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Adopting Publications in the SCD Database

Anselm Lingnau, 13 March 2009

What is this all about?

The Strathspey SCD Database (formerly known as “DanceData“) was originally compiled by Alan Paterson of Berne (based on work by Keith Napier and many other volunteers, too numerous to list here). In early 2009, Alan found that he was no longer in a position to carry on maintaining the data – a major job by any standard – and agreed to “pass the baton” on to the SCD community.

We are now trying to organise how to put the load of maintaining DanceData on many shoulders, to ensure timely updates and complete data. While of course one major goal is to make sure that new material gets entered into the database as soon as it is available, another important issue is the quality of the data that is already in the database. Here is where you can help.

To “adopt” a publication means to feel responsible that the material in that publication is represented in the database completely (i.e., every dance and tune in the publication actually shows up in the database) and correctly (i.e., what is in the database for the publication actually matches the content of the publication itself).

Adopting a publication

To adopt a publication you must be a registered member of my.strathspey. (You can sign up using the link in the top right-hand corner of the page if you haven’t done so already.) This will enable a conspicuous “Adopt this publication” button below the yellow box at the top of the database page for as yet unadopted publications.

You may adopt as few or as many publications as you like, but we would expect you to have access to a copy of the publication in question, and we would also expect you to adjust the number of publications that you adopt to a point where you can still give each publication the tender loving care (see below) that it deserves.

If you are at a loss for publications to adopt, there is a “wish list” at http://my.strathspey.org/dd/adopt-wishlist/ where you can go for ideas. It lists the publications that we would most like to see taken care of. There is also a list of adopters and the publications they have adopted at http://my.strathspey.org/dd/adopters/. You are of course free to ignore the wish list and adopt whatever publication you like (although we would recommend against the Pilling books).

You do not actually have to adopt a publication in order to give it tender loving care (see below). Publications enjoy that even if they are not adopted (but of course they like being adopted even better). However, what we are really looking for is continuity – in due course we are going to make improvements to the way the database is set up which may mean that additional stuff must eventually be put in the database, and we hope to be able to rely on adopters to help us out.

It is also possible to “unadopt” a publication if you feel you can no longer take proper care of it (although the publication won’t like it a lot at first).

Tender loving care

Once you have adopted a publication, what do you do? Well, the first thing would be to check that the title, publisher, and publication year are correct (and spelled correctly) and that all the dances and tunes in the publication actually show up in the database. If you notice any discrepancies then log a comment through the link at the bottom of the publication page.

The next thing is to work through the dances in the publication one by one. Call up the database page for that dance and check the various items that it mentions:

  • Are the bar count and dance type correct?
  • Are the number of dancing couples/people and the set shape correct?
  • Is the dance author correct?
  • Does the publication list for the dance include the publication you are working on? (Some dances are published in several places.)

The formations and steps present a bit of an extra challenge. It’s probably best not to worry too much about formations right now unless you notice glaring errors or omissions; the formation system in the database is about to be worked over, anyway, and we’re not sure yet where it shall end up. You should, however, check whether the steps given in the database match what is in the actual dance – i.e., the list in the database does not mention steps that aren’t in fact used in the dance, nor does it omit steps that are used.

Don’t worry about the recordings list for the moment.

Again, if you notice discrepancies on a dance page then please log a comment through the link at the bottom of that page.

Next would be to work through the tunes (if the publication has any). Pay attention to the spelling of the title; the database is set up to deal with “aliases” that can represent variant spellings or even alternate titles. Also note what the publication (and the database) have to say about who composed the tune. If you’re not an expert on Scottish dance music but do find a mismatch then call that in; we have people who will be able to look into this if you’re not in a position to make sure.

We can assign a “TLC level” to publications depending on how far the work on them has proceeded. Currently the levels are:

  • 0: We don’t know.
  • 1: The information on the publication itself is correct (i.e., title, publisher, and so on – what is on the publication page).
  • 2: The basic information for all dances and tunes in the publication is correct.
  • 3: As 2, but the steps are correct too.
  • 4: As 3, but the formation information is correct too.

Please let us know – preferably by logging a comment – when you think that a new TLC level has been reached for a publication, so we can update the listing. (At the moment this means that either the database is fine as it is, or else that you have logged updates and these have been put into the database.)

Direct database updates

One of the goals of our project is to enable more people to write to the actual database directly. The details of this are still being hashed out, but it is likely that the initial set of “committers” will be recruited at least in part from the people who already work with the data, i.e., the “adopters”. Let us know whether you would be interested in helping with this.

In the meantime, actual database updates will have to be requested through the comment link.

Questions, comments, suggestions, etc.

If you have questions, comments and suggestions about the adopt-a-publication scheme or the SCD Database in general then feel free to contact us.

The people who are interested in this project hang out on the “dancedata-friends” mailing list, which you can subscribe to by sending an empty e-mail message to dancedata-friends+subscribe@strathspey.org.

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