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Articles to 2016-12-10

First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


The real null-hypothesis Iliev et al. are testing against is, that words and texts are nothing but meaningless random noise. If there is a content, and if this content or its distribution is determined by external circumstances, then their tests 2 to 4 are meaningless and prove nothing. This is not the case for the linear trend in test 1 but here too they failed to take an important point into account. Language is a social construct and learnt. There is an observable trend towards more restrained and muted language, which still conveys the full range of meaning to those initiated to it, and words used to conveigh strong feelings years ago may today be understood as ironic. So a downward trend in wording need not mean a downward trend in conveyed and subjectively understood meaning.

For newspapers it is well established that they predominantly report bad things in the world. So if their wording significantly and consistently leans to the positive, there is something there to be explained and Iliev et al. have not done it.


The DGUF, a German archaeological professional society, have placed all their publications under the least restrictive CC licence CC-BY . Of course what they do is their choice, although as an individual member I have a tiny say in it, but what they write about it is factual nonsense:

This means author and DGUF allow third parties the free use of content, as long as all use credits the originator and names the source and its license – exactly the same as what is long established in German science as the right to quote and its associated obligations.[Translation and emphasis FAB]

If this were the case, what use would the license be and why the need for it? At least two misuses spring to mind:

  1. Somebody might take the work, print it or sell the PDF. This is not a bad thing, even if there is a profit margin way over the printing cost as succinctly explained by the GNU project . He may however also place his copied version under copyright making it illegal to copy what the real author intended to make freely available. So the better choice would be CC-BY-SA , prohibiting just that.
  2. Using a text may also mean using it nearly in full while making small changes to it, in effect creating a revised edition. This may be fine, but even 95 % of the original with small changes may entirely change the meaning and convert it to its opposite. It is then within the licence to print the attribution to the author in big letters and “edited by Malicious E. Forger” in tiny ones. To prevent this, use CC-BY-ND . As stated above, this does not limit the generally accepted uses of quotes in any way.
  3. As already said above, it is not sensible to limit the commercial use like inclusion into an edited collection, so I don’t recommend using CC-BY-NC .

Whatever the DGUF and its individual authors decide to do, their statement above is factually wrong and highly misleading and should be redrawn and reworded as soon as possible.

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