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A "quoting" function for online platforms

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 22, 2021
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The idea: A "quoting" function to quote any online text exactly and provide an automatic link to the original source.
Background: We copy-paste a lot of things. Videos and images are relatively easier to track back to their sources than words. It would be great if we could use quotes freely across platforms giving due credit to the author. Currently, the closest thing to this is the "sharing" or the "retweeting" features. There are two problems with these - 1. You need to share or retweet the entire thing. You cannot pick up sentences from the source and use them in your text that easily. The citation system used in modern science is what inspired this idea. The citation system lets you attach a source document to every sentence you write, which is not based on your work. This system is common in the science community and is an inseparable part of any piece of research. 2. There is no automation in this sector. The new author quotes someone else and mentions the name of the person or the link from where the text was taken. All this needs to be done manually currently.
How will the idea work? - Ideally, you switch on the "quote" function and start typing. The system searches the web in real-time and identifies matching pieces of text. The oldest is given priority. If the similarity is more than, say 95%, it asks if you want to quote it. The new author can then choose to quote it. After quoting, the text appears in a different color, as a link appears in blue. At the end of the quote, the author's name and year appear. For example, (John Doe, 2011). You then go on typing the next sentence and the process repeats. Now a more feasible system would be to click on the "quote" function. A text box (just like Google) appears and you feed in the quote you want to use. For example, if you type in "Be yourself, everybody else is already taken", the system searches for the quote and gives the oldest >95% match available on the web. You accept the quote and the text is highlighted with the name of the author and the year. The common words and phrases will not be searched automatically to reduce the noise in the search results you get.
What existing tools could be used? - It is basically everything that you do on Google manually. The idea is to automate it. The best part is, even if a quote is used multiple times, you get the oldest hit. While reading, when you come across a quoted text, you may choose to click on it and it will take you to the page and highlight the text there, just like Google does.
Advantages: 1. Quoting becomes super-easy. You may remember a quote but may not find the original source. Even if you find it, you need to manually add the original author's name and link. All this hassle goes away. 2. You can quote irrespective of whether you know the quote exists. 3. You may choose not to quote. However, that sentence will never pass on as yours since anyone who wants to quote it, will get referred to the original author. 4. Whatever you say on the internet, stays in your name forever. No one, even with multitudes of followers, can post it as their own and get away with it. 5. No one could pick your words out of context and say that you said the unintended thing. The quote function will allow the new author to delete some pieces of text from the quote (not above a threshold) but that deletion will be visible to all (using "...." markings). Readers can then go back to the source and read what was actually written.
Disadvantages: 1. Buffering while writing since the search function may take some time to find the oldest match for your text. Therefore, I suggest starting with the more feasible option, which is to add a quote search box and not automatically search every phrase/ sentence you write.
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J
Juranium Oct 22, 2021
I like the idea, but it's facing huge challenges. Here I present some of the biggest problems and solutions (as features) of the tool to make it work smoothly:
  • Not all original sources (full texts) of certain quotes are available online (books, old documents, ...), so the oldest hit would not necessarily be the original --> the community that would correct the wrongly quoted sources
  • Edited or rebuilt webpages would have newer content and would not be quoted, even though they are the original source of the quote --> special "treatment" of the updated pages
  • Quoting simple phrases (especially simultaneously from multiple users) could cause a tool to use too much computational power and crash --> limit of the minimum quoting phrase to 10 words
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarnia month ago
All good points, Juran! Thank you for the solutions. I had thought of the first point, too. In response, I think everything here onwards will be on the internet and the idea would be useful going ahead. There might be instances of wrongful citation of stuff not on the internet, but as you pointed out, the community may help with that. I imagine most old texts have been digitized - at least those that had been published for sale. Correct me if I am wrong. Because, as Kalev Leetaru put it, "In The Digital Era If It Hasn't Been Digitized Does It Even Exist?" The edited webpages would be a problem, yes. I had not thought of that. What kind of special treatment are you thinking of? Maybe if the page is edited and the newer version does not carry the quote, that page will no longer be the top hit for the next person who wants to use that quote. But what about the pages that have already quoted the edited wedpage? These existing links will become void. In response to the third point you mentioned, how about only the quotes that have been shared 1k times are available for quoting using the "quoting" function? This is to reduce the number of things the program needs to scan through to find a matching quote. As computational power grows, the threshold could be lowered. I am not sure whether limiting to 10 or so words is a good idea since quotes could be longer. On the other hand, I am okay with not including certain quotes because they have not gained much traction yet.
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J
Juraniuma month ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I could agree with Kalev and that problem should disappear soon, if still not.
The "edited pages problem" could be actually very different, depending on what happened to the page/content.
  • My first thought was "if the algorithm seeks for the oldest hit to cite the quote, edited (thus newer) pages would not be even close to getting quoted as a source". --> To solve this, I imagine a special team of developers should deal with these and create sort of a database to keep track of the "oldest versions" of these web pages. That way we could be able to quote the oldest hit, even if the page is edited.
  • The second problem could emerge if the edited web page does not contain the original quote anymore. --> I think the page would then lose its position as the oldest since it does not represent the quote in its original form anymore.
  • The third problem would happen if the page gets deleted or edited, but certain pages already quoted it. --> The solution could be to have the "update quotes" function integrated into the web page editors. Web developers could easily do the requoting by requesting the update once in a while.
Regarding the limit of words, I agree that the 1k-quoted phrases could make things a lot easier, but I think you didn't get my point. I would set the limit to a minimum of 10 words. That way no short, ever-repeating or simple phrases such as "homo universalis", "mea culpa" and similar would be "quotable". That would significantly reduce the computational requirements since 10-word phrases are easier to match (same as the small RNAs binding to the whole genome :D).
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarnia month ago
Juran Ah! I missed the "minimum" part. Yes, that could be done. Cheers to the biological reference! :) Thank you the solutions to the "edited pages problem". I will give it some more thought.
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Quoting sentences from videos using transcripts

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 25, 2021
Some quotes originate during interviews or talks and are not always written by the author. They could be quoted using transcripts. Youtube videos have transcripts. Although they are not 100% accurate (they will improve), they could be used to extract quotes.
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General comments

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Aashi Agarwal
Aashi Agarwal2 months ago
Hi Shubhankar! I like this idea and have myself felt the need for it quite a lot of times. However, is it similar to BibMe which claims to check for missing citation and checks for unintentional plagiarism, providing an option to cite the source? I have not used it personally so difficult to say if it actually does that.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarnia month ago
Hi Aashi Agarwal! I had not heard about BibMe, so thank you. I gave it a brief look and I think it is a plagiarism checker. It highlights the sentences, the essence of which, is already on the internet. Why essence? - Because it looks for meaning or keywords rather than matching sentence structure. Even though you have paraphrased it, it will highlight it if you have not cited a source. Also, it does not search the entire internet for keywords. It is more academic since it gave me 90% Pubmed hits and 5% hospital websites. The remaining 5% were blogs. However, it uses the same mechanism to search for the keywords, which I intended with my idea. As I said, the technology for realizing the idea is available, but separately. I think the idea would be useful for social media, as well. Imagine having a quote function on Twitter or Facebook.
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