Hello all GB1900 volunteers.
Welcome to the third GB1900 newsletter.
Apologies it's taken us a little while to get the latest dot map online. Our technology has been struggling with the sheer number of pins, which is always a nice problem for us to have! However, we're pleased to report the July dot map is now available here: http://geo.nls.uk/maps/gb1900/.
Keeping GB1900 running
We hope it won’t come as a shock to contributors that we are not planning on keeping the GB1900 web site running forever. It exists only to support the transcription work, and does not provide any access to the results, so once all possible transcription work is done it would have no purpose at all.
When we started, we were not sure how long the transcription work would take. The project is an extended version of the Cymru1900 project in Wales, and as the graph below shows, most activity in Cymru1900 was in the first six months:
We expected the same or a bit longer with GB1900. In fact, numbers of transcriptions per month have inevitably declined as areas were completed, but even after ten months there is a high level of activity (note that the graph uses different vertical axes for the two projects, as the overall level of activity on GB1900 is almost ten times larger. “Month 1” is October 2013 for Cymru1900 and September 2016 for GB1900).
This is great news, but does create a challenge for us, as the software behind GB1900 is still essentially the same system that was launched as Cymru1900 in 2013, which means it is getting elderly. It was originally created by the people behind Galaxy Zoo and Zooniverse, but their own projects have moved on to a quite different underlying system. We were able to update some of the components before we launched GB1900 last year, but other components are no longer being developed.
This creates a risk they will be incompatible with newer versions of the operating system on our server. Since March, the same server has also been running the very popular Vision of Britain site, and the University of Portsmouth’s internet security policies — which we don’t really argue with — mean that sooner or later the operating system MUST be updated. This most likely means next month, although we will make a further announcement before it happens. The updating will inevitably mean the site closes down for a couple of hours, but what happens when we restart it?
— Most likely, everything will be fine: the version of the operating system we currently use was up to date in March, so the new version will not be very different.
— Although the software developer who got it working last year has moved on, we have arranged that he will be involved in the updating, and we are hopeful he can sort out minor issues.
— However, we need to be honest that there is some risk of more major problems. We do have a plan, to re-establish GB1900 on a different server running an older version of the operating system, but that will take a few days.
Part of the purpose of this announcement is to warn you that we may have a serious interruption of service next month, but it should also be clear that it will be hard keeping the site running into 2018. There has been an inevitable reduction in activity over the summer months, but we hope that there will be a new burst of activity this autumn which should finish things off.
Lastly, while there is some risk that we cannot keep GB1900 running, there is no significant risk that your work will be lost. GB1900 works with a database we are not experts on, but we have the system set up so that we can regularly copy your work across to the database used by Vision of Britain which we know well. Periodically, this copy of GB1900 content is copied across to our other server in Portsmouth, and to a system in Edinburgh which the National Library of Scotland use to create the progress maps.
As explained above, GB1900 has always been a limited life project, but the intention is that the gathered data will have a much longer-term life. All the project partners intend to work together on improving, editing, enhancing and adding value to the data, making it available in new forms for easy access and onward use.
With thanks, as ever, to you all for your continued enthusiasm and perseverance.
The GB1900 Project Team