4 Apr 2007

Etruscan Texts Project (ETP): Not so kosher

I admit it. I'm really detail-oriented to the point of obsessive-compulsive. However, in many lines of work, that's actually a good trait, particularly database administration. Afterall, the other alternative is to not care at all about anything one does. So I'd rather be a little obsessive if it means being painfully conscientious about accuracy and annoying the hell out of everyone in the process.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I absolutely love the ETP project site and hope that it continues. ETP stands for Etruscan Texts Project (read more in this pdf) and it is a godsend for people who crave access to information about various, hard-to-find Etruscan inscriptions. We the public need such a project, there is no question.

That being said however, it pains me to know that it's not being effectively updated so far. I was one of the few that noticed a duplication error involving the indices ETP 341 and ETP 358. In fact, the fine people at ETP didn't even notice the error, and yet it's been present in their system for at least a year based on their own entries' creation dates!

In fact, this silly error exposes the fatal flaw of their entire index system because obviously one of these inscription entries has to be eliminated now. Yet this will leave a confusing blank in the linear series. One cannot simply replace an empty index with another inscription because this will lead to further confusion about what number to cite for which inscription. The database administrators should have had enough foresight to recognize that a non-linear index system was required for something like this, as is in fact already used elsewhere with artifacts.

So, being a very data-oriented nerd, I became severely chagrined at this online project for being so careless. To non-DBA laymen, it might sound like I'm being bitchy but anybody with just a bit of database administrator experience knows that a duplicate is one of the easiest things to sift out of the system once found. Without getting into specifics, just know that it takes all of five seconds with the proper command to be able to purge it from a database forever, without it ever risking the existing data.

Sufficed to say, not only had they not eradicated the easy-to-solve duplicates before I found the problem and notified them on March 15 (a year after the problem was created in the first place), but it is now April 4 and they still have done nothing to eliminate a problem that takes all of five seconds to correct.


I can forgive those not familiar with database administration to not see the dilemma here but for myself who has that geeky experience, it makes me question the professionality of the ETP project and its ability or willingness to provide the public with accurate data. Why is it so difficult to eliminate these simple errors when they're found? What in fact is the point of such a project or its index numbers if they aren't reliable enough to be cited? This is grounded out of the University of Massachusetts, by the way, and not just created in a basement by some anonymous hackers. So what's the deal, U of Mass?

And their claim? "We are in the middle of converting the database to EpiDoc format so we've let things slide a bit." Still?? Do you people need help? I'm a Canadian that wouldn't mind a vacation to New England if you need to import talent from outside your location.

If you readers are curious about the duplicates error and when it will be resolved, you can track the duplicates for yourself here:

ETP 341
ETP 358

I'll keep you posted when their errors are finally fixed. If anyone else has discovered other errors, I'd appreciate any feedback. For now, I will have a drink of rum to calm my autistic nerves, hehe.


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