AskHistorians is leading the charge in the online space with community engagement between the public and historians. Over 1.5 million users frequent the community to ask over 4,000 questions a month from the Flaired Members and knowledgeable users. This projects aimed to discover the trends of questions asked by the public to see the most popular topics and their change over time. I looked at the 2018 calendar year and only at threads that were not deleted.
The sorting of topics did lead to challenges and ways we, as historians, categorize topics. The most obvious example would be how Georgia (the state) and Georgia (the country) cannot be differentiated when using Named Entity Recognition. They are instead just lumped together in a hybrid of being both about the state and the country at the same time. The other challenge dealt with time and topics. People asking about Egypt versus Ancient Egypt are very different things, yet they are again hard to split when looking simply at “Egypt” in a box. In other areas it was imperative to split the differences as well as possible, even if it created overlap or obfuscation. The case with the Soviet Union versus Russia, or Nazis versus Germany are two that remained split. Therefore I tried to keep distinct topics, even if they were within the same geographical locations, unless technologically or linguistically unable to do so.
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