A Backward Glance (1998-2008)
Heyward Ehrlich - Rutgers University

(to appear in "Poe in Cyberspace,"
Edgar Allan Poe Review, Spring 2008)

In this tenth anniversary number, "Poe in Cyberspace" will review significant developments reported since 1998, during ten extraordinary years of growth and transition for Web research. By reflecting on where we've been, we may arrive at a better understanding of where we are now. A future column will attempt to assess what may be the most significant assets and limitations for electronic Poe research right now - and what they might be a few years from now.

Ten Years of "Poe in Cyberspace" in The Edgar Allan Poe Review (1998-2007).
1998:Spring: 15 selected Poe URLs
 Fall: Poe Society of Baltimore
1999:Spring: Whence "Eris"? (130+ Poe e-texts)
 Fall: Research & Teaching with the Internet (25 URLs)
2000:Spring: New Census of Poe E-texts
 Fall: New Poe e-texts: the verification question
2001:Spring: Search engines come of age
 Fall: Fifty new Poe URLs
2002:Spring: Research, Plagiarism, and the Internet
 Fall: Commercial Subscription Databases Online
2003:Spring: International Issue
 Fall: Basics of Electronic Research
2004:Spring: Etexts on Wireless Readers
 Fall: The Poe Society of Baltimore (an update)
2005:Spring: The Google-Amazon Overload (e-books)
 Fall: The Purloined Letters (malware)
2006:Spring: A Complete Poe Library on the Internet?
 Fall: Is Faster the New Slower? (data security)
2007:Spring: Poe as Web Diva (multimedia)
 Fall: Machines, Humans, and Web 2.0 (social networks)

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Spring: 1998: 15 selected Poe URLs
The first "Poe in Cyberspace" column in Spring 1998 began slowly with a step-by-step explanation of how to search the Web, moving on to a list of fifteen recommended Web sites. Of course, how to search the Web no longer requires an explanation, yet it is distressing to realize that only five of the original fifteen Web sites are still in operation at the same address. Seven have disappeared for all practical purposes by moving within well-known institutions for textual studies (such as Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina, and the Gutenberg Project) without providing a durable forwarding address - only one, at Toronto, actually did so. Two sites vanished completely. The most commonly used Web page in 1998 was Yahoo; the most popular search engine was AltaVista, which reported 134,450 hits on "Poe." (AltaVista now reports 50,400,000 such hits, nearly a 400-fold increase.) Why did the Spring 1998 column not mention Google, now the most popular search engine? The reason: Google was not created until several months later, in the fall of 1998. (Google went public in 2004, and the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary accepted google as a verb in 2006,.)

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Fall 1998: The Poe Society of Baltimore
The Fall 1998 "Poe in Cyberspace" column reported the revitalization of The Poe Society of Baltimore at its new Web address, http://www.eapoe.org. Its director, Mr. Jeffrey Savoye emailed us that it was devoting itself to providing reliable Poe e-texts and trustworthy information about Poe on the Internet:

Our new site launches our on-going project to provide Poe's complete works in e-text. We have started with the poems, with multiple versions of each. We need to have at least a basic text for all of the tales as that is what most people are seeking, but we hope to show people that Poe wrote far more than the handful of horror tales for which he is usually given credit.

From those modest first steps the Poe Society of Baltimore has moved on to become the premier site for Poe e-texts on the Internet, soon adding to the texts of the poems and tales all of Poe's sketches and many of his critical articles and reviews, depicting variants in any multiple printings that appeared by 1850.

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Spring 1999: Whence "Eris"? (130 Poe e-texts)
Before the rise of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, many e-texts originated as CD-ROM editions and uploaded to the Internet for accessed via FTP (file transfer protocol), requiring the use of the technical language of Internet requests for a particular file name at its site address. The first menu system for FTP was Gopher, named at the University of Minnesota for its local sports teams (and perhaps punning on the office "go-for"). An extensive set of about 130 Poe e-texts from the Walnut Creek Desktop Library CD-ROM was offered via Gopher at The University of Missouri at St. Louis in 1992. (The recently released CD-ROM itself was quickly withdrawn after it was discovered to illegally contain a dictionary still under copyright). However, for a time the best known location for this set of Poe e-texts was the large literary collection online at the Virginia Tech Eris project. Within a few years, the unexpected arrival in the mid 1990s of the World Wide Web with its more convenient hypertext protocol, effectively ended the Gopher era. On September 23, 1998, Virginia Tech closed down the Eris e-text project, promising that these works would be released afterwards on Project Gutenberg (which never happened). For most users of Internet Explorer, when it ceased to provide standard supported for the Gopher protocol, in effect all Gopher-based e-texts were stranded. Fortunately access to the 130 Poe e-texts was made possible via HTML at the Alex Web site at http://www.infomotions.com/alex/ (founded in 1994, Alex was one of the first catalogs of literary e-texts on the Web). In testing old links while preparing this article I was surprised to discover that Mozilla Firefox now supports Gopher: therefore it can access these 130 Poe e-texts posted in the pre-WWW era at gopher://gopher.umsl.edu:70/11/library/stacks/books/poe.

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Fall 1999: Research & Teaching with the Internet (25 URLs)
Of twenty-five Poe sites recommended for research and teaching in the Fall 1999 "Poe in Cyberspace," only five of them are still available at their original addresses. Several of the "lost" sites actually have moved elsewhere: Donna Campbell, Peter Forrest's Fall of the House of Usher, The English Server at Carnegie Mellon, Internet Public Library Literary Criticism, and the Cybertour by Dauphin County Library System. Regrettably, several of these Poe sites have simply closed: Stefan Gmoser's excellent site, Mindspring Thorazine, The Fall of the House of Usher Page at the University of Texas, Adam Michaels's "The Fall of the House of Usher" at Penn, Connecticut State Research Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, the Poe Author Sheet, Connecticut English and American Literary Resources, Maine Literature and Readings Resources, The Internet Sleuth, Trackstar, and Webquest; moreover, two useful CD-ROMs, the Library of the Future (4th ed.) and Corel World's Greatest Classic Books, have gone out of print. Finally, Northernlight and Electric Library, two fine sites, changed their mission.

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Spring 2000: New Census of Poe E-texts
Which Poe are e-texts on the Internet, and where are they? The census of Poe e-texts in the Spring 2000 "Poe in Cyberspace" is now obsolete since so many of the Web addresses have changed, usually as a result of institutional reorganization. I found only two that courteously provided durable forwarding links, Alex: A Catalog of Electronic Texts (formerly at <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/alex/> and now at http://www.infomotions.com/alex) and The University of Toronto's Representative Poetry site (formerly at <http://library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/poe.html> and now at http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poet/262.html). Regrettably, these Web sites for Poe e-texts changed locations without providing durable forwarding information: Oxford Text Archive, University of Virginia Early American Fiction project, University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, University of Michigan American Verse Project, Making of America project at the University of Michigan, University of North Carolina (Digitized Library of Southern Literature), and Internet Public Library: Online Books Collection. In addition, <http://www.concordance.com>, once a site for general literary concordances, is now devoted to Bible studies exclusively.

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Fall 2000: New Poe e-texts: the verification question
The Fall 2000 "Poe In Cyberspace" column raised the question of the extent to which Poe e-texts are acceptable by scholarly standards. The earliest Poe e-texts on the Internet lacked pagination and source information, making no claims as to authenticity. Gradually e-texts using identified historical editions appeared at such sites as The Poe Society of Baltimore, Early American Fiction at the University of Virginia, A Digitized Library of Southern Literature at the University of North Carolina, and on CD-ROM from the Geodesic Library. Most e-texts are made by scanning printed editions and producing page images that are converted to texts using optical character recognition (OCR). Spelling checkers can weed out many conversion errors, although there is the danger that they may regard 19th century spellings as wrong, offering to "correct" them with contemporary spellings. In addition, these processes cannot distinguish an author's original hyphen when it falls at the end of the line from the typesetter's hyphen inserted there, introducing a small percentage of errors the e-text, seen in slightly inaccurate text searches and word counts. While a very small degree of error may be acceptable for general purposes, it may not suit the most critical textual work. For these reasons it should not be assumed when a new e-text is encountered that extensive verification has already been done.

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Spring 2001: Search engines come of age
The Spring 2001 "Poe in Cyberspace" column reported on the growing popularity of search engines. The SearchEngineWatch site ranked the habitual visit rate of viewers to 20 search engines in 2000: at the top, Yahoo (62%), MSN (52%), AOL (44%), Lycos (35%), Go (Infoseek) (27%), Netscape (23%), Excite (20%), and Altavista (18%), and at the bottom, Google (7%) and NorthernLight (1.4%). Ironically, in 2000 the most popular search engines had the least size and depth, and three of the four sites with the deepest coverage were not among the top twenty in popularity.

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Fall 2001: Fifty new Poe URLs
Updated and new sites were covered in the Fall 2001 "Poe In Cyberspace" column. The mutability of Web pages continued to be sharply evident. The remarkable Poecentral site, highly promising for a time for its collection of useful but hard-to-find secondary materials on Poe from the pre-copyright era, was unfortunately short-lived. (Traces for 2001-2002 survive in the Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org.) Of about 50 links to promising Web pages listed in this column, fewer than half are still valid today at the same locations today.

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Spring 2002: Research, Plagiarism, and the Internet
The good news in the Spring 2002 "Poe In Cyberspace" column was that commercial access to critical articles in journals was being offered to professors and students alike at very attractive prices. For a short time, Northernlight offered 2,481 copyrighted "Edgar Allan Poe" articles in journals at the pay-per-use charge of $2.95 per item. During this era Yahoo Premium Search offered a remarkably inexpensive monthly service by subscription for only $4.95 for up to 50 articles (yes, a dime per article) from dozens of scholarly journals. Sadly, both Northernlight and Yahoo withdrew these offers after a few months. More bad news: the growth of "paper mills" and assisted research sites led directly to a heightened concern over the possibly of rising plagiarism.

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Fall 2002: Commercial and Subscription Databases Online
Commercial databases are open to anyone paying a fee, but subscription databases are limited those with user privileges at participating libraries or institutions. The Fall 2002 column discussed two commercial services, Northernlight and Elibrary (neither of which is still available in the original form, although their services have been taken up by Findarticles, Highbeam, and Questia). Every Poe researcher should know about and use excellent subscription databases such as Academic Search Premier (from EBSCO), Jstor, The New York Times (from Proquest Historical Newspapers), the PMLA International Bibliography, and Project Muse. Discuss availability with your local research librarian.

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Spring 2003: International Issue
Poe's global reputation supports the proliferation of web sites devoted to him all over the world, many examples of which are listed in the Spring 2003 column. The tallies already reached by 2003 (according or language or nation) are Arabic (7), Austria (c. 1,500), Czech (1,390), Danish (635), English (other than U.S.): Australia (1,040), Ireland (107), Canada (1,940), and United Kingdom (4,520), Finnish (404), French (6,430), German (12,800), Greek (162), Hebrew (15), Hungarian (595), Italian (6,170), Japanese (1,680), Netherlands (855), Polish (1,180), Portuguese (including Brazil) (3,840), Russian (480), Spanish (11,800), and Swedish (960).

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Fall 2003: Basics of Electronic Research
The Fall 2003 column surveyed electronic guides to printed and online research, including the two dedicated Poe journals, online bibliographies of print resources, guides to electronic resources, recommended web pages, editions and e-texts, course projects and syllabi, and special topics. Since then, these sites have moved to new locations: Making of America (Michigan), Metlab (North Carolina), Early American Fiction (Virginia), Readroom of the Internet Public Library, Donna Campbell's site, and the NYU medicine in literature database.

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Spring 2004: Etexts on Wireless Readers
The Spring 2004 column reviewed wireless book readers and e-texts from the University of Virginia, and Microsoft, and other sources, offering such post-HTML formats as Microsoft Ereader, Palm Reader, and Adobe Reader. (In 2007, Amazon introduced wireless reading device called Kindle in another format.)

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Fall 2004: The Poe Society of Baltimore
The Poe Society of Baltimore earned a second "Poe in Cyberspace" column for this impressive list of primary Poe works: 1) Poe's letters as collected and edited by John Ward Ostrom; 2) variants of his poems following T. O. Mabbot's sequence of identifying the texts; 3) several long works not in the Mabbott edition, including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, The Journal of Julius Rodman and The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall; 4) items attributed to Poe in The Southern Literary Messenger, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, Graham's Magazine, and the Broadway Journal, with chronologies; 5) an index of Poe's book reviews by author; and 6) many of his miscellaneous writings, including "Autography," "Doings of Gotham," "The Literati," and "Marginalia." Moreover, the Poe Society of Baltimore put online these useful secondary works: 1) articles from Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism; 2) letters to Poe collected and edited by James A. Harrison, Mabbott, John Ward Ostrom, and Joseph V. Ridgely; 3) items from Susan Jaffe Tane's collection of rare Poe materials; 4) texts of the Baltimore Poe Society's lectures and publications; 5) discussions of the Poe canon in his regard to his contributions to periodicals; and 6) a review of Poe editions and reprints.

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Spring 2005: The Google-Amazon Overload
The face of Internet scholarship was changed by two reports in the Spring 2005 "Poe in Cyberspace" column. In October 1993, Amazon launched its Search Inside the Book (SIB) project to provide sample passages from books still in copyright, beginning with 190,000 books from 190 publishers, reportedly reaching 250,000 titles by 2008. In the fall of 2004, The Google launched its Library Project to scan and post on the Internet in five years the texts of 15 million proposed out-of-copyright books from the holdings of the universities of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford universities and the New York Public Library. It is estimated that one million titles had been scanned by 2007 in the Google Books project, made available under a variety of arrangements to accommodate legal and mechanical restrictions and concerns. In a second service, Google Scholar offered a bibliographical database of printed works mentioned in Web pages. In addition, Google added to its regular search engine the understanding of several prefixes (followed by a colon) such as book:Eureka for a book, define:dénouement for a definition, and site:eapoe.org for a site. Moreover, Google added the understanding of synonyms (preceded by a tilde), so that ~child yields child, children, kids, childhood, and youth.

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Fall 2005: The Purloined Letters (malware)
The Fall 2005 column contained practical advice on malware, discussing viruses, spyware, and system attacks -- and steps Poe scholars should take to defend themselves.

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Spring 2006: A Complete Poe Library on the Internet?
The Spring 2006 "Poe in Cyberspace" column reported on scholarly editions of interest to Poe scholars that has became at the Amazon and Google Books sites. Older titles included volumes of the James Harrison Works (1902); Arthur Hobson Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe (1941), volumes of the J. S. Redfield editions of Poe (1856-58), and George Woodberry, Edgar Allan Poe (1893). In addition, these recent scholarly and critical works became available with limitations on Amazon (and a few are on Google as well): Kevin Hayes, Poe and the Printed Word (1996) and The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe (2002); J. Gerald Kennedy, Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race (2001) and his A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe (2001); Richard Kopley, Poe's "Pym" (1992). T. O. Mabbott, Complete Poems (repr. 2000) and Tales and Sketches (2 vol., repr. 2000); Patrick Quinn, Poe: Poetry and Tales (1984); Kenneth Silverman, Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance (1992); G. R. Thompson, Poe: Essays and Reviews (1984); Ian Walker, Poe: Critical Heritage (1997); and Terrence Whalen, Poe and the Masses (1999).

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Fall 2006: Is Faster the New Slower? (data security)
The discussion of malicious software, continuing in the Fall 2007 "Poe in Cyberspace" column, reviewed the new vocabulary of dangerous malware: virus, spam, spyware, phishing, and rootkit, moving on to the arsenal of self-defense: antivirus, antispyware, and antispam software, sometimes in security suites. Of course, the most important defense is a comprehensive and faithfully followed data backup system.

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Spring 2007: Poe as Web Diva (multimedia)
The Spring 2007 column, in reviewing the treatment of Poe in the new media, including the new Web social networks of MySpace, Wikipedia, and YouTube, concluded:

It is curious that 20th Century Fox interfered with [the distribution of] The Simpsons' production of "The Raven" in English on YouTube for copyright reasons but spared The Simpsons' version (or should we say subversion?) of Hamlet. Is that because Poe lends himself to the short, participatory representations characteristic of the "New Media" more readily than Shakespeare does?
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Fall 2007: Machines, Humans, and Web 2.0
The authority of the separate desktop computer on the Internet was challenged by the rise of social and interactive networking, called Web 2.0, as reported in the Fall 2007 "Poe In Cyberspace." For the new generation, computing often meant logging on to MySpace, Facebook, and Secondlife on Web-connected laptops - rather than working with Windows and Office on an isolated desktop. Search engines such as Google abandoned their early logical algorithms and adopted human peer systems to determine the rank order of Web sites, while Amazon used the experience of previous book buyers to make suggestions to prospective buyers. The traditional top-down, one-way, hierarchical, logical computing protocols for the computer desktop were challenged by the radical, bottom-up, two-way, interactive, social network methodologies of Web 2.0. In the several realms of Web 2.0, Poe receives a good deal of attention, in blogs for the discussion of myriad topics, in mashups to recombine existing Web data in ingenious new ways, and in wikis for communally authored Web sites such as Wikipedia. Essential new Web 2.0 sites include Technorati as the blog directory, Del.icio.us as the site to share and exchange bookmarks, and Flickr as the place where photographs can be swapped. Technical skills became obsolete when anyone could create an interactive Web page in five minutes with PBWiki (peanut butter wiki). The new way of network-based operating, called cloud computing, provided Poe scholars with e-texts, appropriate software, and space to store their work, all without charge, just by logging on. The New Media have already transformed politics, entertainment, and the press: will Poe scholars, teachers, and students also embrace Web 2.0? In our ten-year retrospect, we have seen many such projects lost to oblivion, while only a fortunate few survived. Will Web 2.0 prove one more distraction, another dot.com bubble, not a welcome addition to existing knowledge for Poe scholars but rather a diversion into new and unwanted kinds of information? Or, will Web 2.0 make a substantial contribution to Poe research and teaching -- just as word processing, e-mail, and the original Web did -- but only after some years of struggle? It is too soon to tell.

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Note: The "Poe in Cyberspace" columns are available online at http://eapoe.info.

[EAPR_ sp08_ehrlich] corrections: Fa 04, Toronto, Walker