Category Archives: Website Improvements

Content, Conferences, and Enhancements

Oh, man. I’m so far behind in updating the world on what is up to. A few important points:

New content. I uploaded several files today. So far, they’ve included:

The first fills a brief gap; I had already imported volumes 2 and 3, but had had a problem with volume 1, which I’ve since fixed. The last resource, H. T. Lenton’s volume, is a really big, important one. It’s got just over 23,000 citations in it. Many of these are for unnamed vessels, such as Landing Crafts, with names like “LCM.21” or “LCM.234”. I think this is important content for those doing research on these rarely-known vessels. I wrote a lot about the processing I did on this one on the resource’s information page here.

I’m very pleased to get this one imported; it adds immeasurably to the World War II content for those doing in-depth research into naval movements during the war.

With these additions, we’re now just 24 citations short of 1,325,000 citations. Perhaps I’ll find a small set to add some time today.

Past Conference. Two weeks ago (man, time flies!), we went to Salt Lake City for the National Genealogical Society conference. That was a great event, and we had a super time talking with genealogists and learning how we can improve the product we provide for them. We also had a fine time talking with folks from other companies who we can partner with, to the benefit of all involved.

There’s so much to do as a followup on that, and we’re working away on it. That’s a good problem to have, but wow, what a pile of work on our plates. On top of all of that, I’m still working on adding content, and Mike is plugging away at enhancements and new features. Both of us are also working on some neat possible partnerships, plus adding institutional subscribers here and there.

Ship Normalization. Speaking of new enhancements, Mike has built a really valuable new tool that will have a huge impact on a lot of the data that we have from a few major resources. One drawback of projects where a print resource (especially a 19th century one) is digitized and put online is that the print-specific space-saving conventions are applied to an online environment. For example, the schooner Abbot Lawrence is represented in different volumes as “Abbot L’wr’nce”, “Abbott Law’nce”, “Abbott Lawr’nce”, and (obviously) “Abbot Lawrence”. All of them mean describe the same vessel, and in a print volume, that’s easily discerned. But online, the computer doesn’t know that when you search for “Abbott Lawrence,” you’d also like to see the other variations above. That is, unless you have Mike on your side, who has created a tool so that we can bring them all together (that is, ‘normalize’ them). And that’s what we’re doing. The process is quick and accurate, though there are enough entries that it’ll take quite a while.

But, we’re doing it, and we’re making all those other entries available, despite the proliferation of apostrophes.

Next Conference. Finally, I’m headed to a conference at Mystic Seaport tomorrow – it’s a joint conference for a number of organizations, including the Council of American Maritime Museums, the North American Society for Oceanic History, the Steamship Historical Society of America, the National Maritime Historical Society, and the Society for Nautical Research. What a group!

I’m looking forward to telling folks there about, and I hope I won’t run out of brochures. If you’re going, and would like to get together at some point, please drop me a line.

Cool new enhancements!

Well, we’ve done a ton of stuff since coming back from Boston. While in Boston at the ALA Midwinter conference, Mike and I met with about fifteen different people to get feedback on how to improve the site. Each meeting was about 45 minutes long, and the whole experience was really fantastic. We met with academic reference librarians, public librarians, electronic resources librarians, genealogy librarians, authors, content providers, folks with library services businesses that we admire, and tons more. We came away with pages and pages and pages of modifications to make.

Some of these changes are/were easy, and some will be a lot tougher. On Saturday, Mike put new code up on the site, and many of the changes are now visible there. Since we do a lot of iterative releases, we don’t use ‘release numbers,’ but if we did, all the enhanced functionality that has just gone live would definitely deserve a ‘dot version’ – like, say, from 2.1 to 2.2. And, in fact, it probably would deserve an upgrade from version 2.x to 3.0, because of the new institutional access that I’ll get to later. (That doesn’t have much front-end visibility, but it has been a huge change on the back end.)

Here are a few of the changes you’ll see:

  • A “new” icon next to any item added in the last 45 days.
  • Better layout on the results pages
  • Better diacritics management
  • Links to resources open in new windows
  • More, and updated, information on the webpage, especially regarding individual subscriptions
  • A completely new “librarians” tab, with information for librarians, regarding our new institutional service

In addition, he created a number of tools that will help us better identify and proactively correct data issues.

With the new importing tools, I’ve imported several new files in the last few days, and have also started to go back to improve and reimport some of the older files. There are a number of files in the freely-accessible collection that have illustrations but don’t indicate that on the results pages. I’ve already corrected a few of those, and more will be corrected soon. Those don’t count as “new” resources, and they remain freely-accessible.

The biggest deal, though, is INSTITUTIONAL ACCESS! We can now offer subscriptions via IP-authentication, for institution-wide access. Check out our librarians page for more information about this. If you’re interested in a setting up a trial for your institution, please drop us a line at sales (at) shipindex (dot) org. Or recommend us to your local librarian! We can provide access for academic, public, special, and other libraries. And, to top it off, we’re offering “plankowner” discounts for institutions that join us before June. Contact us soon for more information.

This release is a big deal all around for us, and it’ll lead to a lot more content being added (two completely new resources have already been added today, and four have been improved and updated over the past two days). Results will be easier to use, and of course institutions can now subscribe, as well.

We’ve got more improvements and enhancements in the works, so let us know about any changes you’d like to see.