Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.07.43

Blunt on Lebedev on Afonasin on Antiquarium.   Response to 2005.10.02



Response by Suzanne Blunt (suzanneblunt@yahoo.com)

Perhaps it takes some yahoo to look past the magnificent illusion of a wizard and to notice the person behind the curtain. In the presence of the splendor of the TLG, Antiquarium 2.0 and Dr. Sergey N. Lebedev, I am that yahoo. In Prof. Eugene V. Afonasin's review of Antiquarium 2.0, his major criticisms were price and system requirements. Lebedev dispelled Afonasin's concern about a specialized font, which is indeed included with the purchase of the program. However, the price of Antiquarium still far exceeds any of its competitors.

Is the magic of Antiquarium 2.0 worth the price? Perhaps, it would be, if the functionality of the program far exceeded its competitors. Let me tell you what I have seen regarding the functionality behind the Antiquarium curtain. I have been and continue to be pleased with the access to the TLG. I possess all the obscure fragments, ancient commentaries and paraphrasts in ancient Greek as well as all the standard Greek texts that I will ever need to study and research ancient philosophy, and then some. However, this praise belongs to the TLG and is presumably not a unique quality of Antiquarium 2.0.

I had been using Antiquarium for approximately six months, during which time I noticed a few little "bugs" in the program. However, when I discovered a very serious statistical flaw, I brought my concerns to antiquarium@eremus.org. The small concerns were as follows: (1) the 'OR' function in the 'Mass Find'/ 'F8' window did not work consistently; (2) the procedure which identified matches of the text with the search query in the 'Mass Find'/ 'F8' window did not consistently identify hyphenated words in the 'Report' window; and (3) the 'Go To' / 'Ctrl G' procedure would not go to any E1 lines in certain texts of Plato. However, the concern which finally lead me to contact Antiquarium was (4) after clicking 'Find' and thereby submitting my query in the 'Works to search' window of the 'Mass Find'/ 'F8' procedure, the number in the 'Results' window displayed a number far less than the actual number of words which successfully satisfied the conditions of my query and which the program indeed found and highlighted in the individual reports. Granted, the query that led to this discovery was a search for the root of a rather common word, 'agath-', and generated a large number of instances found in Arist. EN, but the number of words actually found was not the number displayed in the "Results" window.

Lebedev's first reaction was to dismiss concern (1) and (4) as due to my ignorance. Concern (3) Lebedev dismissed as a fault of the TLG data encoding. Lebedev only accepted responsibility for concern (2).

After I made a stronger argument for concern (1), identified the lack of E columns of some Stephanus pages in the collected works of Pl. for concern (3) and readdressed concern (4) regarding the statistical accuracy of the number displayed in the 'Results' screen, Dr. Lebedev sent me a rebuild of the program which addressed the first three minor 'bugs' successfully. From the first e-mail listing my concerns to the rebuild of the program, only five days elapsed. However, the statistical flaw (4) in the 'Results' window was still unaddressed.

After three months, the computer wizard is still not able to program the computer to calculate the actual number of times which the query matches with the text and to display that number in the 'Results' window of the 'Mass Find'/ 'F8' function. At best, Lebedev has given me a convoluted excuse regarding the program's "concept" and the number of "blocks" in the TLG data. I have lost count how many times I have repeated that a "result" is an occurrence of a unique match between the query and the text, and that the number of results should be the number of these occurrences rather than accepting Lebedev's "block"-headed answer.

After I insisted that the user should not have to understand the mechanics of the software in order to use the program and after I gave Lebedev an ultimatum that I would send my review of his technical support to every classicist, even if I had to e-mail it myself, Lebedev asked me to be patient because a solution to this problem would require time. How much more time does Antiquarium need? It has already been three months. Three months is more than sufficient time to program a simple calculation of number of matches between the query and the text. One must conclude that, if more time is required, there are serious design flaws in the "concept" of this program.

Lebedev may be able to deny clients updates to the program because the terms of the sales agreement specify the program is final "as is". Before I purchased the program, I contacted Antiquarium. At that time, Lebedev assured me that he would provide me with updates against any "bugs" free of charge. Yet Lebedev has still failed to provide a statistically accurate update to the "Results" bug. Therefore, I conclude that until the program performs without needed technical support and without bugs, this software is still in a developmental stage and not worth a premium price, at least not to me. Antiquarium's magic is definitely gone for me. As it is, Antiquarium is a pretty curtain concealing a dysfunctional program and disingenuous sophistry.

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