Blog Post

Social media and collaborative history

Social media and collaborative history

The MarineLives project uses a variety of digital and social media to communicate with its volunteers, and to reach a wider and developing public.

Last November we reviewed our project's approach to communication, and specifically our use of three specific vehicles - Facebook, Twitter, and the Shipping News blog - and explained our thinking behind their use.

November's review can be viewed  using the following link Colin Greenstreet, Communicating Marine Lives, The Shipping News (November 24th, 2013)

Today's article reprises our social media strategy, and updates our statistics for the Shipping News blog readership.

This single article was the prompt for more than one third of the eventual thirty volunteers who worked on the MarineLives project between September and December 2012.

Shipping News blog in September 2012. This blog has become our vehicle to communicate synthesised content from the English Admiralty Court archives. After an early flurry of articles, we have settled down to a publishing rate of two or three new articles each month.

As our blog has grown in importance, it has replaced our website as our primary vehicle to publish synthesised material.  And as our corpus of full text transcriptions has grown to over 1.5 million words, the citations supporting our blog articles increasingly point through hyper links to a range of wikis containing the full text transcriptions, such as Annotate HCA 13/72 (the Admiralty Court deposition book for the years 1657-58).

Tempting as it has sometimes been to get content “out there”, our most read articles have been those into which we have put most work, in terms of text, images, and interactive maps. Good examples of highly viewed articles are: Fishing for whales, part one (January 22, 2013), The Admiralty Court and the Spanish West Indies (October 7th, 2013), and Language and Identity (November 8th, 2013).


The final piece in the strategy has been to use Colin Greenstreet’s personal account as a repository for published project documents. This is probably not the long term solution, but has the short term merit of being easy to use, with decent analytics of document views, and easy integration with other social media.

The top documents viewed via this repository are our Digital humanities and technical partnership discussion document (July 23, 2013) and our Case study of London whaling ship, the Owners Adventure, in 1656 (September 12, 2013).


Launched: September 22, 2012

Stats: 32 postings (avg 1.9 per month), 28,600 blog visits and 59, 000 page views since launch

Use: Communicate synthesised, strongly visual content; encourage trial of other MarineLives resources:

Shipping News blog views are reported as running at over 2000 per month since the middle of 2013, hitting 3,000 in January 2014. These data strip out spam and spiders, but still probably contain some automated and other attempts to access or post to the blog.

Close inspection of the individual IP addresses, combined with country of origin, and the specific pages the viewers enter on and dwell on, suggests that the true viewership of the blog is running at 1300 + views per month.

The effect of social media promotion of new blog postings is quick, as can be seen for our posting on the Admiralty Court and the Spanish West Indies in the figure below

The interactive Google Map displayed in the blog posting above was accessed 240 times in the first six weeks following its publication on October 4th 2013, and has now been accessed 692 times in the four and a half months since publication. 

An earlier map of Admiralty Court depositions by French witnesses in HCA 13/71 (1656-57) was published on December 16th, 2012, and has been viewed a remarkable 2,904 times in the subsequent fourteen months post publication.

In the figure below, the first peak in blog views was generated by the first two of three Tweets, and the second peak was generated by the one Facebook posting.  First day responses to Tweets and Facebook postings are almost instantaneous, with the great bulk occuring within sixty minutes of the postings.


Undoubtedly our use of social media will continue to evolve as we gain in experience, and as our project needs change.

We would be delighted to hear your own experiences of using social media as part of your communication strategy with volunteers and audiences of different types.

Please feel free to post your comments to the Shipping News blog, or alternatively to contact us directly.