Thursday, 27 September 2007

Te Ara : The Bush now online

A warning
I need to begin with a warning. This is not an unbiased post. I love this project. Te Ara, for me, is a world leading project - both in the idea behind it, the execution, and the professional depth of purpose that underpins it.

The Project
First, the project - develop over 10 years an online equivalent of the Encyclopedia of New Zealand using best practice online methodologies.
The Execution
Second , the execution - bring together a whole raft of contributors - writers, editors, photography, heritage sources, et al.
The Professional Practice
Third, the professional practice - i.e figure out how all this has to be architected so that the user can navigate thorough the complexity while retaining the sense of the overall story.

In short, keeping the faith with both the subject expert - the audience - and the online medium.
So no pressure then!

The Bush
The latest theme, the Bush has 106 entries covering the landscapes, plants and animals of New Zealand as well as conservation and outdoor recreation. You can see it here.

These include entries on Maori and European exploration, Maori topics such as Taniwha and Patupairehe, and scientific entries on the eco-regions and the evolution of plants and animals.

It was was compiled by 54 leading scientists and features, has more than 2500 images, 200 maps and diagrams and 146 videos.

In short go get there.


Anonymous said...


The problem is, that it is hideously old fashioned technology. It's about top-down elitist communication channels from pompous people to stupid people. Trouble is, most of us aren't stupid.

I have tried again and again to use use Te Ara, but I am yet to find a single example of where it is more useful than stuff we can read on Wikipedia. Or other original source websites.

Try looking up Goldie on Wiki, and then lookm it up on Te Ara. Good luck.

People don't need knowledge handed down to them from would be experts. "Experts" control information for themselves. I wish they didn't. But Te Ara is a good example. It is invariably pompous, usually elitist, hard to navigate and really, really badly written.

Why is 'Pakeha" spelt with macrons on Te Ara? Think about what that means for (a) writing quality, (b) accuracy of information, (c) censorship, (d) reliability, (e) relevance to the audience.

Te Ara, see, it's written - invariably - for other prompous people to be impressed by how clever the author is, rather than for ordinary readers to understand it. Which actually proves that the authors are very stupid people indeed. With flash degees.

It is an excruiatingly badly designed website. I challenge anyone to find a worse deisgned website in New Zealand. Dammit, is there a worse designed website in the world. A tiny little frame that is hard to read and can't be linked to and takes forever to down load. Big graphical bl;aring pix that have nothing to do with the content you are reading. There is no principle of web design Te Ara doesn't violate.

No, this was the definition of bad in 1995. Now, it is just irrelevant.

The information on Te Ara is highly contentious or banal, yet pretends to be more important than other web based information. That alone makes it irrelevant.

But it costs us millions of dollars a year to run.

That's what's really wrong with it. Hardly anyone visits, cos it's rubbish. Yet the taxpayer keeps pouring momney into it.

Why aren't you outraged about that Paul?

Here's another thing. What is " Te Ara"? What does it mean? How many people, after millions and millions of dollars have been poured into it are going "I must Te Ara that?" None. That's right.

The site takes money from poor people, and gives it to snobs who like to package information for their own elitist demonstrations of their own importance.

We actually tax poor poeople to spell the word 'pakeha" with macrons. To be homnest, I can think of better stuff for my tax money to be spent on.

I think th world would be better off if Te Ara had never been invented.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. I have tried using it and just found it confusing. I looked up threatened species, for example and clicked on 'which species are threatened?'. The article didn't actually tell me. What was the point? And why is the 1966 encyclopedia so important? I just don't get it. This site is so last century.

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