Cave Documentation (was re: LRUD in Survex)

Andy Waddington on Survey stuff
Wed, 1 Aug 2001 12:41:34 BST

Not strictly to do with Survex, but I can't let this pass

Olly said

> Note the dates "1976-1999". Merging a year's updates in by hand is a major
> job and nobody's had time this year.

Owing to the site being shipped onto the survex server and the structure
being changed (or at least a lot of talk about the structure being changed)
I no longer had a usable site image. So, though I had the time to do the
updates, I couldn't use this time. The people who had "taken over" the site
maintenance apparently didn't even have the time to explain the changes they
had made so that I could restart maintenance, which begs the question as to
how they imagined they would have the time to merge in this year's new work.
Wookey had a lot of stuff from me such as the log book typed up, the list of
members updated and a few other changes, but these have presumably only made
it as far as the chaos server, where the site was originally hosted. Many
other changes which I could have made didn't happen not only because the
site had been taken over, but also because nobody took the fairly minimal
amount of time needed to supply me with copies of the survey book, cave
descriptions and the like from which to work.

I rather resent the implications of that "nobody's had time this year".

> A lot of this work could be automated

My impression was that the site was taken over for the purpose of doing
just that - but the result seems to have been that no automation has in
fact occurred, and the manual task has been prevented. All the things like
log book and cave descriptions need to get from handscrawled paper to typed
data and that is not going to be automated until OCR gets a lot better !!

If you don't have time, then please ensure that someone who does, gets the
chance to do the work for you, rather than just bleating...

On a more general note, this just illustrates the problem of having a major
resource like the entire documentation of your 20+ years of expedition
maintained by a group on diverse machines in widely separated locations. The
update has worked fine for many years when essentially a collaboration
between two people doing the work (and typically exchanging a couple of
megabytes of email a week during the active month or three), getting data
and answers from others who didn't get the opportunity to do parallel
updates. As soon as you widen the collaboration, it breaks down, unless some
sort of CVS system is introduced. And even then, it makes it much harder if
all those updates have to go back and forth over the net over a phone line

The moral: if you want to have expedition or cave exploration documentation
kept up to date, ensure that someone who has the time to do the work gets
all the paper needed to do so. If you plan an automated update system, pilot
it on a small project or part of the main project before simply moving the
documentation to a place where noone has the time or motivation to maintain
it !!