From Lognet, issue 91/1.
Our Autumn Fundraiser: Not exactly a howling success. But we did collect about a quarter of the money we needed for that second Scientific American ad, and I do want to thank the people who responded so generously to my appeal for help. Whit Campbell, Bill Dorion, Bill Gober, Frank LaFontaine, Ida Larsen & Dick Diaz, Wes Parsons, Mike Pique, and Phil Thompson have already decided that the goal is worth contributing toward, and their collective contribution came to $855. Individually their donations ranged from $200 to $35 and averaged about $100. Thank you very much, all of you!
$855 is not very close, of course, to our goal of $3,500. But a depression is apparently settling over the land, and I think a price of $3,500 for a sixth-page ad—even in the "Worldwide Edition" of the Scientific American (which goes out in ten different languages to goodness knows how many countries) —struck a good many people as a bit high. I assure you it isn't. We will probably take in four to five times that much in gross revenues from a second and more farflung ad, and it could well double our membership as well as increasing our cultural diversity. So I'm keeping the kitty open with the confident expectation that more contributions will come in.
We're about a fourth of the way toward our goal of $3,500. That means that we need to hear from about 27 more of you if the average of $100 per contributor holds up. Why not be one of them?
Questionnaire Results: What I'll be able to say in this space won't be all that might be gleaned from your responses to last fall's questionnaire. But I'll try to summarize the most interesting findings here and then turn over the returns themselves to Jim Smith. He may wish to make further use of them in future issues.
All my remarks in what follows are based on a sample of 31 completed questionnaires; these are the returns I've received from the approximately 100 forms I sent out.
Quite the most striking feature of these responses was the high educational level of our members. The average number of years at university was around 6, making the MS or the MA the typical degree, and 7 of the 31 (23%) had Ph.D. degrees.
Educational fields (of highest degree) were extremely various, not the overwhelming majority from Computer Science that I had come to expect from our smaller 1980-85 membership group...many of whom are still with us, of course. True; the plurality of us still come from C.S.: 10 of the 31 had degrees in that field. The next most common was Mathematics with 5; Physics had 2, and Astronomy, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Law, Music, Media Studies, Languages and Drafting each had one. (Five didn't say.) So the overwhelming majority of us (68%) come from the formal or physical sciences. Anthropology, Psychology and Biology—the life sciences—were not even represented in this sample; but I know from personal acquaintance that a stout handful of such scholars (at least 5) are among our members. All in all, science of some kind is our profession.
The ages of our respondents are spread all over the map: from 21 to 69. Again by personal acquaintance, I know the age-spread among our members is even greater than that. The average age of the respondents was 43, and the median was 38.
As to occupation, nearly half our sample (15) work commercially with computers...or worked, in the case of the retired ones. Five more are students, 4 are (or were) professors, 4 are technicians of one sort or another, and 3 are practicing professionals (lawyers, physicians, etc.). Four of the 31 respondents are now retired.
Acquaintance with Loglan in this sample has been astonishingly long. Ten of our respondents date their acquaintance with Loglan from the 1960 SA article; only 3 started with us in 1990; and the average year of first acquaintance was 1973! You are, indeed, seasoned aficionados of the project.
As to tools, everyone in the sample owned L1, and 11 owned both the 3rd and 4th Editions. Twenty-one owned the 1975 dictionary; but, astonishingly, 10 didn't! (You ought to repair that defect in your equipment, Logli.)
Eleven of the 31 have all our software. Four have just the three MacTeach programs, 2 just LIP, and one of you had a LIP and M1. So 18 respondents had some software. I'm going to urge all of you who don't have any software to start with LIP. It is no exaggeration to say that having a LIP around to play with is absolutely essential to understanding the grammatical issues and problems that adorn these pages. One nuisance about LIP, to be sure, is that you have to keep sending it in for updating. But that happens because the language is growing. So it's a net advantage to everyone that new editions of LIP keep appearing. Besides, The Instutute performs these updates gratis. So it's only the trouble of sending it back to us from time to time that is your share of the update burden.
I was surprised to learn that only 12 respondents (about 40%) had the new cassettes. I think the other 60% should remedy that, Dipri Cirna. Having speech to listen to will materially increase your feeling for the language. And to members, the cassettes are only $6 apiece, for goodness sake! $12 for the pair! (Yes; we've decided to keep that 40% Member's Discount in force indefinitely. It clearly leads to full toolboxes among our members...or to filling ones. That's to everyone's advantage.)
You're evidently making some progress in learning the language. Seventy-four percent of you reported that you had gained some skill...mostly in reading. This figure probably overestimates the progress of the members as a whole, respondents to mailed questionnaires generally being biased in the enthusiasm direction! But this is, nevertheless, an encouraging figure.
I'm going to skip, now, to some of the questions we asked you about possible new tools. Do you need an index to L1? Yes; of those who answered this question, 84% said they did. A majority of those suggested that a fair price for a separate index would be around $5; so we'll produce one and that's what we'll charge for it. I believe, in fact, that Jim Smith, who has volunteered to make one for us, has already started on the project.
Only seven people said they wanted a copy of the old NB3, but all but one of these said that the old $32 price was ok. I think I can find six distributed but unused copies for you. Give me a week or two after this issue goes out to scout them out, and I'll ship them out to you six first of all.
A Reprint Edition of Notebook 3: If more people than can be supplied by the above redistribution scheme turn out to want the old NB3, then we'll have to print another run of fresh copies,perhaps as unbound notebook fillers on 3-hole paper...you supply the binder. That way the reprinted NB3 might be cheap enough to serve as a stop-gap description of the formal structure of the language until L6 comes out. So we will reissue NB3. But get your orders in to me fairly soon, Logli, so that I can get the best possible price from our printer.
L6 and the New Dictionary: If the sentiments of the 31 respondents were at all representative, you want these books, and you want them badly; and you 'd like them to come out together. But if one or the other must come out first—and of course one must—three-quarters of you would rather it was the new dictionary. We hear you.
As to whether L6—the update of NB3 that will be renamed Formal Structures— should be updatable or not, 90% of those who cared about this thought it should be...even if that made it more expensive. As for the greater cost of an updatable version, a multiplier of 1.5 was most often mentioned as "acceptable". Again, we hear you.
As to whether the new L4&5 should come out on disk as well as in print, the same near-consensus thought it should do, and a large majority of those thought the disk version should come out at the same time as the print version...even ahead of it. Interestingly enough, no one thought it should replace the print version.
A similar majority thought we should take the commercial risks of publishing a disk version, and three-quarters of these thought we should guard ourselves carefully against copying by competitors. (The only competitor we have, of course, is the Lojban group—see LN90/1:3—who could hugely simplify their own dictionary work by using ours as a template. Some respondents asked about this.) The protection most frequently suggested was a non-disclosure agreement with the buyer. Again, mia hirti tu.
A number of respondents volunteered to serve as "massagers" of the new dictionary pages, offering to take up to 15 or 20 pages of the new book as their individual work-quotas. Dr. McIvor will be getting in touch with these volunteers shortly. If others would like to lend a hand on this important project, please let RAM know at his address on the back cover. He has agreed to be our "Gideon" for this final assault on the citadel of our shy dictionary.
This is all I have space for in this SLS. There is of course much more information to be gleaned from your responses. But as I say, I'll turn them over to Jim Smith, who may wish to do some further squeezing.
Let me just mention before leaving this topic that your responses to the declension idea were very informative. They've been carefully studied by the Keugru, and you'll have our final judgement on that important and far-reaching proposal next time.
In the meantime, if any of you non-respondents would like to change your minds and become respondents in this survey, do send in that questionnaire...or write for a new one if you've mislaid it, or if, as some have told me, you never received it. It's not too late. The biographical information in that questionnaire is especially useful to us. It's good to know who we are.
The Need for a New Business Strategy: I've recently had lunch with our Trustees and Directors, and we put together a new business strategy for The Institute. The old one—which is the one on which we've been operating since 1980, when we first decided to try to make a commercial success of the language—has had some of its essential premises weakened. One, 1989 Loglan did not take off like a rocket as everyone expected it to. We sold a lot of books and software, much more than was necessary to pay for their production and advertising. But it was nothing like the apparently bottomless response that we seem to have tapped in 1975; and I'm afraid we expected it to be. Two, an untimely financial loss of my own has made it necessary—well, prudent, anyhow—for me not to bankroll TLI's GPA without limit; and again I'm afraid we expected me to. In short, I've had to call in the $11,000 I loaned The Institute in 1989 before The Institute was really through with it.
I wouldn't have needed to do this had my own finances not taken a sudden turn for the worse. We needn't dwell on my personal loss, but it is an unknown part—the jury is still out on this—of an investment I made in 1983, when Careers went off the market, to provide me and my family with a new source of income. Anyway, in Spring 1989, just before our GPA, the company in which I had invested these income-earning funds turned belly up—rather like the S&L collapses that were then taking place all over the country—and that left us without an income for awhile. Still, I managed to find enough capital to support Loglan in its hour of need. But you can understand why I wasn't able to let TLI keep the funds I had loaned it indefinitely. So when TLI made enough money last Spring to pay back about half its GPA loan, I let it.
Probably I shouldn't have. If TLI still had that surplus $6,000, it could buy that international SA ad right now and probably enjoy an even better year in 1991 than it enjoyed in 1990. But unfortunately I wasn't able to let The Institute reinvest these first fruits of its GPA.
It is true that I hoped others would take up the slack and help finance the second year's advertising with me. It is true that I hope they still will. But I'm not much good at fundraising, and that might not happen. So the Trustees and I put together a plan a few weeks ago to accomplish at a slower rate the end that a "real commercial success" was to have accomplished: namely to make the Institute independent of me, both intellectually and financially.
Divestiture & Volunteering: The essence of the plan we came up with to accomplish this end is suggested by those two words. One, it is to divest me, little by little, of my still massive role in this enterprise. That has already begun to happen; but we have some ideas about how to speed it up. Two, it is to shape the bits and pieces of my divested role into happy garments for a new and larger corps of volunteers; it is to fill those new roles quickly and appropriately with the best volunteers we can get; it is to let them forge themselves into a team of volunteers; and finally it is to turn the management of The Institute over to that team. Eventually (if this works) the new managers will perhaps enjoy that commercial success that I couldn't quite bring off. Then they can begin to hire those paid employees...perhaps themselves. But that can only come after substantial growth. So the first order of business, we felt, was replacing me. When that's done, we'll let the new managers figure out ways to raise the capital that can make us grow again.
What We Have Now: We have already, without intending to, made quite a bold start on this plan. We have already a larger number of active, superbly competent, above all, more diverse volunteers than The Institute has ever had before. We have Bob McIvor, a chemist, a polyglot, a skilled computer programmer. Retired, Bob has been devoting full time to Loglan for the past three or four years; he is my fellow Academist, our Chief Grammarian, the programmer and maintainer of all our software, and he has now taken on the additional mantle of Editor-in-Chief of the new dictionary. We have Steve Rice, a linguist, technical writer, and expert on constructed languages. Steve has taken on the chairing of the Wordmaker's Council, and is engaged in composing several popular works about Loglan. We have Kirk Sattley, a computer scientist who is taking on the editorship of the new La Logli. Kirk is with us because he was obliged to take early retirement for reasons of health; and editing our journal struck him as an ideal retirement occupation. We have Jim Smith, a computer consultant and natural organizer, who I am hoping will not only organize our communications in LN, but also be our liaison with the sci-fi community...and do all those other good things that only people with outgoing natures can do well. We also have Wes Parsons (to keep us "legal"), Randall Holmes (to keep us "logical"), and Alan Gaynor (to keep us on the leading edge of electronic education). So we already have the nucleus of the work-team that can take over from me.
But we need a few other people on that still-forming team. We need a Businessperson: somebody to plan and execute whatever it is we can and should do to keep The Institute moving commercially. We need a Corresponding Secretary: somebody to take over a part, at least, of my voluminous correspondence, someone to learn from, and ultimately replace me in that important if chatty role. We need an Order-Filler/Record-Keeper/Check-Writer & -Depositer to do all those things for us. We need a Fundraiser and Grant-Getter...perhaps above all. And we need people to fill the positions I haven't seen we need on this still-emerging team.
If you can see yourself occupying one of these roles—or any other that you think we need—now's the time to say so!
Four News Items:
One, Jim Smith's going to be doing the bulk of the copysetting for future Lognets. It was exploring ways and means of doing that that made us a month late this time. Sorry. Next time—which will be in April instead of March—we'll have gotten the hang of it.
Two, Dr. McIvor is now in Gainesville for his regular winter escape from Ottawa's snow, and so the Second Annual Eaton Metaphor Judging Tourney is now underway; see LN89/1:6 and 90/1:17. We're doing better this time and should have 60-70% of the Eaton Interface judged by the time he leaves.
Three, a fine article about Loglan, called "Loglan and the Option of Clarity", has appeared in ETC., the quarterly review of the International Society for General Semantics (Fall 1990, pp.269-79). The article is by Reed Riner, an anthropologist at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, one of the organizers of CONTACT, and an old friend of mine and the Loglan project. The article has stirred up a fine response from all over the world. General semanticists are obviously ripe for Loglan. Indeed, its editor, Jeremy Klein, told Reed that he thinks Reed's article may be "among the most significant and consequential pieces that have appeared in ETC. in recent years". I believe we already have two or three new members from it. Bravo, Reed!
Four, "Paternity, Jokes, and Song", Bill Greenhood's and my sociobiological scenario for the evolution of language and the human mind—partly generated by my work with Loglan—is going to appear in the Journal of Social and Biological Structures sometime this Spring (the Polish publication having collapsed through want of funds for such "merely scholarly" purposes) through the good offices of Djori Alan Gaynor, who read it and took it to the editor, Paul Levinson, for us. Bravo, Alan!
Finally, let me remind lo logli of two recent Offerings that not all will know about: