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29.12.09

Research isn’t that important if you write in an encyclopædia these days 

Here’s a very good example for why I don’t think Wikipedia can be trusted. Below is a screen shot of a page at Wikimedia Commons, which I assume is where you can submit pictures for Wikipedia. I applaud those who give up their copyright on images (and have done so myself from time to time), but it might help if they were in the right place.
   Here are some pictures on a page about the Hyundai Sonata Y1:



Problem: not a single one of these cars is the Hyundai Sonata Y1. (Here’s what it actually looks like.)
   On the Y2 page, two out of twelve people got it right, which is roughly how the population works, anyway: for every two smart people, there are ten thickos.
   Granted, Hyundai itself has not helped things by calling the third-generation model, even in Korea, the Sonata II, which I suspect is how this error propagated. That, and people wanting to contribute to an encyclopædia but who refuse to do any research. It’s a dangerous mix.
   Just because a bunch of people believe in erring doesn’t make it true. Which summarizes my attitude toward Wikipedia. And Rogernomics.
   Incidentally, I recognize there are some positive aspects to Wikipedia’s existence—these were covered in the comments to the earlier post. I agree it is a landmark in the growth of the internet. Maybe one of the commenters is right about the science articles having fewer disputes (or, it shows the relatively good training of scientists and their willingness to settle things in a civilized fashion, rather than any merit on Wikipedia’s part).
   And without MediaWiki, there would be no Autocade. (In fact, if Wikipedia were accurate, I would never have started Autocade. It’s partly because of errors like the above that I did.)
   However, it remains the only volunteer site to my memory where a senior admin has gone out of her way to send me email abuse privately (while exposing that you don’t need to be particularly smart to be an admin there). After the Wikipedia defenders came to the site’s rescue in June, along comes one of their own to undo their diplomacy—and then some.

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27.12.09

When Chrysler had world-beaters 

Remember when Chrysler made cars that people (even the industry) salivated over? It wasn’t that long ago.
   The original, base LH cars went up on Autocade today. It’s a real pity these were not widely exported: Chrysler could have cleaned up Down Under if there were right-hand-drive versions, especially as the Holden Commodore was beginning to march up the sales’ charts during these model years. (We also put up all the Triumph Spitfires.)

Image:1996_Chrysler_Concorde_LXi.jpg

Chrysler Concorde (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Chrysler’s version of the LH large cars, similar to Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid of these years. More upscale than either Dodge or Eagle, but below LHS. Huge interior room thanks to the cab-forward design. Interior trim still a bit tacky, despite upmarket pretensions.

Image:Dodge_Intrepid.jpg

Dodge Intrepid (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Dodge version of Chrysler’s LH (rumoured it meant Last Hope) cars, with chassis elements derived from Renault Premier. Very good handling, even by European standards. Cab-forward look meant greater space, with three sitting across back comfortably. Well built range. ES had stiffer suspension.

Image:1995_Eagle_Vision.jpg

Eagle Vision (LH). 1993–7 (prod. 105,000 approx.). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Handsome cab-forward sedan, twinned with Chrysler Concorde (1993–7) and Dodge Intrepid (1993–7). Eagle was considered the most European of the three, and meant to fight the imports. Still modern looking and striking many years on, with excellent use of space thanks to the cabin extending far forward. Excellent handling and grip, but some plasticky interior trim not particularly appealing. Exported to Europe as Chrysler Vision. Last Eagle, as Chrysler retired the marque in 1998, and its successor was badged as the Chrysler 300M.

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21.12.09

Autocade release goes out 

Autocade home page

We sent out the Autocade press release today. Mico Santos was the first to break the news.
   With how I’m enjoying Tumblr, and how Lucire editor-at-large Summer Rayne Oakes and fashion ed Samantha Hannah enjoy their Flips, it seems there is, as Wired pointed out, a trend toward “good enough”. We used that as the hook for the release.

Autocade car database site takes Twitter’s “good enough” approach

New Zealand- and British-developed site focuses on providing 80-word summaries of car models made after 1970

Wellington, December 21 (JY&A Media) In an era when the Flip’s camera quality is sufficient for most people, and when Tumblr and Tweeter serve as channels of communication, sometimes “good enough” is all that people need. Autocade, a new online car database at autocade.net, follows the same philosophy.
   Instead of long-winded pieces that one might find on Wikipedia or websites devoted to certain models, Autocade has one-paragraph summaries, along with basic technical information.
   The website, editable by the public, boasted its 1,000th model entry today. It is the brainchild of Jack Yan, who has had a track history of being a pioneer.
   Mr Yan was the first digital typeface designer in New Zealand, one of the country’s first web publishers, and the founder of Lucire, a fashion magazine which began online but has since spawned international print editions. The Media department of his company, Jack Yan & Associates, is behind Autocade.
   He says that he was tired of seeing the errors in Wikipedia, where contributors often failed to double-check their sources, and aimed to build something better.
   However, he believes that many users want quick information and do not have time to sift through long articles.
   ‘I haven’t seen a site like this yet, despite the web having been with us for 20 years,’ he says. ‘You either see really long articles, or very technical pages that only experts would get any value from. Others are market-specific and tied to automotive retail. I wanted a quick, accurate, international resource.’
   Each entry has an average length of 800 bytes, or around 80 words.
   He takes one lead from Wikipedia by making the database editable by the public, specifically registered users. The site is driven by MediaWiki, the same software behind Wikipedia.
   ‘Let’s make it open to edits, but let’s also monitor those changes so that Autocade remains accurate and true to its original spirit,’ says Mr Yan.
   He says every entry on Autocade has been meticulously checked against published sources. He wants to see this continue, by allowing only registered users who are serious about maintaining the website’s global, accurate point of view.
   Mr Yan claims Autocade is truly international, in the spirit of the original web.
   ‘If you visit the English Wikipedia, there is a natural bias toward English-speaking territories. It’s understandable: it has more contributions from natural English speakers. However, when it comes to dealing with cars sold outside the United States, in particular, it falls short in many cases,’ he says.
   His aim with Autocade was to have a website that would not have the same biases, by giving the same emphasis to models regardless of their country of origin. He admits that there will naturally be some bias, but it is not as strongly felt.
   He says the site’s focus has been on automobiles made in his lifetime (from the 1970s on), since he had more readily available published resources. But Autocade welcomes any models, provided the information is accurate.
   The photographs have to be either publicity shots where copyright has been waived, or original work by the contributor.
   While it has some popular models such as the original Volkswagen Golf and the entire lineage of Toyota Corollas, Mr Yan has seen fit to add obscure cars such as the Luxgen M7 of Taiwan, the Kish Khodro Veek of Iran, the Pakistani Adam Revo, and the Korean, Holden-based Camina.
   ‘In some of these cases, Autocade is the first site to get this information online. In other cases, we’re the first to publish the information online in English,’ he claims.
   He says his inspiration was the work of the late Michael Sedgwick, who authored a series of guides in the early 1980s for Haymarket’s Classic and Sportscar. The format was later followed in Classic and Sportscar’s sister magazine, Your Classic, in some of its guides.
   The one-photo, one-paragraph format adopted by Mr Sedgwick gave a useful overview of production years, body styles, engine choices and a brief impression of the model.
   Mr Yan used that as his inspiration, but has been careful to not duplicate the format exactly. In addition, he has appended production locations and links to the models’ predecessors and successors, something that could not have been done practically in print.
   ‘Haymarket’s position with Autocade was that they were fine with the site as long as the content was original,’ he says. ‘That was perfect as far as we were concerned, since we have published magazines for two decades and unoriginal content would have been out of the question.’
   JY&A Media, part of Jack Yan & Associates, did Autocade’s overall design (based on a template by Paul Gu, www.paulgu.com) and hosting. Peter Jobes (www.peter-j.co.uk), a British web designer and developer, customized MediaWiki for the site’s needs. Mr Jobes is currently working on Yappey (www.yappey.com), a UK social networking site.
   Autocade entered its alpha and beta testing phases in March 2008. Mr Yan had gone on record to say that once the site had reached 1,000 models, the beta tag would be removed. The 1,000th model, the Turkish Tofaş Doĝan, went online on December 20, 2009.

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20.12.09

Autocade hits 1,000 models; beta tag goes off 

We began the journey in March 2008 and we are now there: our website Autocade has reached 1,000 models, which means the beta tag gets taken off and we present the site to a wider audience.
   The 1,000th car is very unusual and I doubt many people outside Turkey, aside from car enthusiasts, have even heard of it.

Image:Tofas_Dogan.jpg

Tofaş Doĝan (131). 1986–2002 (prod. unknown). 4-door saloon. F/R, 1581 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 1585 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Rebodied Fiat 131, which had been built under licence by Tofaş as the Murat 131. More high-line than Şahin. Fairly basic transport, initially with OHV engine, before newer OHC unit added in the 1990s.


   As I explain in the press release, which goes out tomorrow, the timing seems right for such a site. We are now accustomed to the brief ways of communicating, such as Twitter and Tumblr. And as shown recently in an issue of Wired, there is a trend toward “good enough”—products such as the Flip do not rely on the highest quality, but the ease of sharing information.
   My thanks to all those friends who have supported this venture during the beta phase.

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