Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Data Integrity

During months of research, the most compelling issue I ran across was the widespread misinformation or omission of relevance regarding key facts pertaining to my subject. Subsequently, along the way, I found many related subjects suffered the same consequences. In this age of Internet resources and satellite capabilities, as in so many other fields, have we replaced quality with quantity? Don't get me wrong, I am not the slightest bit against this new age of technology, but, when it is rolling in so fast and furious that it becomes too much to consider whether certain data is actually accurate, then it is time to evaluate the way we value the snowball of input.

I think it is still wonderful how we can almost instantly bring up, right in front of us, a pile of information and resources that were previously unavailable to us. Basically, I'm still amazed how we can send pictures through the air and they come out of a box sitting in our living rooms. That said, what good is it if any percentage of the information dropped in our lap is actually incorrect? If the flood of data accessible is not always correct, what is it actually hurting? I think it hurts everybody. It not only hurts history, it hurts the way we view the necessity of adhering to details, especially when it comes to history. Who is in charge of analyzing the facts? So many are in such a rush to get on the keyboard and 'knock things out', they are disregarding the outcome of what they type.

Then there are the ones who disregard the truth intentionally for monetary gain. Several years ago there was a vast amount of resources on the Internet which were free(and safe). Now everything we look up has something to do with money, even if we don't pull it out of our bank accounts. Now we've gone from a limited access of resources that were reliable(and free), to an infinite line of data which costs, electronically or otherwise, and it is a gamble whether it is reliable. It's more about making a buck then providing quality, in all aspects of life. For the consumer or recipient, it's all about acquiring info or things as quickly and easily as we feed the flames(or snowballing), as it were.

In one very disappointing case of greed, I found a real 'slap in the face' with this reality of which I speak. I was working on the biography of Arthur Moss, author, American expatriate in Paris, 1920's until his death in 1969. He was dedicated to being an accurate journalist and promoting the arts to all the world, through his articles and magazines he published and edited. His story and his works can be viewed at . Without getting into too much detail, Moss was the first on record to publish Hemingway's very first writings in Gargoyle, 1922; just one of many facts totally mishandled by those responsible for documenting details and events. It's been recorded in many collections and biographies, Robert McAlmon and Contact Publications was responsible for publishing Hemingway's first short stories in Paris, 1923.

When Sylvia Beach, another expat in Paris, closed her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, she donated her entire collection to The American Library in Paris, in 1951, according to the library's records. Knowing she had a thorough record of Moss' accomplishments, I can't explain the excitement and anticipation of what I would find there. Instead, I found a very uncooperative Simon Gallo, collector for the library and with the library for over thirty years, seemingly unaware of who Arthur Moss was. He was short with me, stating the library had nothing on, or by, Arthur Moss.

At first, I thought this had to be a mistake. O K, there wasn't a room, or a catalogue, dedicated to Moss, as I fantasized preceding my correspondence with Mr. Gallo, but, nothing at all(?!). I kept thinking there must be a mistake, something lost in translation. Then, about a week later, I was making a list of all the antiquated and vast inventory online booksellers and comparing prices of signed editions of Moss' books. I was in probably the most popular of all the online stores in America, when I ran across a copy of a Moss book, signed, at a very reasonable price, and the seller was a Simon Gallo. I was in disbelief, at first, thinking "What a coincidence", there's another Simon Gallo. Upon further investigation, I found it was not a coincidence, this was one in the same. Mr Gallo had some 1700+ books for sale online and two of them were by Arthur Moss(the last two he wrote before he died). I tried first to get a comment from Mr Gallo, then from the director himself, Mr Trueheart, but, they both ignored me.

That isn't what I intended for the whole flavor of my blog contents, but, I felt it was worth mentioning and pursuing and I will, every chance I get. It's kind of like my passion to make everybody aware of Yahoo!, the new spyware. To me it is an atrocity; a crime, if you will, against our culture and our right to view all works that were written, or painted, or performed, for society as a whole; making knowledge not only available, but, true as well. That is exactly what Arthur Moss was all about.

I have spent many hours contacting many online booksellers and libraries and even people listing personal collections, advising them certain books are listed wrong. Even major publications, such as Harpers, placed a comma in the wrong place and it was translated down the road incorrectly, to where a Moss Arthur is getting the credit for an article in 1932, to the point that people are arguing with me. Check it out by querying "Cosmopolites" and look for entry for Harpers Magazine. It should read Arthur and Eve Moss, as it is listed inside the original magazine. I don't want things to go back to index cards as a means of storing data, but, if it is someones job to enter data, I have just three words...DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS.

The definition of Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles, honesty; the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished; a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

NOTE: all persons involved in data entry positions of any type, from hospital administration to search engine indexing; from Wikipedia nerds to MSN techs, copy and paste this definition to notepad, print, cut it out with scissors, and tape it to the corner of your monitor. You are very intelligent people, so I have confidence you will figure it out (lol).

I don't mean to sound insulting, but, I cannot 'drive home' the issue enough. There are some great people out there who serve us all well with there skills (even Wikis) but it is so imperative that all data is correct. The result of incorrect data can precipitate into a devastating effect or even end a life. The omitting of relevancy, or misguided values, can have a long lasting effect way beyond our scope or imagination, like, maybe one could become President.