10 Year-Old Proposal to Archive and Edit Rabbinic List Serves

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5 comments posted
A tremendous idea with

A tremendous idea with potentially great rewards for all non-Orthodox Jews (and perhaps even Orthodox ones) to have insight into the process of contemporary Talmudic rulings. Two challenges are likely to be obtaining the permission of the participating rabbis, who may have previously thought they were submitting "off-the-record" style deliberations/thoughts to an audience of peers. Also, some editing will be needed, but the balance will need to be struck between editing for grammar, style, etc and the kind of editing that is editorializing and shaping the arguments. I'm of two minds on the presence of tangents on a given discussion, because as I recall, tangents often emerged in classical rabbinic literature...

I would love to have access to these conversations...let me know if this discussion is reopened at any point!

Posted by EstherK on December 22, 2010 11:25 PM
Esther, I'm glad to hear of

Esther, I'm glad to hear of your excitement about the idea.

But I should temper your enthusiasm by saying I don't think the contents of the rabbinic list serves will be available for public consumption for a long time... if ever. Notice the fine print in the collaboration section above.

Each group would retain proprietary control of their material. However, the technical methodologies would be immediately shared; the project managers for each group would work together. And finally, each group would designate certain threads of conversation, with the permission of the authors, to be made available to the other rabbinic bodies.

The proposed sharing was only for certain safe threads, only distributed with the authors' approval, and then only shared on the private listserves of other rabbinical associations. The proposal was far from "open source."

Practically, it could only be done by getting a bunch of rabbis to participate at a rabbis web site that was designated as open source from the beginning. Whether there would be enough rabbis who would participate to make the content valuable is an open question.

Posted by Shai Gluskin on December 23, 2010 12:31 AM
Given Tech Progress, How Would Change Proposal be Changed

Dear Shai:

Given the technological progress in the past decade, how would your proposal be changed?

Posted by Aaron Finestone on December 23, 2010 10:00 AM
Some Changes... A lot the Same

The short answer is, "not much." I believe all the major rabbinical groups still use list-serves as their primary method of peer-to-peer banter. But I'd have to research that a bit more.

I'll cover the technology below. But first, "Would the proposal have been different in how it proposed to share the edited content? Would the openness emanating out of a Web 2.0/Facebook culture have influenced the rabbis enough to convince them that they might want to share some of their wisdom beyond the rabbinic community?"

My answer is, absolutely not! I see very slow movement on that front. There is a little, but not enough that would have affected the proposal were I to submit it today.

Technology changes. It would be less expensive to migrate the data to databases and clean up the messages. Categorizing and applying appropriate titles for threads would still have to be done "by hand."

Once that work had been done, the display and user interactivity for the data would be better and less expensive than ten years ago.

It also would be much easier at a reasonable cost to apply a system of fine-grained permissions so that all the right people would get access only to messages they were supposed to see.

A new version of the proposal would advocate for replacing the list-serves with web forums that allow for receiving and posting by email. That would get you the best of list serve technology (you can do everything from email), and the best of web technology (content is displayed well and the user can search and interact with the content in compelling ways). The web would also allow for posting audio and video.

Posted by Shai Gluskin on December 23, 2010 10:37 AM
I love this idea, Shai. I

I love this idea, Shai. I would love to see it come to pass.

Posted by Rachel Barenblat on December 23, 2010 10:35 AM