I first noticed the disproportionate contributions from people with connections outside the US in the early days of Hardin MD. Before Google and PageRank the best lists of links were done by humans. In making Hardin MD, I kept close track of human-generated lists around the Web in health and medicine. A strong impression I got was that a disproportionate number of the most carefully chosen and well-maintained lists were from outside the US. A couple of examples — Tor Ahlenius at the Karolinska Institute library, whom I recently eulogized, and Ildo Shin, a physician in South Korea whose MedMark lists were by far the longest available, and had among the lowest rate of dead links (a common problem in those days).
With Americans being the preponderate population of the web-using world, why was it that it was people in other countries who managed to master the simple task of keeping good lists? I think it has to do with simplicity — I think maybe Americans have trouble cutting through the distractions on the Web that yell out for attention, to cut through the fluff to see what’s really important! I’ve seen this same tendency as the emphasis on Hardin MD has changed from meta-list making to pictures — I find that many of the best sites for medical pictures are also from around the world. The Hardin MD Skin Disease pictures page, for example, has sites from Sweden, Germany, Pakistan, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Taiwan, and Nigeria. As with lists in Hardin MD, the important element here that’s captured by non-US people, I think, is the vision to take advantage of the simple virtues of the Web to accomplish a simple task — presentation of good medical pictures.
So, having been sensitized by my work on Hardin MD, I’ve broadened my observation over the years to see how an appreciation for simplicity and elegance has become central to the Web/Tech world of Google, Twitter, Apple. I continue the story of how people from the WIDE WORLD community, with connections outside the US, have made significant contributions emphasizing simplicity and elegance.
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey