The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 39, September 11, 2005, Article 18


Michael Marotta writes: "Coin People (
has created a new forum for writers. Numismatic Online Writers
(NOW) acknowledges the enthusiasts in our hobby who post
significantly on the Internet.

Electronic forums differ from print, physically and metaphysically.
Internet discussions are immediate, time-independent, self-validating,
and interrupt driven.

Typically, an event starts with a non-collector who has a question.
They post it along with a scan of the object. Several replies will
result. Usually, those replies agree in the main, while bringing
forward different details. Sometimes, disagreements will arise
about authentication, attribution, grading or pricing. Sometimes,
errors of fact will appear -- and then be corrected by the original
poster or by someone else. Posts and replies can be of almost
any length, as required.

That is different from print where one expert passes judgment,
in a reply often limited by space. If a numismatic magazine
publishes an error of fact, the correction appears later in a small
space. Thus, tracking corrections is inherently difficult in print,
whereas online corrections appear in the same thread as the
original article. Print publications are procedural and sequential.
Editors and writers decide what topics to pursue, granted that
they keep an ear to the ground for advance warning of collector
interests. However, being interrupt-driven means that online
forums respond immediately to any individual interest, whether
or not it is numerically "important."

Online, "the non-collector with a question" could be an expert
in their own right in some other area, but not know much about
the material in question: "Does anyone collect Carpathian Bank
Tokens?" If that question appeared in a print publication's reader's
input column, it would be seen once and then be lost to the
archives. However, online, anyone with an interest in Carpathian
Bank Tokens can search the Internet and find otherwise arcane
discussion about them. Thus, all information is always available
online regardless of when it was created.

This allows online writers to be validated by interaction with their
peers. Anyone who has a deep and abiding passion for a numismatic
series, and who shares that knowledge, is an expert, regardless of
whether or not they have won any awards. Usually, they have not.
There exists a gulf between print and the Internet. Few of the well-
known names from print periodicals participate in online discussions.

Online writers must be self-validating because they often post by
usernames, which are aliases. You can find Q. David Bowers,
Alan Herbert, and Beth Deisher at an ANA convention. Finding
Old Collector, U-505, and Snaggletooth is a little harder.
However, for those who read and post frequently, those usernames
do identify collectors with expert knowledge in one or more areas.

Online writing is immediate in a special way. When someone asks,
"What is this coin?" the good reply will include some historical
context. However, not being an article in print, the reply does not
need to run 2000 words, opening with a lead paragraph to draw
the reader's attention, and explaining all the relevant facts in order
to build understanding. Online, if someone wants to know more,
they will ask. That is another aspect of online media being

Being privately owned, some online forums do attempt a level of
decorum. Others do not. The Usenet newsgroups are infamous
for their flamewars. Both of those parameters can be "good" or
"bad" depending on the context. The recent spate of lawsuits
between Accugrade and the ANA and others began with posts
on rec.collecting.coins, within the first month that the group
received its Usenet charter. No print publication could afford
to discuss a subject so aggressively. On the other hand, many
forums are purposely low-key to avoid the negativity of unbridled
comment. The decisions come from the owners of the websites.
Unlike print, websites have very low start-up costs. Anyone
can have one.

NOW: Numismatic Online Writers, is open on Coin People.
Registration to the website is required to post, but not to read.
That is another difference between computers and print."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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