What attracts users to the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL)? - A pilot study
Method: Semi-structured interviews.
Participants: 10 potential users (undergraduate students in University of Maryland)
Procedure: Step 1: We introduced four citizen science biodiversity sites (iNaturalist, iSpot, EOL, and
Floracaching) to potential users.
Step 2: We asked potential users whether they like or dislike each of these four websites
What attracts users to the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ?
– A pilot study
For an online community, success means it can attract enough
new users and retain existing users. In this pilot study, we aimed
to investigate whether a citizen science biodiversity website
(eol.org) is a successful online community. We also tried to
understand potential users and existing users’ motivation for
participating in EOL.
Q1: Is EOL attractive enough for potential users?
Q2: Can EOL retain existing users?
Citizen science websites allow amateur and nonprofessional scientists to collaborate with scientists.
EOL (encyclopedia of life) is a citizen science biodiversity site, which provides global access to knowledge
about life on Earth.
Method: EOL traffic data recorded by Google Analytics. (2010.1 ~2011.12)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Chart 1: traffic data of EOL
* Score of attractiveness = Number of “like” – Number of “dislike”
Three most attractive features:
1. beautiful user interface design;
2. smart phone access;
3. interactive maps.
“It is an encyclopedia that lives on the Internet and is contributed to by scientists and amateurs, it has an
indefinitely expandable page for each species, available to anyone.” “Imagine an electronic page for
each species of organism on Earth.”
– Edward O. Wilson
iNaturalist iSpot EOL Floracaching
Personal computer Personal computer Smart phone
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes No Yes
Yes Yes Yes No
Yes Yes No No
features Explore, Learn
Table 1: Feature analysis for four citizen science biodiversity websites
iNaturalist 25 2 23
EOL 8 3 5
Floracaching 6 4 2
iSpot 7 6 1
Table 2: Attractiveness for four citizen science biodiversity
1. Overall the number of visits and visitors increased from 2010 to 2011.
2. There is a pattern: the number of visits and visitors during spring, and autumn
was larger than in winter and summer as indicated by the red and black circles
on the above graph. The number of visits and visitors might be influenced by
seasons, school terms and vacations.
1. There is potential for EOL to be more attractive for
2. Although participation in EOL varies., EOL is
quite successful in retaining existing users. There
may be potential to encourage more participation.
We thank the NSF SoCS
program for its support
grant # 0968546
Future research questions:
1. What other motivational factors could influence potential users to start to use EOL and existing
users to participate more often?
2. What will motivate potential users to use EOL. (e.g. increase attractiveness of EOL)?
3. What will motivate existing users to use EOL more through out the year?
Yurong He, Jennifer Preece, Jae-wook Ahn, Anne Bowser, David Jacobs, Jennifer Hammock, Derek Hansen,
Cynthia Parr, Dana Rotman