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.’