Cubicle Sourcing

The recent flap over errors in the APA Style manual has pushed me into pulling a Seinfeld and coining a new term: Cubicle Sourcing. You heard it here first, the day after Thanksgiving, 2009. Cubicle Sourcing is the opposite of Crowd Sourcing, of course.

Crowd Sourcing, Wikipedia reminds us, is “a neologism for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group (crowd) of people or community in the form of an open call.” Cubicle Sourcing, then, is my neologism for taking a task that ought be done by a community, and assigning it to a team of isolated copywriters and editors.

APA, in other words, did everything backwards; they used Cubicle Sourcing, and then when the text was released, incorporated the errors that were inevitably found in a series of errata and, in the end, another printing. They should have put the 5th edition up on the web and issued a call to their community of users for corrections, updates and clarifications.

In-house editors can watch for inconsistencies, moderate disputes, and so on. All of the major style manuals should be converted to Wikis edited by communities of users. Every two or three years– more often if times warrant– they could produce a by-demand print version. The old, private property/author model– Cubicle Sourcing– is inflexible, too slow to change, and prone to error.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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