save everything

Donald Brownlee db at
Mon Jun 19 22:37:08 AEST 2000

My $0.02:

I once wondered whether the techniques of literary textual
criticism could be used in order to determine whether a Linux,
FreeBSD, groff -- whatever! -- is in any way derived from an
earlier work. Textual criticism considers a work by examining
several or all of the extant textual variations in an attempt
to determine what the author originally wrote; it has been
used to reconstruct the "original" texts of the ancient as
well as some modern writers, such as James Joyce. It
yields a tree of texts, in which the root is the "original,"
and the sibling children of any node are the descendants of a
common, perhaps hypothetical, text. I don't know much
else about it, except that its results may depend on alot
of knowledge and informed speculation. The textual critics
work bottom-up to arrive at an original text; I am thinking
of a top-down process, working from an original text, to show that a
work lower in a tree is derived from the original. If such a
technique were valid at all, its validity would only be improved
with the availablity of many, many "texts." The techniques might be
more useful where, for example, there were several V7 tapes that people
thought were original, but which, on inspection, turned out to be different.
In this situation, textual criticism might be used to reconstruct a "true," V7
release tape, and, in this situation, would be a bottom-up application of the techniques.

In any event, I think that it is important to preserve alot of
tapes, and to keep them separate with as much information as
possible about their pedigree. If someone ever did use such
a technique -- or any other technique -- to reconstruct a "true" release,
it is important that they document their work and not throw away the
tapes that contributed to the "true" tape, because even more
tapes may appear in the future which could lead to
the reconstruction of an even truer tape.

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