HMDB Maintenance

The Historical Marker Database is currently undergoing a “spring cleaning” maintenance cycle. For now the data is in read only mode. Since I send a lot of my links over that direction, I do apologize to anyone who has experienced any of the anomalies from the site recently.

Again, I’m a content contributor, who has some elevated responsibilities, on HMDB. In addition to my own contributions, I review other entries to verify editorial compliance before publication. Most of the editorial rules involve title declaration, text format, geographic coordinates, and address listings. As an editor I try to split hairs over things like zip codes. If the metal plaque is “on the county line,” I’ll try to determine which side of the line it’s on. Can’t have it listed in two places at the same time after all!

Most of the entry data is fairly fixed. We don’t re-interpret text, for instance. If it is misspelled, that’s actually part of the historical artifact after all. Not much wiggle room for a contributor until they are describing the marker location and offering commentary. The later often gives me the most trouble. Some times, but definitely a minority of submissions, the contributor’s commentary either doesn’t seem to flow with the marker subject, or is, bluntly speaking, poorly written. I hate to cut up some-one’s text, but then again, I don’t want a public facing entry to present less than polished appearances. Usually, if the modifications require more than corrections for spelling or grammar, I forward copies of the original text and proposed changes.

With several correspondents, the system has gotten so routine as to flow almost naturally. One individual simply writes, “I didn’t find anything about this on web searches, please provide any information you have…” Surprisingly, for a system open for content submission from the general public, very few correspondents have issue with the editorial review. The only exception I can recall came from someone with a very impressive academic resume. The last thing I’d suspect is debating “the King’s English” with someone possessing a high level college degree. But that is for another day….

One of the draws for me to HMDB is somewhat “selfish” in a way. Since the webmaster, owner, and operator has, unfortunately for him, all the systems administration and web maintenance responsibilities, I don’t have to bring my day job home as much. Working as a collaboration systems architect and information technology consultant in the D.C. metro area, I get to spend weeks on end discussing page layouts, functional relations of information, network addresses, SAN storage requirements, and other nuts and bolts. I know of some mechanics who can get home from work and spend their off time restoring old cars. Sorry, I’m just not wired that way. I’m the type who must purge “work” from “play.” Which is of course why this blog site isn’t “pimped” to the max with custom CSS or elaborate data tags.