Folklore.org is an online history collecting site that allows users to view stories, rate and add comments to these stories, and create stories of their own. The site serves as both an archive of popular histories and a facilitator of new collecting projects.
Currently, the only project hosted by the Folklore.com site is a collection of stories about the original Macintosh development team. This project served to launch the site and attract users, so most of the stories are written by Andy Hertzfeld, who is also the author and designer of the site. Hertzfield chose the Macintosh history as a starting point because he says, it was “the most important event that I played a part in.” Although the site has not yet benefited from a large group of contributors, there is a significant body of information contained in more than a hundred entries ranging from 200 to more than 1500 words. The stories are searchable, and cross referenced in categories such as “software design,” “bugs,” “personality clashes,” and “marketing.” The stories are well written, and in some cases, the comments add richly to the original content.
The Folklore.org site is not limited to Macintosh or computing history. New projects will eventually be added as the site expands. Users can propose projects for which they would like to act as editor, and if accepted, the Folklore.com administrators will help set the project. Users can also add their own stories to any current project by creating an account and obtaining a username. This process is quick and simple, requiring no additional information besides a name and email address. Once logged into an account, the user can create stories using an automated form; however, the site administrators retain a large amount of editorial control by approving or rejecting stories before they are published on the site. Comments posted to existing stories also undergo an approval process, although a user does not need an account name to post comments or submit ratings. Additionally, the site maintains a RSS feed so that users can be notified of new postings and updates.
Although the Folklore.com site is helpful for its stories alone, it also promises to contribute to the online collecting effort through the software Andy Hertzfeld developed to run the site. The software is a set of CGI scripts written in Python, and after it is stabilized sufficiently, Hertzfield plans to release it as an open-source download that other online collectors can install on their own servers. Collectors will have to have some technical savvy, but the scripts should facilitate the collection of popular history on user-friendly, easily customized sites.
George Mason University
April 25, 2005