The Unbearable Awesomeness Of Being

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Z. Tustra. Complaining Of Academical Papers. Blogspot, 2007.

On my road towards getting a masters degree and becoming unusable for anything but academical work, I have to read a -lot- of academical papers. For those of you who never had the pleasure to browse one of these, they're almost like your Wikipedia pages, except they're not about Pokemon characters and have a few differences in appearance:

They're not available in friendly formats. This is because LATEX, the language of choice to make academical papers, doesn't export well to HTML. It mostly exports to, uh, PS. You know, Postscript. Never seen that? Paint Shop Pro can open it after a couple of hours, or Google can translate it to an unreadable HTML page for you. The other format it exports to, which most scholars abhor, is PDF. Web 2.0 terrain here, people.

Also, most of the time they're not available at all. They're often released in academic periodicals, which then keep the articles for themselves and don't give them to you unless your school paid like twenty million dollars to them. This can be bypassed by going to the page of each author and praying that they keep a copy there. Which will be in Postscript.

Third, these papers have citations. Many of them, more so than even Wikipedia articles, even those with Simpsons references. Citations are the precursor and antithesis to the hyperlink, in that they tell you who wrote something, the title, year and place of publication, and don't tell you -where- it is. Refer to the previous point as to how to acquire actual publication. Repeat this five times per article read.

I know, it's not causing global warming or killing children in Africa or anything. I'm just surprised that, in a network created to disseminate scientific information, with millions of people yapping every day on how 'information should be free' (information being mostly the contents of their iPods), I have to understand the sum of all terrestrial scientific knowledge through the digital equivalent of a peephole.


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