As it's been a week and no harm seems to have come, I'd like to repurpose this post a little, and add some status updates. Its main objective is always that of gathering intelligent feedback:

[...] I would like to hear (the actual question) the objective opinion of a professional historian, or competent amateur, on the instrument. I am an engineer, and we may see things differently (I think it's smashing). [...]

The recap: I am working on a free, public, crowdsourced, timeline map of world history, and wish to eventually involve SE and other concerned groups.

Temporarily hosted at: https://www.degrit.com/hotw <- that's for History Of The World, it is SFW.

Pressure currently: OFF - a number of things to work out on the technical side

Current ways to contribute:

  • Always - Feedback on the concept (some info is on the site, a more detailed manifest is in the works), as professional or amateur users of history.
    Discord channel id: 370562064089088001.

  • Visibility. Maybe you know someone who'd like to hear about it and give their opinion ? A spouse-colleague-child-friend who is in school, teaching at a school, or dean at the same ? A mad billionaire from Texas with a thing for history ? The list does not go on.

Current state - Technical:

The active development of borders and relevant contribution & maintenance is on hold until I can get a machine to run postGIS on (I am currently borrowing a client's Geoserver to fetch the borders).

Battle/tactical maps. After sifting through a LOT of very heterogeneous material I have decided to make a bit of ad hoc middleware, the purpose of which will be to represent the movement and actions of armies, troops, selected individuals across a time span, in a homogeneously readable way - while at the same time making it possible for users to provide content with consistency.
Since my Big Demo milestone is based on recreating 1 choice event - I am thinking the very beginning of WW2, but I'd like to take suggestions - this is the current Priority I Can Work At.

Current state - Other and plans:

In the last few days I have looked at a lot of official maps, artist's interpretations, publicly posted KMLs with vastly varied data, and read more about the invasion of Poland than I thought I ever would or should. What I gathered confirmed my impression that while a great wealth of information is available, it is in such a fragmented way that it is far less useful than it could be. In short, I believe there is a place for this initiative.

Following the Big Demo, and with an easy to understand "episode" to display, I intend to (attempt to) begin contacting a few universities and institutions nearby (I am in Rome) for feedback and/or cohoperation.

In the spirit of glasnost, I wish to clarify that I also intend, for obvious reasons, to showcase the initiative on patreon, kickstarter and whatever else as soon as I get around to understanding how they work.


Edit: all, 2017-10-18
Edit: discord channel, 2017-10-19

  • How about this map? It is not a UI beta. It actually works as far as dynamic maps are concerned.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 10:48
  • @NSNoob Good find, although I can't find any representation of events or functionality apart from navigating the year, so I can't tell if the 2 projects have anything in common beyond the dynamic borders. The scope and target seem very different.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 12:28
  • They are different, which is why I said that as far as dynamic maps are concerned, it works.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 12:46
  • Oh you meant to show that conceptually, at least dynamic borders seem to be a good idea. I get you now.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


The site doesn't work on Safari, so it's not entirely clear to me what your question is. In the event you're enquiring about how to crowdsource the data, consider looking into using machine learning to extract reasonably sane structured data out of wikipedia for your visualizations. There might be a few projects along those lines already (or a pre-structured dataset, for that matter).

  • Yes, Safari is the one that doesn't work yet :(. Thanks for looking! Some form of import from existing databases is a given, to start from, but I mean to feature a different level of detail compared to, wikipedia's odd marker on a map. The question however is about feedback from someone who is used to work with history, as they may be the ones best qualified to see or dismiss the potential of the tool in facilitating their job or enabling their habits. I like history (and maps) but as said it's not my field. In school I hated it, and I would have loved to have such a thing at my disposal.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:28
  • I'm a mere armchair historian, but this much I can put forward: good maps are rare and would be a wonderful tool to help kids put the history of their country in the context of that of its neighbors. But then, it also takes analysis to capture what matters. Take for instance this mass of small states. How does one put it in the context of Europe in an intelligible way without overwhelming a viewer with details? Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:45
  • Oho that is a beauty. Now imagine it also shows what happened everywhere on a given date at the same time, and the borders update as you go, and it's more or less what I am working on. The UI is a key part of it all, but comments are maybe not the place to delve into the philosophy behind it.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:53
  • Yes, but that would be missing the point I was trying to put forward: the main three things that mattered in there when it came to, say, France, were what was the Emperor was on about, what the Pope was on about, and was going on in the states at France's borders - plus its allies. To the East over in Poland, and you'd need a different map. From any state within the HRE, it was yet another map. In the end the raw facts probably aren't enough. You also need historians to pinpoint the signal from the noise. Some events really do matter a lot; some were much more localized. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:58
  • I hear you, and an interface that manages to do all that in a way that is useful to comprehension is indeed the main challenge. And also why the classic odd map does nothing to further the understanding of a big picture. I have been making UIs for too many purposes and too many years. It is a challenge I am up for.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 20:08

I am not a developer, so I cannot speak of the process (as Denis did).

Your map looks interesting. However, how do we contribute? It might amount to something seeing that most members are generally quite knowledgeable within their area of interest. But, I believe you need to be clearer how you believe we can contribute.

I believe this could be interesting for History SE, it does help younger/newer members, especially for more obscure locations (Central Asia, Manchurian Plains, etc.). Geography and climate are major factors in history.

By the way, the WHAT'S THIS? is on the left on my chrome.

  • Yes, it's meant to be (on the left. Thanks for looking in!). I think it's too soon to speak of contributing - the whole idea is less than a week old, there is some serious technical work still to be done - but it should behave halfway between SE and a wiki, the concerns are the same as with any crowdedited project.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 11:05
  • Ah, ok. The behave half-way between SE and a wiki would be really interesting! :-)
    – J Asia
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 11:09

Similar software is utilized by genealogists, and you may find some useful information or datasets by researching in that area. Some of the more advanced programs have a similar function to this built in which analyze all of a persons genealogical data and generate relevant maps and timelines.

A couple of quick functionality notes: I would adjust or show date information when mousing-over an event Icon. You are calling this a timeline so show those dates. You also use different icons on the map, but I didn't readily find a key or legend describing their meaning. I assume they represent different categories mentioned in the selection menu/dialog, so maybe they should be displayed there. (Apologies if I just was not seeing the process correctly.)

Considering user contributions, again referring to experience in genealogy, make sure to find a way of standardizing your location information. Many locations are redundant at different levels. If someone enters Lincoln or Washington, is it a state, county, city, highway or person?

Good luck, and keep at it!

  • Thanks for checking in, I hadn't thought of genealogy as an application for the underlying software but it's a brilliant one. Expect the UI (obviously) to be vastly improved. Re: contributions, I'm kinda hoping you guys would chip in :D - once it's ready to accept them. I'm not sure where you are going about locations though. Care to elaborate ?
    – deg
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 18:23
  • Sure, one of the issues in genealogy is gathering information from many different sources. If one source lists a person as born in city,state but the next source lists county, state, then you cant be sure the data indicates the same person without further validation. I'm just saying that when you begin adding information, make sure your data structure and entry validation can watch for duplications. Ancestry got to the point where they forced users to enter in a specific format, and double checked any entry which didn't 'fill in all the blanks'.
    – justCal
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 18:41
  • ... and that's just US based experience. Remember over time locations change name as well. One physical map site may require different names mapped according to time ranges. Byzantium,Constantinople,Istanbul...
    – justCal
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:07
  • I may begin to see where you're heading. But I don't mean to track places much beyond their functional role as a scenery for a historical event. Have you seen how many places THERE ARE ?? I have actually seen one site seemingly attempting to do that, and while it's nifty to be able to see the trillions of US towns pop into existence, you could hear the server scream in pain from far away.
    – deg
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 19:16

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