Dear all,

let me apologise first that I did not react earlier to John Unsworth's proposal for the working of a TEI consortium and Lou's reply. Time was in short supply here recently.

 

I had actually prepared about half a draft for a formal bid at an earlier stage, but it may be useful, if I add my comments at a less formal level. In many aspects I simply agree with John's proposal, but when I have talked to some people about possibilities at an earlier stage in summer, I had a few assumptions which were different. So, even when repeating things, which John has already said, let me try to give a complete, though slightly deviant picture.

 

  1. What do we want to achieve?

In my understanding there have been two tasks to accomplish:

  1. Find cash to continue TEI activities, specifically allow the editors to work on it.
  2. Work on a support structure for it, which makes it known in areas and groups which have not known it so far and provides for an infra structure to make its usage easier.

 

2. How translates that into functions of individual institutions?

From this I derived three different roles:

  1. Consortium members, who basically pay for the work of the TEI in the sense of supporting the ongoing maintenance and development by the editors.
  2. A body whose role was not completely clear to me, who would act as a steering committee, however. My original understanding was that this body would act formally as administrator of the funds provided by the consortium members. It furthermore would act as a body, which provides some authority to issue what Lou called "TEI approved" rubber stamps, which for the actual working of a standard I may consider more important than Lou.
  3. Hosts, presumably less than consortium members, who by definition are consortium members (i.e. they pay), who additionally, however, are responsible for activities to make the TEI known in areas, where it is currently not, work towards an infrastructure etc. As such, it contributes further resources (personnel, printing costs, costs for creating and distributing CDs), which, however, are not administered by the steering body, but go directly into activities about which the host reports, but for which it is ultimately directly responsible.

 

Well, simple comparison of paragraph length shows, that I have thought most of the role of the hosts.

 

This has been the scenario in which I have been thinking when talking to various people earlier in summer and on which I have based some preparatory activities in the meantime. A few, unsystematic comments about what we are in the general level willing to contribute, how these ideas relate to John's and Lou's mails before I go on into more detail about what we had originally intended as being the substance of our "bid".

 

I told the relevant sub-committee of our board, that I intended to pledge 5,000 US $ to a TEI consortium, to make it clear that Bergen has a commitment to editorial philology and developments in markup activities. To this they agreed. Somehow before summer 5.000 rather than 10.000 floated around, but while that DOES make a difference, I am probably able to double the figure, though than the question of what we get in return becomes possibly much more important. But more on that below. While the actual amount, however, is not so significant, it IS significant, whether at this level we speak of cash, as transferred to another account by a bank, or any other kind of investment. That is: UiB (=Universitetet i Bergen; no typo in Universitetet, but a suffixed determinative) can be convinced that it is for political reasons important to support an international consortium by providing cash to a body which is governed by an external steering group. But this will work only, if everybody contributes the same amount of cash as well. (The significant thing about cash is, that you are giving away control over some of your resources to somebody else. Providing any other kind of resource means that at the end of the day you still control how exactly they are spent.)

 

The exact role of the steering body is something, which has created some confusion for me during the last few weeks or months. My original impression, as mentioned above, has been that that steering body should basically collect the money from the consortium members, make contracts with the institutions who spend it (basically on buying time for the editors, though there is one further item below on that). Otherwise I assumed it would act as general academic authorisation unit, with, presumably, a mix of easily identifiable "names" plus representatives of some of the consortium members. (Possibly elected by the consortium members - but that was at a stage, when some people expressed confidence that at the 5,000 $ level for a contribution it would be possible to collect 10 - 20 consortium members in the US. And there are obvious reasons, why I think a governing body of more than ten individuals at the very utmost would be totally useless. And as far as UiB is concerned, we prefer not to be represented in a board which works, rather than be represented in a useless one.) This, than, as far as I have been concerned, was the role of steering board / council / steering committee or whatsoever else you call it.

 

I understood, that under such a model the basic task of developing the standard further and maintaining it would be directed by the editors.

 

At the moment I am somewhat confused, why the associations (with or without ACL) are taking up so much of the discussion. And I do not understand what exactly is connected with "owning" the TEI. I assumed that, as the editors appeared on the title page, they owned the intellectual rights as editors of other printed publications do. One might consider, whether the origin of specific chapters or sections could not be attributed more clearly in the future, I understood the standard to be just a publication like others, however. So I admit, I do not understand what the "intellectual right of the sponsors" is. Who pays the piper may select the tune; but when the piper plays it brilliantly than, the sponsor may bask in the glory of paying the right piper, I still do not see how he turns into a musician.

 

There is one problem, of course: If there would exist any concept that in any imaginable future the TEI might decide to raise fees for using the standard, or implementing part of it as in the case of the LZW algorithm, "control" would take on a different meaning. But, besides that I do not see how that could be implemented, I assume we all agree that this is a definite no no. More bluntly: I assume we are talking about sponsoring an academic, non-profit activity. If there are any even remote ideas about generating income, we would rather buy shares instead of paying a (by definition lost) membership fee.

 

Short note: Except the question of the "intellectual rights", I do NOT see very much difference between what John writes and what I have just written. John writes much more explicitly about the functions of the "executive council", but I think that much of these details can be left for a later stage. Yes, the "executive council / steering committee " has to "direct the work of the TEI"; but eventually it will do so, by asking (a) for proposals from the editors and (b) setting up suitable committees to work on individual problems.

 

OK, so far on my various understandings and misunderstandings.

Again: The bodies relevant for me have already agreed, that we are willing to support a non profit academic consortium, paying for medium term activities in cash, getting some chance at representation in whatsoever is the innermost governing board, e.g., by being elected there at some stage, but without requiring a constitutional right to be represented in such a board all of the time.

 

When I have been drawn into this discussion, the major question which presented itself to me was, whether we would be willing to act as a host, rather than a standard consortium member. In our definition of such a host, this means that we are in the meantime willing to offer and discuss the following.

 

To do so, we are willing to provide at least one person year / calendar year. Having said, what I did say above about the differences between cash and other resources, I am a bit reluctant to quantify that further. Pending some strategy decisions, this institution will probably invest non trivial resources in strengthening the infrastructure of Humanities IT in general within Europe. And I do not feel able to differentiate exactly between what of that effort goes into TEI propagation and what goes elsewhere. Though I assume that the final bid at the end of October can be more specific about this more general framework into which the described TEI activities will fit.

 

What we need for this is basically a suitable guarantee, that we are informed about all potentially conflicting activities and supported in resolving such conflicts. E.g.: Help in identifying projects with sample texts for a CD as described above; support in avoiding that the same thing is done somewhere else at the same time. Bluntly: Some guaranteed exclusiveness plus a few rubberstamps in Lou's sense.

 

 

Comments? Outrage? Partial agreement?

 

Manfred