Talk:Cat's Cradle

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Spacing between quotesEdit

Please excuse me if I'm duplicating things that have been done and discussed in the past, but I've just finished a general clean-up of this page, along with a re-organization (by character name), and in checking it over just now I realized how difficult it was to keep the quotes visually separated. Something about the formatting just didn't really work well. The solution that seems to me to work best is to double-space between quotes. I realize that increases the amount of white-space on the page, something I'm generally not very fond of, but (for me at least) it helps tremendously' in keeping the page looking neat and organized. With single-spacing the quotes seems to all run together, but the extra line keep them separate. Is doing this OK? Ed Fitzgerald 21:12, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

This approach has been tried before with some of the pages for poetry that have been created. See this Village pump discussion for more on it. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the issues as yet, although the templates only show a single space between lines. I also would like to comment on your reorganization effort - I know that it probaby took a lot of work to do, but I had always thought that the convention was to not separate quotes by character for literary works, but instead to present them in the order in which they appeared in the work (usually grouped by chapter, where appropriate). ~ UDScott 21:24, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
Hmmm. I thought I had read that separation by subject was discouraged, because it encompassed some editorial decisions about what the proper subject or topic was, and that sounded reasonable to me. I didn't think this was a problem with dividing by character. I went with this option because it saved a lot of space (all of the repeated "said by so-and-so" for each quote"). If the "said by so-and-so" description is legitimate (and I can't believe that it wouldn't be, since it's a simple observational description, with no more editorial POV than the selection of the quote itself; significantly less, actually), then dividing by character can be looked at as simply grouping together all the "so-and-so's", and really can't be thought of as requiring any additional editorial input. Ed Fitzgerald 22:50, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
Another thought about the organization by character: I think it's generally more accessible to the everday poster. I don't know how many people have the source material in front of them when they post a quote, and how many do as I generally do, which is to write it down somewhere and then post it at a later date. For people who don't have the source available, if they haven't written down the location in the book (which is something I almost never do for works of book-length fiction) they're not going to be aware of which chapter it's in, and won't know where to post it if the page is organized sequentially, by chapter. On the other hand, many quotes from works of fiction are strongly linked to its characters, which means it's more likely that someone not working from the original source will remember the character and know where to put the quote, even if it's not in sequential order in the character-section. I would think that would be an advantage in keeping the collection relatively organized without a great deal of oversight. Ed Fitzgerald 01:36, 19 April 2007 (UTC)
I guess I can see your point, but the logic behind organizing quotes based on when they appear in a literary work is so that editors can more easily verify that they are accurate (a primary goal of this project). It is much easier to do so if they are organized by chapter or page. But I'll let others chime in on this point before pushing it further. ~ UDScott 12:53, 19 April 2007 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly concur with the emphasis on accuracy. It was quite interesting to see, when I was going through Cat's Cradle looking for the placement of these quotes, how many were slightly paraphrased, as if they were memorized and then posted. The sense was usually fairly correct, but with some frequency the wording was slightly off. In one, for instance "cosmology" had been substituted for "cosmogony". (I'm not talking about simple typos, which I'm as prone to as anyone -- I see someone just corrected "is" to "in" in one that I posted.) So I'm on the same page about accuracy and also verifiability -- it's the reason that I organized within each character by placement in the book. Ed Fitzgerald 03:08, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
I agree that re-organization by character is not a good idea for general literary works, (personally I've never even liked it much with films and such, but I could see it's popularity, and sometimes its convenience or even its necessity in many cases there). I also have usually not liked the creation of "theme" sections within articles for people or works. My own preferences in nearly all articles tend to the sequential and chronological, but I can agree that is not always immediately possible in all cases; on a few occasions I have made a subsection "quotes not yet sequenced" within pages (or sections) for specific works, when time or other resources were not available for me to do further work in sourcing or organizing the material.
On the spacing issue, I tend to prefer the standard single lines as simpler and easier to maintain, but I can see the appeal of the double spacing that has been increasingly used on some pages, and haven't really objected to it at any point. I think it should probably remain an option for editiors, if they want to use it on pages they have created or are willing to maintain, at least until some better formatting tweaks can be developed, but I don't see it as advantageous enough to promote it as a preferred format. ~ Kalki 14:57, 19 April 2007 (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that there are some formatting tweaks in development - it does seem that standard Wiki formatting leaves something to be desired when presenting what are essentially long lists of short quotes. Ed Fitzgerald 02:48, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Incidentally, I don't think I ever said explicitly why I try to include the character name in quotes pulled from fiction (books, plays and films). It's because of the tendency, once a quote has been pulled and published, for people to ascribe the opinion or attitude in the quote to the author, whether or not the author actually agrees with it. It's undeniable that writers, in the interest of storytelling, creating conflict, and so on, create characters who express opinions that the writer disagrees with -- although frequently one (or several) seem to be stand-ins for the views of the author. Providing the name of the character with the quote helps to emphasize that these are ideas that are not necessarily directly from the author's own ideology, but instead come filtered through the character of the fictional person who says them. That's why I started to include them in my own collection, and why I think it's important to include them in published quotes whenever possible. Ed Fitzgerald 02:59, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

1) If an extra space is preferred between quotations, it poses the question whether there should also be extra spacing between sections in order to create a unified presentation throughout the page. When I've used double-spacing on pages consisting of quotations for poetry and plays, I've followed this method (example here). If you choose to do it this way, however, you'll have to do all subsequent edits from the entire page rather than editing by sections. If you edit by section, it will result in only a single space between that section and the one which follows it.

2) As for associating quotations with characters, an alternative way is to present the quotes in sequential order but with the character named after the quote (examples here and here). - InvisibleSun 04:04, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Yes, sequential with character identification attached was certainly a possibility, but, as I wrote above, it results in a lot of duplicated information -- "said by so-and-so" attached to each quote. Grouping them together by character saved some space and made for a tighter presentation. As for double spacing before section, I did indeed look at that, and decided it created a slightly *too* airy look. (I am familiar with the editing/spacing problem you refer to, having come across it on Wikipedia. My solution to that is to get the additional space by attaching a "<br>" to the end of the text, thus forcing an additional blank line.) Ed Fitzgerald 04:28, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Organization by characterEdit

I strongly, strongly urge folks not to organize by character — for anything, but especially for literary works, for which we already have a satisfactory formatting system. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to make clear which characters are saying what in a work, because it often does not reflect the author's actual opinion. ("FREEDOM IS SLAVERY", from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, is my favorite succinct example.) Take a look at Lightning (1988) in Dean Koontz for some examples of how one can use context lines to make characters clear. Note that some quotes are bare (i.e., without the surrounding material like "Laura said"), so they must use a context line. Others simply quote an entire passage that makes this clear. Still others are terse passages that include several unattributed character quotes (because earlier, unquoted text sets up the dialog), so they need a little context show who's saying who. All of these can be done without difficulty and without artificial character organization. (I say "artificial" because such organization often includes dialog, which requires judgment calls on which character to list it under.)

The most important reason to avoid character organization is practical: Wikiquote is terrible about sourcing. The vast majority of our quotes have no sources whatsoever with which readers may verify the material. This flies in the face of the increasing importance among Wikimedia projects to ensure that all material has a factual basis; i.e., is not simply spreading Internet rumors because of the ease of editing. (Wikimedia makes a critical distinction that, even though we steadfastly maintain that anyone can edit, we want only appropriate, verifiable material in our articles. Verification is essential because we have no editorial board for fact-checking — we are the editorial board.) Wikiquote is much worse than Wikipedia about this for two main reasons:

  1. We have far few editors and far fewer regular editors, so the statistical likelihood of balanced editorial effectiveness is quite unpredictable. In other words, the quality varies considerably based on the current participants.
  2. Unlike encyclopedias, even professional quote compendiums are atrocious about their own sourcing. Consider that many of them seem to believe that "Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)" or "Abraham Lincoln, 1857" is a source. How the heck are you supposed to check something like this?

To provide accurate information, Wikiquotians must work even harder than Wikipedians against common professional practices and against the tendency of most editors to just toss material into an article.

So what does this have to do with character organization? The widespread use of this system directly undermines the attempts we've made to provide source-friendly formatting and organization in several genres. When a genre like literature has such an obvious and straightforward source-friendly organization like "chronological by work, by page", it's unwise to rearrange it by character.

But, you might say, quotes by characters are logical and are very popular. True enough. But there are many things that Wikiquote (and other Wikimedia projects) avoid doing because they aren't part of the main purposes of these projects. One thing we avoid is trying to be all things to everyone. There are hundreds (thousands?) of quote sites that feed the desire to list long, copyright-violating lists of things fictional characters say. (I'm sure one can easily find several devoted to any given U.S. TV show within days of its debut.) But what sets Wikimedia apart from all the other collaborative websites is that we care about reliable sources and verifiability. Given that it's easy enough to find quotes from a character on a page even when they're listed in chrono-by-work order, our focus on clear, source-friendly organization makes considerable sense.

Finally, character organization doesn't have to be forbidden — it just shouldn't be the main system. Although they aren't encouraged, if a character has enough material to warrant a collection of their own (e.g., Darth Vader), we can have an article for this purpose. (It should still have proper sourcing, though.) Even if we wish to have a few select character collections within an article on a work, it might be possible to set these up as subheadings under "Characters" after the main chronological and/or page ordering, to emphasize the need for the primary organization while provide a few duplications in an alternate form. (Some film articles currently do this, although they follow the current guideline by putting the characters before the chrono-ordered dialog, which unfortunately discourages sourcing attempts.)

There are many ways to slice-and-dice this material. But I urge everyone to consider how to make our quotes reasonable to order and verify, especially given the fact that we'll always have far fewer quote-checkers than we will quote-adders. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 04:54, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

I totally agree that formatting should never get in the way of the ability of the reader and/or editor to verify the accuracy of the material presented, but, in point of fact, organization by character does absolutely nothing in and of itself to decrease that ability, as long as the same information is provided. This entry:
--Character name--
Here is a quote.
-- page 27
has the same information content as this entry:
Here is a quote.
-- said by "character"; page 27
the information is simple organized differently. You'll note that I was careful (and may I here make clear that I am not suggesting that Wikiquote fiction entries be generally re-organized by character, simply defending its use in the case of this particular article, Cat's Cradle) to list quotes sequentially within each character section, so it's no harder to verify a quote with this organization than if all the quotes were listed in order. (There's a unique problem with Cat's Cradle, incidentally, which is that Vonnegut's chapters are extremely short, making organization by chapter virtually useless. This would result in a long list of quotes, not broken up into easily graspable divisions, which would be much harder to work with, and visually boring at that.) Ed Fitzgerald 07:09, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
While I appreciate the thought and effort that has gone into organizing this article by character, I do not like the result. It is currently tagged for cleanup, and I am strongly inclined to rearrange it in the conventional textual order, with context notes where necessary. (Compare this article: IMO, it does not suffer for want of chapter headings or whitespace even though the longer work uses very short chapters, nor for want of character names even though there is dialogue between characters.)
Regarding the tendency for some to confuse fictional expression with author opinion: The single most important contextual information is to identify the subject as a work of fiction, as this article does. There is little that can be done about those who don't do so or, worse, simply don't get it. Appreciation of fiction involves balancing suspension of disbelief with real-world perspective. With this particular book, in which metafictional themes are central, the plight of readers who don't get this is tragicomical, for they must surely miss much of the point of the work. Arranging the article by in-world attribution does not mitigate the tragedy (and I am not much amused by the comedy, for such are the Wikipedia contributors who write about fiction from an in-world perspective).
I digress, and descend into shameful snarkiness, but I feel strongly about this particular work. Respecting the textual order may be a small thing but I think that, notwithstanding its whimsical aspects, this is a significant literary work deserving every little bit of respect. ~ Ningauble 03:20, 18 February 2009 (UTC)


The narrotor's name is Jonah, although his parents call him John.

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