The Joys of Feedback

When we first set up this website nearly a year ago, one of our earliest decisions was to encourage feedback. This was for two reasons; firstly because interaction is an important factor in long term success; secondly because we knew that we would not get everything right first time.

After all, none of the original founders could claim to be professional historians so we relied on the Internet for most of our information; we also found out that there can often be very different versions of history. It has been quite a learning curve.

So we welcomed the comments and challenges that soon began to come in. One of the earliest examples was from a regular reader and positive critic whom we learned to appreciate. Our article on Puttenham history described a car accident in the war which killed members of two local families, Tom Chapman and William Newman. Our helpful critic came in with this added value comment;

“The car accident described happened in 1943. They were coming back from the cattle market in Aylesbury in foggy conditions. Joe Gregory was in a coma for three weeks and the Welsh nurse who attended to him was Sylvia who he eventually married”.

But we soon realised that, if we encourage feedback, it won’t always be as easy to accept. This same critic also responded to our recent series of semi-fictional stories by expressing a view that may be shared by more conventional historians;

‘History should be about facts not fiction’

This caused us some concern until more positive feedback about the stories came through, for example;

‘I have never liked history very much, but now can’t get enough of it. The story is a great account of history past. Thankyou.’

‘A thoroughly readable and remarkably well researched series that deserves a wider audience’.

We take the view that you cannot please all the people all the time so we are carrying on with the story method for the time being, the famous tale of Ruth Osborne being followed up by stories – of three episodes each – describing the lives of Bishop Odo and Christopher Urswick. These two characters had one thing in common; they had a connection with our villages and also had a major impact on the history of this country.

Positive feedback also came as a result of articles published by others some time ago. One of the first tasks that two of our volunteers carried out after starting the website was to trawl through every Village News since 2003, picking out those articles that contained historical content. Our technical expert Oliver then arranged things so that these articles are published in automatic rotation, month by month. This past content draws much positive feedback from our readers, for instance an article by David Mead (then a regular contributor) 15 years ago, based on his grandfather’s wage book in 1914, brought this feedback:

‘Hello. impressive job. I did not anticipate this. This is a fantastic story. Thanks!’

And some of the feedback is from those who just want to share their own childhood memories; for instance there was this comment after our article on the Glasser family:

‘A great read and very interesting. I used to collect eggs at the weekends and have fond memories of the Glasser family and of Wilstone where I grew up’.

We have to admit that there have been a few times when our material needed correcting but this usually led to even more knowledge. A good example was our article ‘Brave Women of the Half Moon’ which described how Lavinia Cartwright and Rose Cooper kept this Wilstone pub going during the first and second World Wars respectively. We stated that Rose had died in 1964 and this produced several responses from those who remembered Mrs Cooper being there as late as 1976. A bit more research and exchanges of memories resulted in us being able to clarify that Rose did indeed die in 1964 and that it was her daughter-in-law Ellen – also Mrs Cooper – who continued to run the pub after Rose’s death. And we received extra information that one reason Ellen retired was because of two robberies that took place in her final year.

This is a perfect example of how feedback and interaction should work and why it is so fundamental to a successful website. So please keep it coming!

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