COMPUTER RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY
All about the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
Now something for those of you who enjoy history. More importantly, and perhaps even refreshingly, it's all about Australian history, specifically. It is a database of Biographies called the Dictionary of Biography Online and has only just been made available to the public via the Web.
If you were thinking this might be a bit of a light weight project - surprise - it contains more than 10,000 articles on people who are considered to have had some kind of an important or influential role in the history of Australia and died before 1980. They are biographical articles about Australians from all walks of life. Each is a concise, authoritative account of the lives of significant and representative persons in Australian history.
The ADB Online has taken a number of key elements such as date and place of birth and death, cultural heritage, religious influences, and occupations and then placed on the web and provided a wide variety of means or pathways by which users can find biographies that are of a particular interest to them.
So how do you navigate the web site? Give us a bit of a brief overview of how it works
Well, firstly, the web site is nicely designed and pretty much clean of clutter, in other words it's pretty intuitive to use. Once you've actually entered the site, you'll see different ways to browse around the links: by people, by occupation and by author.
If searching is more your thing you can get started right away by doing a quick keyword search. If you are a keen searcher and want to narrow down your broad results into a more focused result try using the "Advanced Search" right at the top of the page.
Advanced Search will let you get at some real detail oriented stuff, for instance you categorise your search by gender, cultural heritage, religious influence, occupation, place of occupation, and others.
The Search results include the name of the person and the first line or two of their biography; if you find a biography interesting to you just go ahead and "click" on their name and you will get the full article to read. Often there is a picture of the person included or a link to another persons biography where there is some kind of relationship between the two.
However if you are someone who just wants to get to the facts and a way to report them, you can also get just a summary that includes the birth and death date and place, cultural heritage, and occupation etc. There are a few links beneath the summary which provide life details in a quick table, and any revisions there have been to the print version and when.
Just how big are most of the biographies? Are they massive or a good quick read?
Australian Dictionary of Biography or ADB from which the online version is derived contains biographical articles on Australians from all walks of life. These biographies are designed to range in length from 500 to 6000 words.
They state that "...the most eminent people in Australia's history are given articles of 2000 to 6000 words; other significant figures have entries that range in length from 500 to 2000 words."
While the dictionary covers usual fields as politics, business, religion, the land, the professions and the arts, it also attempts to reflect the extraordinarily rich variety of Australian life by including representatives of every social group and sphere of endeavour. Articles on these representative people are usually 500 to 750 words in length."
This sounds like it might be of interest to a great many people - many of whom may have actually known the individuals involved and may have additional information to add or even corrections to the biographies themselves. Is there a way the can go about advising the people in charge of maintaining this web site? Well it seems the good folks who run this web site have made every endeavour to ensure accuracy of biographies and their translations to a web based context but they clearly recognise that there may be clarifications required. In fact I think they would very much welcome them so anyone who notices any defects are invited to contact the ADB staff.
So if you believe that a factual statement in a biography is incorrect or you have some additional information on a person use the Contact page link on the site itself to advise the staff.
So how much does it cost to use? Good news! The ADB Online is available free on the web. It has been designed to enable and encourage well-informed and knowledgeable information in the electronic world, and to provide a service to all users of the Internet. Future online editions of the work continues on both the improvement of the content and enhancement of the underlying database. At this stage any ongoing hard-print volumes of the ADB will be incorporated in the online edition.
A nice bit of Australian ingenuity!
Keep up to date with the latest in the IT/Communications industry by listening to ABC Local Radio on FM107.1, every Tuesday morning at 9.15AM.
Computer Research & Technology Managing Director Arthur Hissey and Morning Host Janice McGilchrist will be discussing current matters of interest and future directions in the IT industry.
Transcripts of these discussions and other topics are available, just click on the links.
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