Visualization and FlowingData


Data Visualization is one of the most exciting growth areas on the web. Who wasn’t captivated by Wordle and blown away by this graph of Box Office Receipts 1986-2008?

So one of my favourite new blog discoveries is FlowingData. Where I discovered that the Box Office visualization is powered by Stream Graph.

If you want to try out a wide range of visualization options without needing to install any software, Many Eyes is absolutely fab.

More data visualization tools.

Old Bailey Proceedings 2.0


Well, it’s been up for a few weeks now (I meant to post about it over Christmas. Strangely, that didn’t happen…) – we’ve launched a new community wiki for users of the Old Bailey Proceedings.

The wiki is intended as a supplement to the main site itself: both a resource for researchers, teachers and students and a community space for sharing information related to the history of the Old Bailey and the people who appeared there between the 17th and 20th centuries.

There are several main areas for contributions:

1. Biographical material about individuals (and families) who are documented in the Old Bailey Proceedings and Ordinary’s Accounts, drawing on source materials beyond the Proceedings themselves.

For example, perhaps you’ve researched your family history and found some of your ancestors in the trial reports at the Old Bailey Proceedings Online. The wiki may help you to find people who have uncovered different parts of the same puzzles as yourself, whilst also offering additional information to readers of the Proceedings that we could never provide. Here’s a nice example someone’s already posted, about a Thomas Dobyns who appeared as prosecutor in this trial.

2. Information supplementing the Historical Background sections of the main site. There are many unfamiliar things mentioned in the Proceedings – eg, forgotten places, objects, clothing, food and drink, London’s local histories and communities, the development of criminal justice and policing. We’d also welcome information about other primary sources of relevance to the Proceedings – newspapers, criminal biographies, archival sources, etc.

3. OBP-related teaching resources. We’ve already placed copies of the old Schools pages at the wiki for teachers to use, either to update those pages or simply to give some ideas for entirely new pages. We hope that the wiki can become a major resource for teachers and students at all levels of the education system.

4. A new version of the OBP Bibliography (to which users can also add items, although this is a slightly more complex procedure than the rest of the wiki).

5. Last but not least, you can let us know about errors in the OBP transcriptions and data.

Moreover, we plan to create extensive links between the information at the wiki and the main site so that contributions to the wiki, large or small, can enrich the experience of OBP visitors. I’ll try to keep you all updated on progress.

It’s going to be interesting!

Who writes Wikipedia?


Who the hell writes Wikipedia anyway? asks Henry Blodget. (H-T.)

Jimmy Wales has asserted that Wikipedia is overwhelmingly the work of a fairly small core Wikipedia community. But it seems that’s only true if you count numbers of edits. If you look at content, Aaron Swartz argued, it’s a different story.

When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

That is perhaps particularly striking in the light of the many complaints I’ve read from academics and other specialists who’ve contributed their knowledge to Wikipedia and then painfully seen their work trampled, chewed over (and sometimes spat out) by people with far less understanding of the subject in question – but far more understanding of how Wikipedia works.

If Swartz is right (and NB that it does appear to be based on a very small sample of pages), then this is a crucial dynamic, and I suspect not just for Wikipedia but for many wikis and similar Web2.0 sites. Which is of particular interest to me right now for reasons that I meant to post about before Christmas and, um, forgot. (Watch this space.)

Good Digital Things for a New Year


Back to work on Monday. Bah. Do not want. Apart from that, Happy New Year everyone!

Sarah Werner’s Wynken de Worde, a fine blog with an emphasis on early modern books and reading, has won the Cliopatria History Blogging Award for Best New Blog.

Mercurius Politicus has found some splendid manuscript, palaeography and book history resources. Manuscript sources are the next big growth area for digital early modernists, as digitizers work out that although it’s not that easy, it’s not that hard either.

But there are losses in digitization. Diapsalmata has been reading a special issue of Image and Narrative on Digital Archives, in which several articles engage with the relationship between digital humanities and the archive.

Whereas Ted Vallance has some thoughts on those quaint paper book thingummies in 2008. (His New Year’s resolution is to buy fewer rubbish books in 2009.)

Chris at the Virtual Stoa has a New Year’s Resolution I can really get behind. Eat more butter. Mmmmmmm.