Hello! I’m Paul Vetch, and I head up the design and development team for the Jainpedia website, which we’re working hard on at the moment.
You may be wondering – what is Jainpedia going to be like? How will it look? Most importantly, what will it let me do that I can’t do now? Needless to say, we’ve been giving all of these questions a lot of thought as we try to sketch out our vision for what an online encyclopaedia should be like in 2009 and later.
Everyone knows about WikiPedia – it’s often the first place people visit (via Google of course!) on the internet these days when they want to find out about something, or someone, quickly. And chances are that you’ll find what you are looking for within the 2.1 million – and climbing – articles. For this reason WikiPedia has come to define people’s idea of what an online encyclopaedia looks like and ‘does’. You’ll probably also have found that the breadth and depth of articles on some subjects can be patchy, and that the written style and accuracy are also variable – something that is often talked about.
But WikiPedia isn’t the only online encyclopaedia out there.
One of the earliest electronic encyclopaedias – Microsoft’s Encarta – is still available online (although not for long). It has always had a a consistent written style and relatively short, manageable articles, although it is out of date now, and includes a lot of advertising. A more classic example is the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online – in many ways an evolution (rather than a revolution!) of the print edition. It has quite long articles, but also has some nice features which improve the experience of using them – for example a nice table of contents, and useful tools for printing and adding notes – which we’re looking closely at.
Taking a broader view of online reference resources in general, another source of inspiration for us are the recently revamped dictionary.com and thesaurus.com websites. We really like the ways in which these sites encourage users to explore, by making it easy to see and to follow connections with other words.
We already know that Jainpedia won’t be quite like any of these examples. For one thing, we have a much wider range of content – not only encyclopedia entries (i.e. ‘articles’) and media, but also several thousand manuscript images, a glossary, a thesaurus, a library of searchable texts. Plus all the content that you will be able to contribute as users. Jainpedia isn’t quite your average encyclopaedia in other words…
Over the course of the next few months we’ll be posting updates on our progress on the blog. You’ll be able to see sneak previews of Jainpedia’s design and features as it takes shape – and we’ll also be relying on you for feedback and input to make sure that we get it right!