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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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18.12.09

Not in Accord over the product 

These posts about models I’ve put on to Autocade traditionally went on to my Vox blog, back in the days when vox.com worked. I would group them into themes that interested me, and link the entries back to the site.
   As of tonight, we have all the Honda Accords up, and I wonder if we will crack the 1,000 barrier before the close of 2009.
   The last one to be entered was the North American-market Accord Crosstour, meaning we now have some very distinctive vehicles being sold as the Honda Accord these days.
   It might be of interest to readers here—and it does give us an insight into how much the Accord badge, now 33 years old, means to Honda. It might adorn different cars, but they all, by and large, have the same “meaning” to the consumer. This is one interesting exception to the idea of global, homogeneous markets, where the brand’s meaning is very similar worldwide, but the product offering is not.

Image:Honda_Accord_Tourer.jpg

Honda Accord. 2008 to date (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/F, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2199 cm³ diesel, 2354 cm³ petrol (4 cyl. DOHC). Longer, wider and lower Accord, building on previous model’s strengths with raised quality as Honda goes after Audi A4 and BMW 3er-Reihe. More angular, muscular styling, though not marketed as a sporty car. Collision avoidance and lane-change warning systems. Sold in US and Canada as Acura TSX.

Image:2008_Honda_Inspire.jpg

Honda Inspire/Honda Accord (CP3). 2007 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, F/A, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Larger Inspire, now with Legend 3·5 engine in home market. Boxier styling, classed as full size in the US. Sold as Accord in many markets outside Japan, including US, where four-cylinder versions are available. Considered a well balanced all-rounder in the US, and sportier than Japanese rivals.

Image:2010_Honda_Accord_Coupé.jpg

Honda Accord Coupé (CP3). 2008 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Coupé version of Honda Inspire (2007–), aimed at the US market. On shortened wheelbase, and classed as mid-sized car in US (unlike full size of the sedan). More attractive styling.

Image:2010_Honda_Accord_Crosstour.jpg

Honda Accord Crosstour. 2010 to date (prod. unknown). 5-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Much-criticized (for its looks) hatchback version of Accord, marketed as a crossover in North American markets. Pricey, less sporty, and not really a hold-all. First Accord sold in US with four-wheel drive.

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