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Author demographics

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August 2013 was Female Author Month on Wikisource, with two works by women transcribed from scratch via the community Proofread of the Month and a third work partly validated.[1] This is a result of a request for more works by female authors made on Scriptorium.

However, we don’t actually know if we have a significant dearth of female-authored works. We don’t have any demographic information about our authors beyond era, nationality (usually) and religion (sometimes).

Wikidata may help with that, whenever it is rolled out to the Wikisources. Amending each and every author page on English Wikisource would be hard work at the moment because the process would have to be mostly manual. However, with Wikidata, we wouldn’t even need a bot. The author header template (and maybe a Lua module) could just read the Wikidata “sex” property (P21) and apply a hidden tracking category.

This could be extended to other metadata. We could have tracking categories for the entire QUILTBAG[2] range with the addition of the “sexual orientation” property (P91) and whatever is used to cover transsexuality. Ethnicity might be possible with the “ethnic group” property (P172). There may be even more demographics worth tracking too, and these could be easily added over time.

This might bring to mind the recent controversy over Wikipedia consigning female authors to be categorised into a female author ghetto, while leaving male authors categorised as just authors. However, Wikisource wouldn’t be discriminating as this approach would be fully automated and applied equally to all authors in the Authorspace. Hidden categories would avoid labelling authors too much; not to mention avoiding redundant information many readers could deduce from the name and/or portrait.

Then we would actually know where we stand.

Notes

  1. These were: Marriage as a Trade by Cicely HamiltonDiaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan edited by Annie Shepley Omori; and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
  2. QUILTBAG: Queer Intersexual Lesbian Transsexual Bisexual Asexual Gay
    EDIT: Actually, I got this wrong.  The acronym stands for Queer/Questioning Undecided Intersex Lesbian Trans(-gender/-exual) Bisexual Asexual Gay.  See Wiktionary for a full definition and history.  Personally I would have merged the first two into Quantumsexual, but that’s just me.

Pulps, letters and science fiction fans

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In the process of my ongoing work to put Weird Tales and other pulps on Wikisource, I have found letters pages one of the more awkward things to transcribe. One of my recent tweaks is adding author pages for every published letter writer.

In the past have found published authors and notable people among these epistoleans, many of whom I did not know prior to this. Some were found by idly googling their name; some listed on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB); some only turned up when I wikilinked their name and it wasn’t red.

In any case, they are all technically published authors and Wikisource has no notability restrictions. Besides which, I’m not able to pick out just the “important” ones.

Therefore, author pages for all of them.

On the downside: A lot of these author would be treated as trivial and certainly wouldn’t make it on Wikipedia. Fortunately, as mentioned, Wikisource’s criterion is generally being published over notability. It is also going to be difficult if not impossible to get a much metadata beyond anything noted in the letter.

On the upside: There is a certain democracy to everyone getting an author page for writing a letter to a pulp magazine in the 1930s. This also serves to create a record of fans and readers of these magazines, with at least a little metadata, not to mention a historic record of people who may not otherwise have one. More practically, it enables tracking of people with multiple published letters, especially if over different magazines.