20 May 2013

PhyloPic Submissions Come in Fits and Bursts (API Example)

The recent surge of activity as PhyloPic neared its 1000th image got me to wondering about the pattern of image submissions over time. Fortunately it's very easy to collect this data using the PhyloPic API.

Step 1. Determine the number of submissions.

This is a very simple API call:

...which yields:
{"result": 1024, "success": true}

Step 2. Pull down the submission time data for all images.

Now that we have the total number, we can grab data for all of the images at once, like so:

But this just yields a list of 1024 image entries that each look like this:
{"uid": "1353c901-f652-4563-941d-7b12bc7a86df"}

Not very useful. To get any actual data fields from the PhyloPic API, you have to be more specific:


Now each entry is a lot more useful:

{"uid": "1353c901-f652-4563-941d-7b12bc7a86df", "submitted": "2013-05-19 16:05:12"}

Step 3. Process the data.

Once you have this, it's a pretty simple matter for a JavaScript programmer to strip out the month and tally the images. I did this and generated a bar chart using Google's Code Playground. Here it is:

(I left out May since it's not over yet. Apologies for the gaps.)

PhyloPic was officially launched on 21 February 2011. Most of the submissions for that month are ones that I "presubmitted" during development. (A lot are from Scott Hartman's skeletal drawings, including the very first submission.)

Submissions were strong going into March but then completely slacked off. I'm sure a lot of this was due to technical problems — the site became incredibly slow after a while. There were major architecture flaws.

I (mostly) fixed these and relaunched in January 2012. Interest was strong, and in February PhyloPic had its best month ever. But then submissions slacked off again.

A year later, in March 2013, I was getting ready to do another major upgrade. I added dozens of images in anticipation. Then I relaunched at the very end of the month. Sure enough, April was one of the best months ever, second only to February 2012.

May 2013 is currently going strong, but looking at this trend I start to wonder: how long will it last? And although I recently swore off doing massive updates, are they actually better for driving up submissions?

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