(Andy Wootton) #1

I know there are a few people interested in history and I’ve mentioned time-lines before.
I found a definition today: a diagram showing sequences of events and the time periods between them, on some scale. I’ve been trying to make some time-lines with graphviz…

But I found this or
It’s a free open source project in ‘Big History’, started in 2012 between Berkeley, Moscow State University and Microsoft.

Has anyone used it? Could it be used to record some local history of ‘Birmingham & Midland’? This feels like a FOSS project where you can contribute globally to the software but the data gathered would be of most value locally. Maybe universities would get involved, for the links to Berkeley, Moscow and Microsoft.

Although this project is bigger than I was thinking of, I was considering a space-time-line, more than a time-line, so event data would also need an approximate location recording too. We could work out what to do with it later. For context, you’d need data at a larger scale too e.g. Current monarch of England and Wales but not Scotland. Or where the borders of Mercia were at any time point.

(Jon) #2

You may be interested in this research project from a few years ago. It involved volunteers using a mobile app to capture data relating to Birmingham geography, and for each location their unvarnished opinions and recollections would be entered and recorded to document the good, the bad and the ugly spots around the Jewellery Quarter and elsewhere.

I believe that project has been shut down, but it sounds like the sort of citizen-involvement thing that mySociety could get involved with (or perhaps already has).

(Andy Wootton) #3

Thanks. I’ll have to look at their data format.

My personal interest is really in >3-D spaces and how you model them with graphs. I tried to draw a simple family tree with graphviz and was immediately confronted with how you represent couples, whether married or not. I started with a marriage as an event but then had unmarried couples who didn’t have any event, though they might have children. Does the mother have the child or the couple? It got VERY messy very quickly.

(Andy Wootton) #4

Someone wise pointed out to me, quite late, that data models are created for a particular purpose and might not be suitable for a different purpose, yet here I am, trying to create a model that has no purpose that I’ve identified. Am I subconsciously making assumptions about function or using a data structure template and hoping purpose will flow from it? It sounds worryingly like sketching. I was trained to give a customer what they want, not to be creative.

(Jon) #5

Oh yes. That brings to mind this brilliant essay, which argues that database relations (e.g. in relation to recording the shape of a society) are in danger of ossifying social rules (such as what sort of family relations are permitted by database validation rules). (The original has been removed pending a rewrite, hence the Internet Archive link).

(Marc Cooper) #6

I’d suggest taking a look at Aeon Timeline. I have timelines for a bunch of things. Here’s a tiny bit of my Britain timeline:

That’s a mess, but only because it’s not associate with a view. It’s basically a bunch of unfiltered events from all the categories. Each event can have have user-defined configurable associations and roles.

The key is providing configurable ways for users to “look” at the data, and to have configurable associations/links between the data and for data to be applied to the events and the associations. Aeon does that pretty well. Not perfect, but a great model to launch from.

Note that you can drill into events (and various collections) for more details and associated events.

(Andy Wootton) #7

Thanks. That looks good too. Categories interest me.

I am interested in time-lines because I get lost in history but I wasn’t doing time-lines or family trees because I needed one. They were just the first thing I thought of while I was playing with graphs and trying to line things up with a graphviz rank.

Do people share their data on Aeon Timeline?

Oh, Mac & Win only :frowning: