[Note: this post is not specifically related to heraldry, but I’ve included it here because it is very much concerned with the question of developing web-based tools and addresses issues that frequently arise in the discussion of digital heraldic resources. — Mathghamhain]
Someone recently commented that it was a shame that the SCA didn’t have a tool on its main website that allowed people to enter their zip code and get links to their their closest local branches — instead newcomers need to use a two-step process of using the SCA’s site to find a kingdom based on state, province, or country, then using that kingdom’s search tools to find their local group — surely it would be more welcoming to simplify that process? And might the fact that such an integrated tool doesn’t exist reveal that the SCA doesn’t care about newcomers?
As I responded, I realized that I had written similar comments about a number of other such proposals — frequent topics of this kind of discussion in the context of the College of Arms are building new web tools for Orders of Precedence, or a central registry of all coats of arms — and of course the same issue comes up in numerous other areas — so I figured I’d clip them out and post them here (with just a bit of editing to allow them to make sense on their own) for use the next time this kind of thing comes up.
One minor challenge for the “just enter your zip code” plan is that some parts of the world don’t use zip codes, so now you are building a web tool that uses country names, zip codes, Canadian FSAs, Australian post codes, New Zealand telephone prefixes, and I’m not sure what else, with an authenticated back-end interface for the officers who manage this data in each kingdom to send you updates, and you need to staff the administration and maintenance of this tool for the next decade, keep up to date with the changes in local officers and revisions to the SCA’s overall web design, and you have zero budget aside from free hosting on the SCA’s server (and that only if you use the tools and platforms they already support).
When you say “it might be time consuming” you are answering the question about why such a thing does not already exist — it would require a lot of work from each of a lot of unpaid volunteers, which would need to be sustained over a period of years to ensure it did not fall out of date. If someone qualified wants to tackle the project, I would love to see it done, but it’s a larger project than it might seem at first glance.
Projects like this are hard to solve with grunt labor — they require technical skill, long-term dedication, and team-building. This is why we haven’t (yet!) solved this problem.
If you can recruit a talented software developer with strong communications skills who wants to devote thousands of hours to this project, I’d be excited to see the results!
And if you are an experienced technology professional who wants to volunteer a decade of their life to building this and keeping it running, please step forward — this would be a great project!
But if what you are saying is that someone else should do this work, about which you lack sufficient knowledge to be able to formulate an implementation plan or estimate the scope of effort required, consider the fable of Belling the Cat.