Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Aerospace anniversaries update 1

So, work on editing last year's series of aerospace anniversaries posts continues, and I've just passed my first milestone: January is complete!

It turns out that editing these early entries takes about as long as writing them from scratch (remember that entries prior to mid-April are really just Twitter-length photo captions). So there's a lot of revisiting sources.

I'm also investing time to build a comprehensive index of the people, vehicles, places, and organisations mentioned in the posts. Fortunately, I'm authoring in a format (DocBook XML) that makes generating an index like this incredibly easy and flexible—it's one of the reasons I chose DocBook for this project. This flexibility has been really useful in these first stages of the project where I've been working out the index design and I've frequently had to go back and revisit the index terms I used for previous entries.

The biggest time-suck however is finding usable images. So far, I've been able to get through almost all of January with just images from the public domain (expired copyrights or works of the US federal government) and a few photos licensed under Creative Commons by their owners. Out of 41 events documented for the month, images for 33 came from the public domain, 3 from Creative Commons-licensed sources, and I'm still missing the other 5.

I'm exploring options to fill those gaps, and I'll post more details in a future update as these efforts see fruit. For now, I'll just say that since I've benefited from freely-licensed media, I'm eager to be able to give back to the commons and repay some of the favour. To me, the willingness to give back is the difference between free culture and freeloading.

Speaking of freeloading, I'm really disappointed by organisations that assert copyright ownership over materials whose copyrights have plainly expired or never existed in the first place. This kind of "copyfraud" (as one professor of law terms it) is noxious and unconscionable when anyone does it, but is especially so when perpetrated by institutions whose mission is the furtherance of knowledge and culture, and by public institutions whose existence is purportedly for the common good.

Based on my experiences with January, I have to revise my time estimate upwards. If I assume that editing entries up to the middle of April (the first 30% of the year) takes as long as they did to write in the first place, this adds another 200 hours. And given that I spend the bulk of the time indexing entries and sourcing and clearing images, I'll assume that the rest of the year will take around 80% of the time it took to write in the first place, which adds another 400 hours. So the whole project should now cost around 1,300 hours. This equates to $21,281 in gross profit to equal minimum wage here in Australia, and around $41,163 to be commensurate with Australia’s median income.

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