Post Archive

Traceable Art Visitor Analytics

Given the years of effort that have gone into building the Traceable Heraldic Art collection, it’s very gratifying to know that it’s actually being used by other people, and aside from anecdotal reports, the clearest feedback I get on this front is Google Analytics, which I enabled shortly after creating the site in December 2016.

Traffic has grown slowly over the last five and a half years, but over time persistence has paid off in increasing visibility. On a typical day in the last year the site was visited by between one hundred and two hundred people. Many of these folks are coming from search engine results, and about half of them take one look around and immediately leave after deciding that this site isn’t going to answer their questions about how to use a crancelin or give them the style of dolphin art they searched for. But others stay and browse through dozens of pages, so the number of  page views is usually between one and two thousand per day.

Presumably that growth won’t continue forever, and it will be interesting to see where things level off.

Traceable Art at Year’s End

As the new calendar year begins, it’s time for another update on the Traceable Art collection. Over the last two months, over a hundred and thirty illustrations have been added, bringing the total to just over five thousand images.

More than half of the new entries are ordinaries and field divisions from Gunnvôr silfrahárr‘s Viking Answer Lady SVG Images For Heralds. With this update, nearly all of the images from this collection are now included in the Traceable Art.

A few additional original illustrations have also been added in this round, from new contributor Hu Zhen and returning artists Iago ab Adam and Li Xia. Continue reading “Traceable Art at Year’s End”

Autumn Art Updates

Over the last two months, more than a hundred new entries have been added to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, putting it on track to pass five thousand charges and fields some time around the end of the calendar year.

I’m pleased to welcome first-time contributors Di Amador and Sneferu ex Artemisias, and extend my thanks to returning artists Saewynn aet Cnolle, Vémundr Syvursson, Iago ab Adam, Jessimond of Emerickeskepe, and Maryan Hoskyns.

If you’ve drawn heraldic line art that you’re willing to share with the community, or would like to find another way of getting involved, please drop me a line! Continue reading “Autumn Art Updates”

JSON Data for the Traceable Art

As part of my effort to facilitate the development of a successor to the current, somewhat jury-rigged system used to publish the Traceable Heraldic Art collection, I’ve been working on exporting the current data in a format that could be imported by someone developing a successor system.

You can now retrieve nearly all of the textual content of the collection via a series of JSON data files which are automatically rebuilt each time the site is updated. Continue reading “JSON Data for the Traceable Art”

Traceable Art at Summer’s End

During the last three months, over 225 new entries have been added to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, bringing the total to 4,800 images plus appendices.

Some of these illustrations were provided by first-time contributors Drystan ap Ercwlff, Elizabeth Riverwood, Groza Novgorodskaia, Kolosvari Arpadne Julia, Ragna stórráða Úlfsdóttir, and Sadhbh Bheag — thank you all, and welcome to the team.

Likewise, my continuing appreciation goes out to returning artists Saewynn aet Cnolle, Jessimond of Emerickeskepe, Iago ab Adam, Vémundr Syvursson, Forveleth Dunde, Owen Tegg, Thora Brandsdottir, Aine ingen Gilla Crist, and Estelle de la Mer. Continue reading “Traceable Art at Summer’s End”

Seeking A Technical Collaborator or Successor for the Traceable Heraldic Art

As we approach the fifth anniversary of my Traceable Heraldic Art project, and given how terribly overcommitted I am with numerous projects underway, I wanted to let folks know that if someone with a strong software-development background was interested in developing the next generation of the system that hosts that collection, I’d be open to collaboration and eventually turning it over to someone else to run.

This recent blog post lays out some of the background on how the current system works and what I hope might some day replace it, and links to the source code and data files I use to build and update the site. A successor system might be coded very differently, but I would hope that it would still support the current functionality and enable the development of new capabilities, so it seems likely to be of similar complexity.

This doesn’t mean I am about to abandon the project, but I have spent somewhere about four thousand hours on it already, and would like to free up some time to work on other things. If you’re a combination web-development nerd and armorial-art nerd, and you’re interested in spending years of your life improving and maintaining a much-valued community resource, drop me a line!

An Idiosyncratic System for Publishing the Traceable Heraldic Art

[Note: The below is a lightly-edited revision of an email message I sent to a contributor to the Traceable Heraldic Art collection who asked about the technology used to update the web site. It’s somewhat rambling and may not be of interest to most, but I figured it was worth putting it in the public record. — Mathghamhain]

In hindsight it would have been sensible to tackle the creation of the online Traceable Heraldic Art collection as a web database project, but for historical reasons that’s not at all how it’s architected. Continue reading “An Idiosyncratic System for Publishing the Traceable Heraldic Art”

On Belling the Cat

[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.

Five Years Before The Mast

The above social media post marks the five-year anniversary of my having joined the heraldic community.

I had started researching names and device designs for my own submission the previous December, getting some very helpful Irish onomastic advice from Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, and some armory feedback from the Facebook Heraldry Chat group.

I spoke to the former heralds of my canton and province that spring, but they weren’t submissions experts, so rather than mailing in the forms I filled them out as best I could and brought them to the Heralds Point tent at Pennsic that summer.

By happenchance, the herald who I was routed to was Meisterin Gisela vom Kreuzbach, who looked over the large pile of poorly-summarized documentation I had handed her and decided nonetheless that I had some promise, and invited me to come around the desk to sit by her and watch over her shoulder as she entered the records into the forms interface. I wound up shadowing her through several consultations that afternoon and returning for more a couple of days later, and by the end of the week I was hooked.

Little did I know that moment would set me on a path to spending literally thousands of hours working on this esoteric corner of our peculiar hobby. Thank you to everyone who has given me a hand up over the last five years, and to the many who went before us and paved the way for the world we now inhabit.

Traceable Additions for May

Another two hundred and forty illustrations have been added to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art during the last six weeks.

I’m not much of artist, relying on others to share their illustrations, so I’m very pleased to welcome Alessandra Sartor as a new contributor, and give thanks to the continuing efforts of Iago ab Adam, Jessimond of Emerickeskepe, Saewynn aet Cnolle, Forveleth Dunde, Elionora inghean Ui Cheallaigh, Malys mac Néill, Zubeydah al-Badawiyyah, and Estelle de la Mer.

Continue reading “Traceable Additions for May”