06 May 2008

Making something great

There's a thoughtful post on the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) blog about the difficulties in creating an ambitious project like EOL.

Now that EOL is live and people have had a chance to look around, it is striking that 76% percent of visitors don’t return, and 44% of all visitors left in under 10 seconds. After the initial launch where, if anything, EOL was too popular, interest seems to have dropped off markedly. One possible reason for this is the relative lack of content. As I noted elsewhere, for many pages EOL compares unfavourably with other sites(.)

The blog mentions an interesting project called iSpecies. It's a sort of species-based multi-search. Luckily, it work from common names as well as scientific names. For Marmorkrebs, it brings up the English Wikipedia article (no surprise), but also several pictures.

ZipcodeZoo also looks interesting, although it's highly geared towards plants and vertebrates. But then, its target is naturalists, not scientists.

So despite the current content problems, Encyclopedia of Life still looks to have the best shot at becoming the point of call for scientists looking for research information on a species.

But I digress. The EOL project is struggling with high expectations and the curse of the internet age: impatience. People want a lot done instantly. I have to wonder if the prospect of spending years to make even a small dent in the problem of generating even a fraction of webpages needed could mortally wound the EOL venture. I think researchers need to see progress before they're willing to come on board in a significant way.

In many ways, the problems of the highly visible EOL project are much like those facing the fledgling Marmorkrebs community. With this website, I am deliberately trying to raise expectations about Marmorkrebs as a model organism. But if progress is too slow, people feel their expectations are not met and lose interest. It's a fine line to walk.

No comments: