Tijl Vereenooghe (K.U.Leuven)
Authorship: The TAY project is an entirely independent effort with no institutional affiliation. The website mentions several dozens of collaborators. Overall coordinator is Oğuz Tanındı.
Site Host: The Tay project hosts itself.
Permanence: The website has been running since August, 1998. Sustainability seems to be an important issue for the whole TAY project; no explicit measures to ensure the permanence of its website are mentioned.
Site maintenance: The site was last updated on February 20, 2006 (visited: February 24, 2006).
Peer Review: There is no mention of the peer review policy.
Contact: TAY Project. Kuruçesme Cad. 67/B, 34345 Kuruçesme, Istanbul, Turkey. Tel: +90 (212) 265 7858 - Fax: +90 (212) 287 1298 - e.mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For this review the website was tested in several browsers: Firefox 1.5, Internet Explorer 7 (beta 2) and Opera 8.52.
The TAY project has been designed to build a chronological inventory of findings about the archaeological settlements of Turkey (mounds, monuments, tumuli, cemeteries, etc.) and to share this information with the international community. The project started in 1993. As such, the project is attempting to provide a data pool and a scientific reference base for all concerned individuals and institutions.
The TAY project has been present on the Internet since 1998. Leaflets for individual archaeological sites have been published since 1996. The website supports the electronic publication of the collected data and the worldwide presentation of the Anatolian and Thracian heritage. The data are being collected through a survey in all regions of Turkey.
As it is clear the whole project is powered by the personal commitment of its team of volunteers, this has been taken account for this review.
The website is extremely slow; almost all pages take a lot of time to download completely. Repeated visits to the website prove that this is not just a temporary issue. Without any doubt the website runs on a slow server, but the exuberant web design plays a role as well. (See figure 1.) This issue should be a high priority for the web master, as it seriously hampers the accessibility of the data and the visitor experience. Only the very serious user will put up with the delays to gain access to the data.
It is difficult to estimate the impact of the website as no visitor statistics are provided.
The website has been on-line for almost eight years. Probably as a consequence of this long history, navigation and design are not very consistent. The homepage looks like an arbitrary collection of different buttons, an effect that is reinforced by an excessive use of animated gifs. Moreover, several navigation buttons on the English homepage refer to sections that are only available in Turkish. This makes it quite difficult for the visitor to get an overview of the content. Finally, the homepage includes a mysterious black square, that apparently has no function at all.
As a first-time visitor to the TAY website one needs some time to find out which content can be found where. The main navigation bar is not really self-explanatory, including sections such as 'TASK', 'TAYEx' and 'TAYNet'. Some of the other navigation buttons also have cryptic names, as for example 'Mound Silent Villages' (which leads to some artistic pictures from an archaeological site). The latter is a good example of a section of the site that is not very well integrated into the homepage: the design is completely different, and there are no navigation buttons, making it difficult to return to the homepage after browsing the photographs.
The website is bilingual (English and Turkish). However, some of the sections are only available in Turkish. For example, the news section of the website is only in Turkish. It includes articles from newspapers and other websites, and seems to be updated regularly (last article dates from February 18th).
The TAY project team systematically surveyed all of Turkey and documented the current state of sites and the extent of destruction on all sites, from Paleolithic to the end of the Early Bronze Age. The results of the survey are now available on the TAY website. It is however not really clear if these efforts will be continued for later sites as well. For an occasional visitor of the site it might be strange that only prehistoric sites are included, and queries for well-known classical sites in Turkey return no results.
The website focuses on the destruction of archaeologically valuable sites through modern human activities. The sections 'snapshot of a destruction' and 'destruction report' include plenty of examples of these destructive activities, abundantly illustrated with pictures. Unfortunately some pages contain so many pictures, that they take ages to load.
One of the main parts of the website is the TAY database. (See figure 2.)If one is able to access the database (it loads very slowly, sometimes never finishing), the information can be consulted in several ways. One can browse the information chronologically, or use the map of Turkey to browse the sites per province. A search function is available to query the records, but the surplus value of this function seems rather low. Queries for important cities (e.g. Istanbul) or well-known archaeological sites (e.g. Priene or Sagalassos) return no results. A query for 'Burdur' (both the name of a city and province) gives you 90 results, but one could have found these records also by clicking the Burdur province on the map. The records have some basic information, and sometimes include imagery. Unfortunately, quite a number of records don't have any information associated with them. A minor remark is that no Turkish characters are used in the database.
As the TAY project sets off on the basis of user participation, visitors are encouraged to add new settlements to the database or send corrections or or comments about existing settlements through a form on the website. After a review by the publishing team, these contributions will be incorporated in the updates of the information about archaeological settlements. This seems to be a very good way to gain information without much cost, but it is impossible to judge if visitors really make use of this possibility.
After the database, we head on to the next promising part of the website: the GIS application. Before trying to enter the application, we are already warned that "almost all GIS applications running on the net require some patience because of the speed and technology limitations." And: "It is the patient ones that will make it to the TAYGIS!" Even a lot of patience was not enough however to access the GIS application: neither Firefox or Internet Explorer could open it during the review. After returning from a coffee break, at least the Opera browser showed an interface with a map of Turkey. (See figure 3.) We tried to activate some of the layers, but, even after reading the help file, we couldn't discover the actual aims of the GIS application, which is based on the TimeMap technology.
The other sections of the website include a short explanation of the TAY project (which is also on the homepage) and an overview of the TAY publications. There is also a section entitled 'TASK', which has information about the History, Archaeology, Art and Cultural Heritage Foundation, but it is not immediately clear what the relationship with TAY actually is. There is also a useful 'word base' which offers translations of relevant archaeological terminology. Finally, we get an overview of the members of the project team, and a short questionnaire about the website and the project.
The TAY project is - without any doubt - a unique example of an on-line archaeological inventory of an entire country. A huge amount of labor must have been invested in the collection and presentation of all the data. One can only praise the large team of volunteers for the results they have already attained.
A lot of interesting content is available at the TAY project portal www.tayproject.org. Unfortunately, the usability of the website is rather low. Chaotic navigation and speed of the website were considered most problematic during the review; these issues certainly need to be improved. A solution has to be found for the clunky GIS application as well.
-- Tijl Vereenooghe
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