September 10, 2010

The Votes Are In!

Filed under: community,History Commons 2.0,site redesign — Max @ 9:56 pm

Okay, the votes are in, and it’s an interesting set of results and comments.

To the question, “Do you feel the History Commons is an inaccessible ‘walled garden’?” the votes are as follows:

Yes: 13
No: 58

That’s over 80% of respondents who don’t feel the History Commons is a “walled garden.” Here are some of the comments, reproduced from the poll results at PollDaddy:

“Tenstring” writes: “I would just say that the website is very raw, that is it’s just basically a collection of data — and that’s probably good. People can come and follow the timelines and come to their own conclusions. It would open a can of worms to provide analysis, although I wouldn’t be against it. It would certainly potentially complicate things, though.” Agreed. We weren’t suggesting analysis, you can get that just about anywhere and in any flavor, from hard-right to hard-left and anywhere in between. That has never been what HC is about. JZ disagrees with the idea that the Commons is “just basically a collection of data,” and has some very nice things to say about HC stacking up well against Wikipedia “in regards to value from the interconnections it reveals due to its format.” I agree with that 100%; it’s one reason why I write for the Commons instead of Wikipedia. HC contributor Erik Larson writes that HC offers “great insight into the big picture and small details are available from MSM and govt reports, but they are often ignored by the majority of pols and pundits, and missed by the general public, as they may be buried deep in the reports, at the ends of articles or on the inner pages, or only reported by a single news outlet, or only make sense in context with other information, which is not provided by MSM journalists; this is what historycommons.org does so well, and the org deserves greater attention.” Rick Mason sums it up well: “I always considered CCR as an information gathering site with verified and accurate contributions from responsible journalists. It’s where I go when I wish to make sure I’m talking about facts, not rumors. It would be great if it were interactive.”

Commentator Kevin Boulton recommends a program like Visual Thesaurus to “visually link” some of the events on the HC projects; we have considered something like this, and while I’m personally not sure VT is itself the solution, there are some very, very good visual information organizers out there that I’d love to see implemented as corollaries to our existing projects. JZ recommends looking at visual organizers such as The Brain, and steers us towards a TED video by David McCandless. The Brain looks terrific at first glance, and the video is very informative. I would welcome further discussion along these lines.

JZ asks about HC having “its own forum that is part of the site but not simply a commenting system for each entry which I think would fragment the feedback,” and recommends something along the lines of the Citizen Investigation Team forum. I would love to see such a forum implemented. If anyone has any ideas about implementing — and hosting and moderating! — such a forum, please let us know.

Overall, I find the responses heartening. We originally conceived of the idea of “History Commons 2.0” as essentially revamping the application and redesigning the site to be more user-friendly, along with adding some more interactive features. We’ve come to see that approach as lacking a fundamental understanding of what the History Commons is. As I wrote in a working draft for the HC staff: “History Commons 2.0 is not a revised app and a redone design, it’s a new community of contributors and participants.” The app will grow out of the needs and participation of the community, not the other way around. Discussions like this one are the first steps in growing a new and vibrant History Commons community. Let’s extend it by talking over some of the points above in the comments.



  1. This would be a great site for a Goldman-Sachs Timeline. We know that that firm was involved in a huge range of illegal and unethical behavior, from hiding debt for Greece, to bribing local officials to take on massive debt loads i the US. Their corrupting theBush and Obama administrations need to be fully revealed. Matt Taibbi of THE ROLLING STONE has done some great work but it is clearly just the tip of iceberg.

    Comment by Jeardie JT — September 20, 2010 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  2. I would love to see it. Would you be interested in contributing to it?

    Comment by Max — September 20, 2010 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  3. Yeah! Those sorts of topics would keep HISTORY COMMONS a popular happening site. How about all the strange things going on in the gold market or the “Flash Crash” or all the “medical studies” sponsored by the big pharmaceutical companies. These types of timelines would generate support in all sorts of ways from content to cash. I personally distribute the Wikipedia article on History Commons to the in boxes of faculty members at nearby journalism schools. And HC does not even ask for that kind of support!

    Comment by Rollster qt — October 4, 2010 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

  4. I’m up for discussing the creation of any of these projects. Rollster, you up for it?

    Comment by Max — October 4, 2010 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

  5. I don’t much know your track record and history on history, but simply if you’re associated with worldpress and follow the money, I will tend to give you the benefit of no doubt, but I am watching for a misstep…historically speaking.

    Comment by dthorn420 — September 12, 2011 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

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