliography just an expectation of the website users, because of their interaction with other websites? Or is this expectation re-enforced by the website creators? I suggest that the expectation is reinforced by the website creators. To illustrate this point, I will use 4 entries from the SIL Bibliography.
The first entry is titled: Participant Reference in Inca Expository Discourse. It is shown in a screen shot below. It is an entry for a manuscript which, according the the entry was created in 1975. However, the website says that the resource is available 2011. What is confusing is, if this resource is availableThere is another possibility for the interpretation of available. Because the Bibliography is managed by the Language and culture Archive of SIL, it is possible that rather than available they mean Accessioned, or the date the item was received by the archive. If this is the case then the choice of wording is still poor and communicates the wrong thing to the user., then how do I as a user really access it? There is no link to the resource and there is no form for the user to request the resource. There is also no indication as to whither the resource is a digital resource or a physical resource. If the resource is physical, then is a copy what is available or does a viewer have to come to where the resource is locate at to view the resource? If this resource is only available for on-site viewing, then where is that site? So what is the total communicated message about a resource? Is it available or not? is the entry useful to the user or not?
The inference to the user, is that items are available. It is not just the verbiage which gives the impression that resources available to the user through the bibliography. There are some entries which do have resources available. Consider the next screen shot of the entry for Tsom lawantsa. 1986. cuarta edición. México, D.F.: npl. n.p which has two PDF's available.
SIL starts to set the expectation of the bibliography user by making some resources available through the SIL bibliography. So the dialogue between the site creator and the site visitor and expectations set through this interaction has started. The question is, Where does the breakdown occur? The breakdown occurs because the SIL Bibliography:
- does not know about the resource - the person or entity involved in the creation of the resource has not submitted the item or the record of the item to the archive or proper channels at the entity level for inclusion in the corporate bibliography
- disavows knowledge of the object - they know about it but don't tell the world they know about it, and if you ask the archive about an object potentially being an SIL object procedures will return a "we don't know about that" or a "thank-you, we will look into that" reply.
- chooses to not help the user find the object - does not disavow knowledge of the object, but does not provide a public record for the object. Some of the Son-of-God debate papers might be included in this category.
- does not help the user access the object - the return on investment for providing access to the object is minimal, therefore procedurally, rather than principally, access to the object is blocked. An example of this might be Sign Language material mentioned in the SIL Bibliography or some Papers like that of Steve Parker which do not contain links to the final locations where these items can be accessed.
However, in terms of accessibility and usability, the availability of resources on Klaus' website is not the issue which should make a researcher frustrated and think that the SIL Bibliography is closer to useless than useful. The apparent lack of availability through SIL's Bibliography speaks to more than just usability or accessibility. Before I describe the more that the lack of availability speaks to, I want to establish that Klaus is not an isolated case. In the following section I will show a variety of cases which have the same dynamic or a similar dynamic as that which exists between the SIL Bibliography and Klaus's personal web-site.
This sort of data discrepancy between personal CVs, the SIL International Bibliography, and the inventories of language related archives is not unique to KlausThere is an American saying which goes: Ownership is 9/10ths of the law. Meaning that if SIL does not know that their people are involved in certain activities then they can not claim responsibility for those activities. However, there is a corollary to this. That is, If SIL does not know that its staff are doing certain activities then are those activities which SIL does not know about, part of the duties done under that persons' job description? If they are not, then What claim would SIL have on the intellectual property derived from those activities?. In fact I have encountered it with a variety of other SIL professionals (through the course of my research on various linguistic topics). The following examples show how this phenomenon works with the CV's or online profiles of 12 SIL staff persons and covers approximately 60 situations (potential items or sets of items which could be in the SIL Corporate Bibliography).The issues is not that there are 60 resources which are not in the bibliography, but rather these are 60 resources which are from SIL's finest.
- Example of Wuvulu
Wuvulu data which is housed in the PERADSIC archive is not mentioned in the SIL Bibliography, even though it was contributed by James Hafford who collected this data while working with SIL.
- Example of Seri
Seri Data and text by both Mary B. Moser and Steve Marlett who worked with the Seri while working with SIL.
- Examples from Tom and Doris Payne
Tom and Doris Payne have extensive experience with SIL and with a variety of languages including the two below, yet these data collections are not mentioned in the SIL Bibliography.
- The Yagua[ref 10]
- The Panare[ref 11]
- The Yagua[ref 10]
- Example from David Tuggy
David Tuggy maintains a personal CV at a website on
This CV contains at least four more papers than what is contained in the SIL Bibliography. These include:
- 2011. “On the storage vs. computation of complex linguistic structures.” En Zelinsky-Wibbelt, Cornelia (ed.), Relations between Language and Memory: Organization, Representation, and Processing. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
- 2008. The transitivity-related verbal morphology of Tetelcingo Nahuatl: An exploration in Cognitive grammar. (Versión electrónica, con cambios ligeros, de la tesis doctoral de 1981, disponible en este sitio.)
- 2007. “Schematicity.” Capítulo 4 de The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, ed. Dirk Geeraerts y Hubert Cuyckens, pp. 82-115. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- 2006. “Schematic network: Ambiguity, polysemy, and vagueness.” Capítulo 5 de Cognitive linguistics: Basic Readings, ed. Dirk Geeraerts. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. (Re-edición de Tuggy 1993.)
And variations in citations like can be found in this following citation (certain allowances should be made for differences in style sheets applied to the bibliographic data):
- 2004. “Abrelatas and scarecrow nouns: Exocentric verb-noun compounds as illustrations of basic principles of Cognitive grammar.” International Journal of English Studies III.25-61. Murcia: Universidad de Murcia. En Internet: http://www.um.es/ijes/vol3n2/03-Tuggy.pdf. Versión en español (PDF, 776K), y presentación PowerPoint en español, 3.7M, (2005).
- TUGGY, David H., author. 2003. "'Abrelatas' and 'Scarecrow' nouns : exocentric verb-noun compounds as illustrations of basic principles of cognitive grammar." International Journal of English Studies 3(2): 25-61.
The primary differences are in the availability of the resources (the personal CV has download-able resources) and the uncertainty of the date of due to two different "data authorities".
In addition to these papers there are a variety of presentations and conference papers which are not accessible through the bibliography. [Bibliography] [CV]
- Example from Colleen Ahland
Colleen Ahland shows via her academia.edu page that she has published twice whereas her SIL Bibliography shows only one publication. Neither collection of publications mentions her M.A. thesis (along with data used for the M.A. and Ph.D. data), which generally would also occur in the SIL Bibliography.
- Example from Stephen Levinsohn
Stephen Levinsohn is another case where his CV and the SIL bibliography do not match up. As I count it there are:
- 10 papers not in the bibliography listed here: http://www.sil.org/~levinsohns/papers.htm
- 16 resources including at least 2 textbooks on discourse analysis here: http://www.sil.org/~levinsohns/discourse.htm
- 3 documents on-line hosted at a site http://www.recursosteologicos.org/
- Example from Brian O'Herin:
Brian is an interesting example because he is currently the SIL International Linguistics Coordinator according to his SIL CV, which is part of the SIL roster, and in that CV his list of papers is longer than is contained in his list in the SIL Bibliography. However, it is also interesting because his Academia.edu profile has six papers and and his SIL Bibliography listing only has five listings.
Summarizing these resources it seems like the SIL Bibliography is failing to mention the the following papers, both published and presented. While it is possible that Brian became SIL staff after publishing the last three papers listed below; the paper published in Language certainly falls within the scope of his tenure with SIL and all other things being equal should be listed in the SIL Bibliography.
- ———. 2001. Abaza applicatives. Language 77: 447–493.
- ———. 1994. Metrical stress in Abaza. In The Nart Epic and Caucasiology: Papers of the 6th Colloquium of the Societas Caucasologica Europoea, edited by Asker Gadagatl. Maykop: Adygea.
- ———. 1993. Wh-agreement in Abaza. Syntax at Santa Cruz 2: 25–56.
- ———. 1991. Secondary articulations and feature geometry. Phonology at Santa Cruz 2, 1991.
Papers - presented at conferences, on Brian's CV but not in the SIL Bibliography.
- O'Herin, Brian. 2000. Optimality theory and pragmatics. Paper presented at the Top End Linguistic Circle, June, in Darwin, Australia.
- ———. 1999. Abaza applicatives. Colloquium presented at the University of Oregon, July 28 in Eugene, Oregon.
- ———. 1996. Word Order Variation in Abaza. Paper presented at the Eighth Colloquium of the Societas Caucasologica Europaea, June, in Leiden, Netherlands.
- ———. 1994. Incorporated postpositions in Abaza. Paper presented at the Seventh Colloquium of the Societas Caucasologica Europaea, July, in Marburg, Germany.
- ———. 1992. Long distance dependencies in morphology. Paper presented at the Fifth International Morphology Meeting, July, in Krems, Austria.
- ———. 1992. Lexically specified foot structure in Abaza. Paper presented at the Seventh International Phonology Meeting, July, in Krems, Austria.
- ———. 1992. Metrical stress in Abaza. Paper presented at the Sixth Colloquium of the Societas Caucasologica Europaea, June, in Maykop, Russia.
- ———. 1988. Language use for a minority within a minority. Paper presented at the XII International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, July, in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
- The example of an ELAN Manual.
Albert Bickford wrote a Manual for the computer program ELAN. It is available from the SIL-UND website at
http://arts-sciences.und.edu/summer-institute-of-linguistics/teaching-linguistics/. This same resource is not available through the SIL Bibliography; either under Albert Bickford, teaching resources, or resources for computer programs related to linguistics.
- Some examples from a variety of SIL Staff with Academia.edu accounts.:
Name SIL Bibliography
SIL Online CV Is the raw data accounted for? Bonnie Henson 8 13 No Agatha Van Ginkel 5 13 No Rene van den Berg 6 more papers and presentations than contained in the SIL Bibliography. Linda Jordan 3 4 No
- Example of Mexico Working Papers
Mexico Working papers are not displayed in the Bibliography. This means that not all of SIL's works which it publishes about languages, and also openly distributes (from its website) are in the SIL Bibliography. Unfortunately, this includes my own work. (I am co-author with Steve Marlett, Kevin Cline, and Mark L. Weathers on one paper in the Mexico Working Papers series.) While I could go and grab this PDF from the website, and submit it in the archive there are a number of challenges with doing this:
- Organizational Affiliation
- Primary Authorship Responsibility
- Organizational Unit Responsibility
- Technological challenges
- Human workflow challenges
Let me expound on these issues a bit more:
- The first challenge is one of organizational affiliation. I work for SIL AmericasArea an organizational unit of SIL Internaitonal, not SIL Mexico Branch, which is a separate chartered entity. Because SIL Mexico Branch is the publisher, and the language covered in the paper is serviced by SIL Mexico Branch it means that the paper would be submitted to a collection in the archive which is administered by SIL Mexico Branch. However, because I am not working for SIL Mexico Branch I am not able to submit to that collection because it is only open to submissions from SIL Mexico Branch MembersThere is a technical difference between staff and member in SIL lingo, this distinction does have ramification on the person-archive relationship but further clarification is beyond the scope of this discussion.
- The second issue is one of the responsibility of the primary author. It should be the responsibility of the primary author of a work to also submit it to any archive deemed appropriate, though any rights-holding author could negotiate the rights issues needed for the archive to store and disseminate the work. (This would be true in regards to submissions to any archive not just SIL's Archive.)
- The third challenge is one of organizational unit responsibility. This responsibility follows a line of reasoning where the question is asked: For whom does the SIL Staff work for? That is, because the authors/creators of the work are staff of a division of SIL which is responsible for the stewardship of the intellectual property then than division of SIL should have some responsibility for archiving materials developed by its staff.This situation is complicated by some internal structures in SIL, where the Language and Culture Archive is the official archive of SIL International but other chartered organizations bearing the name SIL maintain independent archives. i.e. SIL Papua-New Guinea and SIL AmericasArea maintain separate archives from the SIL Language and Culture Archive, yet these archives maintain collections in REAP which is housed and maintained by the Language and Culture Archive. Functional alignment[ref 12] would alleviate some of this complexity and resolve some of these other issues mentioned in Navigating Organizational Structure in SIL for the purpose of Archiving[ref 13]
- The fourth challenge in archiving Electronic Working Papers as they are in the SIL Mexico Working Papers Series is one of a technical nature. The papers in this series are able to be updated on a regular, or sporadic basis by the author. This means that if a copy is archived, it is only a version of the paper which is archived. Ideally any time an update occurs to the working paper, that newest version would also be archived (automatically). This is the challenge of versioning meeting archiving (or BitBucket (SVN)BitBucket is a code sharing service similar to GitHub. meeting DSpace).
- The fifth challenge has to do with the human workflow of submission to the archive. It is this challenge that Jeremy Nordmoe and SIL international are addressing in development and implementation of RAMP.[ref 14] This question though centers around How does the individual SIL staffer submit content to the archive? This is probably the least complicated of the challenges because of RAMP. However, not to be underestimated in regards to challenges, is the training involved to educate submitters in the use of tools like RAMP. RAMP, as a software tool can only facilitate defined business processes. Since all of the above (save #4) deal with business processes, this also affects the human interaction with tools like RAMP.
- The Example of my own works:
As I mention above some of my work is not currently represented in the SIL Bibliography or in the SIL Language and Culture Archive or in the AmericasArea Archive. More dramatically, most of my work is not represented in any of these archives (one of my papers is in the SIL Bibliography, though I can not tell if it is just a reference or if, with the reference the archive also has a copy of the PDF or a pre-print version of the resource). My Personal CV lists the following :
But in each case none of the institutions under whom I was working as staff have asked or informed me how to submit this content. These organizations would include SIL-UND, SIL Malaysia, and SIL AmericasArea. This is dynamic is a little bit different in SIL than in academia because SIL staff are considered "workers for hire" and therefore subject to corporate policies which require submission of this content to the appropriate SIL Archive. Though many academic institutions are deploying university wide repositories which are serving the same basic function.
How is it supposed to Work?
Section in draft.
The SIL Archive has developed an application called RAMP for staff to use to make submissions to the Language and Culture Archive.[ref 14]
In the larger picture of the research world which include topics like: community interactivity, social impact and social influence through resource discovery availability, usability and credibility, there are some interesting implications of the sorts of anomalies as are presented here through the efforts of Wedekind, Marlett, Tuggy, Jordan, the Paynes, Aahland, O'Herin, Leivinson, and Hafford. These implications can be understood to reflect on the individual, SIL International as an entire organization, and/or on independent organizations within the network or SIL organizations. Organizations such as SIL-PNG, SIL-Peru, SIL Mexico, SIL Malaysia, etc.
What is to be applauded?
Each of these researchers must have a belief in sharing their knowledge and being relevant to the communities they are involved in or they would not have take the steps to make their knowledge available via the internet.
However, one must ask the questions: Is sharing something on the internet in this manner appropriately useful? - Especially to the target audience.
Researchers sharing resources should be concerned with issues like What is the permanence of this resource on the internet? and What is the accessibility of this resource to the general public? Many in academia are familiar with the transient nature of young doctorate students and post-doc fellows. In the field of linguistics recent Ph.D. graduates often do a post-doc and then fill a temporary (or lecture level) position before they find a tenure track position. It is often the case that at each institution they are given a web space where they can post an on-line CV. This is also often a time in their career when they publish often. It has been my experience to notice that various institutions have different policies on how long they will retain these web CVs after the young Ph.D. moves to a new institution. Many times it is the case that the young Ph.D. will only update the CV at the most current institution. This transient behavior leads to resources being mobile and not being available at stable URIs as the professional progresses through their career. While Google can solve the find-ability issues of transient resources, find-ability does not help in the citing of resources - a crucial dimension for academics.This social problem becomes even more acute when one takes in the perspective of how information is being transmitted in today's society. Traditional media sources like journals are still used because academic institutions have requirements on academic staff for publication, but journals are not the primary means of knowledge transmission in a digital age.[ref 15] In the case of young academics, why not just self publish, release a PDF and mark it "draft" or put that video on You-Tube?
One strategy that some academics have use is to deploy personal websites. While this does provide some stability when considering the issue of multiple institutions, it does not consider the long term permanence of that resource. If a resources is on a personal Résumé or CV like website then What will happen to that resource, or to the accessibility of that resource when that person dies or changes the base URL of there personal website? The download location of a resource is also very important people accessing a resource are accessing it from a variety of devices and through a variety of search engines. The visual context surrounding a given resource and the associations to other related resources as they are visually presented to the user accessing the resource add or detract from the esteemed value of that resource. Building credibility with a user of the resource is done visually and it is done with context to other resources of interest to that user. This is all in the mind of the resource user before they even access the ideas contained in the actual resource.
What does it mean to stand on the shoulders of giants?
SIL International maintains that training (expatriates, nationals, and native speakers) to accomplish various tasks in the language development movement is important to reaching the goals of minority language speakers for the use of their language. This means that at all levels of the language development process there are people who need to learn from those who have had like experiences. This is one of my favorite reasons for reading bibliographies. I want to find out who knows something about what I am interested in, then I want to know what their ideas were, and also what experiences lead them to these ideas. To stand on the shoulders of giants is a western metaphor meaning:
One who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding and building on the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past - Wikipedia Contributors[ref 16]
SIL International has had its share of world class thinkers and world changers. Many notable people in the field of linguistics have in some way been part of SIL International's ranks. Even today many experienced people with experience on particular minority languages, on various educational methodologies employed in language development or in many kinds of electronic and computer related fields can currently be found in the ranks of SIL International. For people who are new to the tasks needing to be accomplished in the journey of language development, it seems completely stupid to not take advantage of this heritage and ask for help from these experienced persons. The experienced persons should expect to be asked and the new comers should expect to ask. An archive helps facilitate this because sometimes the experienced are half-a-world-away and are never physically met face to face, or they lived half a century before the new comer started working with minority languages. This also means that the experienced need to value and use the archive. It also means that the new comer needs to start with the archive, and expect to use it often. Without this ability to look into the past and learn from previous experience it costs the language communities, researchers, and SIL staff man-hours and resources, affecting SIL International's sustainability.
What is the impact on sustainability for SIL International?
Sustainability is crucial for non-profits, for-profit businesses, NGO's and governments. With specific respect to SIL and minority language related activities, there are three kinds of sustainability concerning SIL International's global efforts:
- Language Use sustainability. This is the iterative use of minority languages by their speech communities.
- Language Program sustainability. This is the continuation of programs and projects in local, contextualized efforts with members of the speech community so that together goals can be reached.
- SIL International sustainability This is the sustainability efforts which need to occur so that as a corporation SIL International is continually available to engage in projects and programs as a partner to members in minority language communities. This differs from the others, in that this measure, in a for-profit company would parallel "profitability". As a non-profit SIL does not have to concern itself with profitability margins in the same way as a for-profit corporation, but SIL does need to concern itself with human resources for staffing and relationships, talent management for having the right staff doing the right things, and with knowledge management for being able to provide knowledge to the projects it supports. Without these three having adequate functional infrastructure, all projects might be forced to think about life without SIL International.One way to conceive of SIL International is as a reputable platform which people who are concerned with the language development situation of minority languages my use to engage these communities. What I am referring to here is the sustainability of this platform.
Having an archive which is functional, useful, pleasurable to use and efficiently situated at the center of SIL International's operations, with a growing community of users provides a space in which SIL's sustainability goals can be met. Most importantly from an organizational sustainability point of view it provides a location where real people can connect over data, social challenges, solutions, skills, and common interests. However, the archive when it is maximally useful will also affect the sustainability of language use in the communities which SIL is engaged with to facilitate the long term success of projects and programs. The archive can do this not just by providing access to resources which contain knowledge but also enables connections to people who embody the skills needed to act on that knowledge.
What is the impact of not archiving on sustainability for language use which SIL International hopes to foster?
The interactive web is still young. Youtube stared in 2005 and Facebook started in 2004. It still remains to be seen if having media available in a digital archive actually affects language use. - By which I mean, there has been a lot of money spent in the last few years to document and archive language samples of lesser spoken and endangered languages. However, having materials in an archive, a DSpace repository, or under lock and key (and appropriately so) for select community members still remains to be proven that it actually helps the language survive the pressures of language change in the 21st century. So, by not archiving and focusing the efforts of those doing language development on face to face relationships - is face to face relationships more productive to the language use goals than taking the time to archive? What we do know is that for those groups who are heritage speakers or who are doing language revitalization work, archived content is immensely valuable.[ref 17] So, there is value in using archived materials, beyond just the ability to say We have X hours of conversation in Y extinct languages. - At least this was the case in 2000 - a few years before the Social Media Revolution.
But I think that as researchers we often have a cross-cultural perspective when we start to study a language or a culture. This means that we have something we can offer (though it might not always be appreciated a the time). Not all languages and all cultures are meant to survive. That is, if the speakers what them dead then we, as researchers, are fighting against the speakers to actually document and archive the languages. Not all cultures want to preserve things. Preservation is something that is a cultural value in some cultures but not all cultures. So, preservation by archival is something that a researcher can give to a community - in that the moral drive for preservation and valuing the culture and people in that culture acutely comes from outside of the culture. This approaches the question:
What is the moral obligation of researchers to be able to give back to the community in a way in which the community may not destroy what is being given back to them?
So, I think that archiving is really important. It is important in ways that the community and even the researchers doing the research may not fully envision or understand at the time. It is also important not just for researchers and communities it is also important for organizations conducting research be they Universities, NGOs or Grant Funders to require archiving of research data - but this is a moral value which comes from outside of many cultures - sometimes it is also generational and outside of the research culture. So, the real loss to the language community for SIL not archiving is that the community cannot rely on the organization to give back to the community when it is looking for its own linguistic and language heritage. But if SIL does have an archive, and that archive does not contain materials SIL staff have created, then how is it supposed to be useful in the process of encouraging higher levels of language use?
Should the Language communities think about SIL in the course of their selection of a service provider to help them with their language development needs?
As more solution providers enter in the language development market place, language communities can choose which organizations they want to help their community meet their language development goals. This is a new dynamic in the last 30 years and has come about with the added attention being given to the endangered language movement and global technology advances like web 2.0. There are two primary ways that people in language communities will make their decisions:
- Based on existing personal relationships with professionals, based on the recommendations of trusted friends or the experiences and recommendations of other minority language communities.
- They will do their own research and look at the available options and make a selection based on their own research.
Much of the research of these communities will be based on what they can find out through the web. I have written on this before in The Look of Language Development Websites.[ref 18] The ease of use, access to continued resources including archived content and type of services the partnering organization offers will affect choice.
Section in draft.
Section in draft.
Why go back to that organization to visit their non-archive
What does it say about SIL Staff's buy-in around the organization's ability to present their work?
The evidence of resources on the web but not in archives presented here fits into roughly four categories:
- Professional archives and libraries
- professional profiles maintained by SIL
- personal websites
- activity on social networks sites.
The discrepancies between the Professional profiles maintained by SIL and the corporate Bibliography represent a failure on the part of the corporation to bring centergy to its information processing and presentation systems.
However, the extensive use of the last two categories, Personal websites, and activity on Social networks sites shows two things:
- The professional commitment of individual staff members to remain relevant to their peers and the people they serve
- That there is an incorrigible amount of disbelief and distrust in "the system" as it has been created by SIL for reaching these same audiences
Section in draft.
And if we ask the Is it useful or not? question and seek to answer the why we might find several reasons,
that this is the right job for me but the wrong organization. Someone once told me, SIL is many different things to many different people, so maybe this means that "SIL" doesn't mean sharing these resources through a unified mechanism.
What about Glottolog?
Section in draft.
The Glottolog is a website containing two parts: The Glottolog and Langdoc. It can be explained as such:
The Glottolog provides comprehensive bibliographical and other reference information for the world's languages, especially the lesser known languages.
Information about the different languages, dialects, and families of the world ('languoids') is available in the Glottolog section. The Langdoc section contains bibliographical information.[ref 19]
The question presented by SIL academics and SIL authors often can be generalized as: Why should we not put our stuff somewhere else? This sometimes takes the form of Such and such library or Such and such archive - especially if the library or archive is in the country which is indigenous to the language being described. Sometimes it is also stated as Why should we not participate in other projects like Glottolog? Strictly speaking the Glottolog is only an aggregator like OLAC. However, perceptions about the Glottolog sometimes pattern impressions of archives and libraries because it is seen as collaborating with other efforts in the linguistic research enterprise.
What if SIL is really being successful in doing what it is doing and the current state of affairs is helping that level of success?
While one can present a myriad of reasons why SIL International's current web-design behaviors are not helpful to their cause, or the people they claim to be serving, one must also consider that perhaps their design behaviors are truly helpful for achieving their goals. Perhaps the current design behaviors are accomplishing the things that the organization wants to accomplish. Perhaps it is not the goal of the organization to make their materials easy to access, or their systems easy to use. If this is the case, then one should ask more intently: What is the business goal(s) of SIL International?
The Place of Personal Websites
Even though, I am advocating through this post that SIL staff should be minimally making the SIL Bibliography aware of their work, there is still a place for personal websites which display professional work projects, papers, and presentations. Various companies around the world have different policies pertaining to employee's having or maintaining their own websites for professional purposes
Section in draft.
Discuss the place of the social Contract... corporate access only or individual's recursive access.... Some policies are restrictive and some are not. To the determined volunteerSIL International claims that most of the man hours most of the staff contribute to SIL International are contributed by volunteers.
In 2008 SIL claimed 4,922 volunteers who donated their time and services valued at approximately $82.5 Million US Dollars (in 2008 dollars). The following statement occurs in the section pertaining to Schedule D and can be found in the Supplemental information section on Page 5 of the Schedule D section[ref 20] :
Schedule D, Part XI, Line 5 - Some staff whose time is reflected in the Donated Labor amounts notes in Part XII and XIII spend their time developing in house software to facilitate SIL's linguistics and translation work. This time is capitalized for financial statement purposes, then depreciated appropriately. On the Balance Sheet presented in Part X, the fixed assets are presented in the same manner as on the financial statements, including capitalized donated labor. However, since donated labor is not to be included as revenue or expense on the Form 990,the current year impact of capitalized donated labor, net of current year depreciation is removed from reported revenues and expense and is a reconciling item between the financial statements and Form 990 each year.
This position on volunteers and employees is also stated in Schedule F in the section for supplemental information:
Schedule F, Part I, Line 3 - The number of employees noted includes both employed staff and staff whose time is donated to SIL International. The value of donated labor is reflected in Sch D Part XI and XII.
It should be noted that some have said that because they are a volunteer at a non-profit company (U.S. 501(c)3 organization) and receive no wage from said company, that their work and produced intellectual property do not belong to the "employing" organization. This claim may have some merit in U.S. intellectual property law. On the other hand it may not have merit. I do not know at this time. However, I do know that for tax purposes, volunteers are considered employees if the Right to Control can be demonstrated. This definition stems from a common law definition of employee, and therefore may also apply in intellectual property situations.
A volunteer is an employee under common law if an entity has the right to direct and control the volunteer's performance, not only as to the results to be accomplished, but also as to the methods by which the results are accomplished. It is the right to control, even if the entity does not exercise the right, that is important.[ref 21]
There are other resources which discuss this matter. These include: Definitions: Employee, Volunteer, Intern, or Independent Contractor in context of Employment vs. Unauthorized Employment[ref 22], which presents a summary of understanding in 2008 and IRS Publication 15-A (2012 version)[ref 23] . This becomes pertinent in a language documentation setting when primary data and analysis is the intellectual property being produced and disputed. this is the difference of being in policy or out of policy, no big deal for employment purposes in an organization which is staffed by people who see themselves as volunteers and therefore do not need to comply with policy with which they disagree. However, from a Social and a User Satisfaction perspective, if an individual has a well suiting (functional and professional) corporate presence, why would they want to maintain their own professional web presence? So, I think it is logical that most people will be willing to use only that which is provided, if "that which is provided" actually provides enough flexibility to meet the kinds of use cases encountered by the social group the technology is attempting to serve. Design software people love and want to use - they will use it.[ref 24]
That said, I have already discussed several user features which would pragmatically encourage users of corporate web-based services to think through their own online presence strategy and to use technology provided by the archiving institution. In particular if the archiving institution provided an API or a JSON feed which can be aggregated or displayed on an individual's personal website.[ref 25]
Even if the systems at SIL are not as efficient as they could be there is still some magnificent effort being done by some extraordinary individuals. These efforts need to be acknowledged.
- Klaus (and others) for making these resources available. Some of us are grateful to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants like you.
- local administrators for enabling Klaus to get this experience so that he can share it.
- Jeremy Nordmoe for leading SIL International in ways to enable it to share its experiences more openly. Including helping SIL move from an online bibliography to an online presentation of the content of the Language & Culture Archive.
- Google for crawling the contents of PDFs since 2001[ref 26] .
- SIL Bibliography Online. April 2012 version. SIL International on Ethnologe.com. http://www.ethnologue.com/bibliography.asp [Accessed: 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Bailey, Dwayne. 2007. Creating a single South African keyboard layout to promote language. Lexikos 17.1: 212-25. [Link] ↩
- Wedekind, Klaus & Charlotte Wedekind (eds.). 1997. The Development of Writing Systems: A Guide. Curriculum Department - The Ministry of Education - Asmara. [Accessed: 15 May 2012] [PDF]. ↩
- SIL Bibliography Online. Introduction to the April 2012 version. SIL International on Ethnologe.com. http://www.ethnologue.com/biblio_docs/biblio_intro.asp [Accessed: 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Dana Gardner. 12 October 2011, 08:15 GMT. As cloud and mobile trends drive user expectations higher, networks must now deliver applications faster, safer, cheaper. BriefingsDirect. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gardner/as-cloud-and-mobile-trends-drive-user-expectations-higher-networks-must-now-deliver-applications-faster-safer-cheaper/4385. [Podcast with transcript] [Accessed: 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- OCLC Staff. 2004. Information Format Trends: Content, Not Containers. http://www.oclc.org/reports/2004format.htm [Accessed 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Steve Jones. 15 September 2002. The Internet goes to College. Pew Internet and American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2002/PIP_College_Report.pdf.pdf [Accessed 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Ed Pentz. 2003. CrossRef and DOIs: New Developments. LIBER Quarterly, 14:1, 10-14. http://liber.library.uu.nl/index.php/lq/article/view/7753 [Accessed: 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Denise Elmer. 2007. Something Different from the Same-oh, Same-oh: A Survey of Community College Students' Competence in and Use of Technology in Public Speaking Classes. Journal of Literacy and Technology. Vol. 8:1, 21-39. http://www.literacyandtechnology.org/volume8/no1/JLTv8different.pdf [Accessed: 21 August 2012] [Link] ↩
- Thomas E. Payne and Doris L. Payne. 1983. Yagua language sound recordings. http://hdl.handle.net/1794/4125 [Link] ↩
- Thomas E. Payne and Doris L. Payne. 1989. Panare language sound recordings. http://hdl.handle.net/1794/4126 [Link] [Accessed: 15 February 2012] ↩
- Exploring the Benefits of Functional Alignment. 2009. Corporate United. Presentation: http://www.corporateunited.com/media/docs/Alignment_tips/FunctionalAlignmentOverview.pdf [PDF] [Accessed: 16 June 2012] ↩
- Hugh Paterson III. 15 February 2012. Navigating Organizational Structure in SIL for the purpose of Archiving. Blog post: https://hugh.thejourneyler.org/2012/politics-of-archiving-at-sil/ [Accessed: 16 June 2012] [Link] ↩
- Jeremy Nordmoe. 2011. Introducing RAMP: an application for packaging metadata and resources offline for submission to an institutional repository. In Proceedings of Workshop on Language Documentation & Archiving 18 November 2011 at SOAS, London. Edited by: David Nathan. p. 27-32. [Preprint PDF] ↩ ↩
- James Lappin. 3 June 2009. The impact of the web 2.0 world on the Records Management Society. Thinking Records: James Lappin’s records management blog. http://thinkingrecords.co.uk/2009/06/03/the-impact-of-the-web-2-0-world-on-the-records-management-society [Link] [Accessed: 5 September 2012] ↩
- Wikipedia contributors. 29 July 2012 10:16 UTC. Standing on the shoulders of giants. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants&oldid=504735568 [Accessed: 5 August 2012 22:22 UTC] [Link] ↩
- Richard Kipp. 2007. Swimming in Words. Cultural Survival Quarterly. Summer 2007. pages 36-43. ↩
- Hugh Paterson III. 24 May 2012. The Look of Language Development Websites. Personal Blog: https://hugh.thejourneyler.org/2012/the-look-of-language-development-websites/ [Link] [Accessed: 10 August 2012] ↩
- Sebastian Nordhoff, Harald Hammarström, Martin Haspelmath (participants). 2012. Welcome page to the Glottolog. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. [Link] [Accessed: 6 September 2012] ↩
- Published IRS form 990 from tax year 2008. Submitted to the IRS by SIL International. Section: Part XIV - Supplemental Information (Continued), Page 5. http://www.sil.org/sil/development/fm990_2008.pdf [PDF] [Accessed: 17 June 2012] ↩
- Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service. January 2012. Taxable Fringe Benefit Guide Federal, State, and Local Governments The Internal Revenue Service. Section 21, page 84. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/fringe_benefit_fslg.pdf. [PDF] [Accessed: 18 June 2012] ↩
- Helene Robertson. 12 January 2008. Definitions: Employee, Volunteer, Intern, or Independent Contractor in context of Employment vs. Unauthorized Employment. International Student and Scholar Services, The Catholic University of America. http://international.cua.edu/res/docs/immigrationbasics/employee-vs-volunteer.pdf [PDF] [Accessed: 18 June 2012] ↩
- Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service. 31 January 2012. Publication 15-A. Cat. No. 21453T. Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15a.pdf [PDF] [Accessed: 18 June 2012] ↩
- Patti Vannoy. 11 May 2012. Kevin Hale: ‘Build software people want to have a relationship with’. Silicon Prairie News. http://www.siliconprairienews.com/2012/05/kevin-hale-build-software-people-want-to-have-a-relationship-with [Link] [Accessed: 14 May 2012] ↩
- Hugh Paterson III. 9 March 2012. Presenting Professionals 2. https://hugh.thejourneyler.org/2012/presenting-professionals-2/ [Link] [Accessed: 17 May 2012] ↩
- Hugh Paterson III. 2008. Lasting Linguistics: Leaving a meaningful mark. Presentation at SIL-UND. [Link] ↩