Back in time

Histropedia builds interactive timelines

Histropedia builds interactive timelines

First published in Internet

HISTROPEDIA, launched at Wikimania – Wikimedia Foundation’s annual conference – has the goal of creating “the world’s first fully interactive timeline for all of history from the big bang to the present day.”

That’s a pretty lofty aim, but the beta version is now live at Histropedia.com, and it’s beautifully simple.

Search for existing Wikipedia articles and you can add them to the blank timeline with a photo and different coloured line to represent each timespan. Simultaneous events are stacked on top of one other and you can zoom in or out to vary the overview – from millennia to day-by-day detail.

Right now there are one million Wiki articles in the Histropedia database, but if the entry you want to add doesn’t have dates specified, an easy editing tool lets you add them. The interface is clean, clutter-free and a doddle to navigate.

Once you’ve got a timeline set up, that’s when the educational advantages of Histropedia really kick in – and why it’s better than similar existing timeline sites like Tiki-Toki. A side panel contains more resources on each entry, including relevant Twitter pages, books and movies (with links to buy them) and, of course, the corresponding Wikipedia page. Having the page embedded is really handy, as you don’t have to keep swapping between windows to find out more.

Histropedia is set to get even better too. The authors, Navino Evans and Sean McBirnie, are now working on the next phase, with the aim of using Wikidata (the data-driven arm of the Wiki stable) as the main source for each event. They also want to enable ready-made timelines by bringing entire Wikipedia categories on board.

So a pupil studying the American Civil Rights movement, for example, could see all the major milestones of the period in just a couple of clicks.

It won’t surprise you to learn, then, that Evans trained as a teacher, and that his idea was borne out of a desire to create more engaging lesson plans.

“We have already seen first-hand the impact the tool can have in the classroom after Navino used Histropedia to teach two trial lessons to year 6 students,” McBirnie said, adding the visualisation of dates “definitely helps students to grasp history more easily.”

If Histropedia takes off like Wikipedia has (the crowd-sourced encyclopaedia averages about 11million edits a month), it will become a hugely valuable resource for students and teachers alike.

AMAZON VERSUS THE WORLD

THE long-running dispute between Amazon and publishing house Hachette over eBook pricing shows no sign of nearing a ceasefire if a full-page ad in the New York Times last week is anything to go by.

The open letter from Authors United, a group of nearly 1,000 writers formed by US novelist Douglas Preston, urged Amazon to “stop harming the livelihood of the authors” by halting preorders of their books.

Douglas claimed, in a separate email to supporters, that the online retailer had strengthened sanctions by scrapping discounts on most Hachette authors’ books.

Meanwhile, it looks like another spat has sparked in the movie world. With copies of some Disney DVDs unavailable for order on Amazon, this battle is nearing blockbuster proportions.

TROUBLESHOOT THE MESSENGER

IF you’ve so far resisted Facebook’s attempts to make you install its standalone Messenger app on your iPhone, you’re going to like this.

A trick has been discovered to stop the app downloading and allow you to carry on chatting as usual. When the app prompts you to download Messenger, hit install, then immediately switch to the App Store and stop the installation before it completes.

Switch back to the old app and it’ll be the same as before. I can’t promise this technique will work forever, as the bods at Facebook might find a way to prevent it, but if that happens, and you’re still determined to avoid Messenger, switch to using the social media site in a web browser.

Websites of the week:
Foreign languages

  • Free gamified learning of six European languages Duolingo.com
  • 50 awesome facts about languages Edudemic.com/language-quiz
  • Spanish, taught by cats Catacademy.com
  • How to learn a language like Mezzofanti the hyperpolyglottiny.cc/mezzofanti
  • The Mezzofanti Guild, an online community for language learners Mezzoguild.com

Thing of the week
Cucalu, the photo app that teaches you to be more perceptive Cuca.lu

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