1 (edited by simon 04-09-2015 16:30:59)

Topic: Website strategies?

Out of interest I looked up where some of the different Environmental Records Centre websites are located, and was surprised that you don't share a common hosting provider.  I guess that some record centres are provided with free or low-cost web-space by local authorities / wildlife trusts, but I couldn't help thinking that this ad hoc approach restricts the potential for record centres to reach out to the public through online resources.

These days leasing a server or development space on a shared server is very cheap.  Overall, I'm guessing that joining forces and hosting most or all of the ERC's on one machine would offer you all quite considerable savings in website costs.  Whilst I'm sure it would be important for each ERC to retain its own identity, a number of other factors could also potentially offer significant savings / benefits, for example:

Re: Website strategies?

It's simple for us. We can't do outside hosting because we can't do maintenance/ftp at work. Hosting on the Council servers was a massive step forward as well as saving money.

We are also vastly different in our relation with our hosts or as independent organisations and in terms of staff, resources and funding and what we can do and provide online. Lots of things are dictated by local local needs and wants. I'd say we are a loosely aligned collection of organisations and always will be.

Graham Hawker
Thames Vallley Environmental Records Centre

Re: Website strategies?

Interesting question, thanks Simon. I think Graham's assessment is accurate. We always will be a loosely aligned collection of organisations with varied hosts or none and have very varied needs for our online presences. But some LERCs do share online spaces and tools alongside their main information websites (e.g. the 4 independent Welsh LERC's data access tool http://www.lrcwalesdat.org/eng/index.php, the various LERCs that use rodis.co.uk or irecord for online recording etc.) and I think there is plenty of scope for more of that in future, something for us all to think about perhaps.

On a possibly related note, does anyone else find the Wildlife Trusts websites that are using the common platform a bit frustrating? I am specifically thinking of the species pages so when one for example googles "Cumbria water vole" or many other species, one of the top results is the Wildlife Trust page for water vole (http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/ … water-vole), which has useful information but is not Cumbria specific and could equally be found by "water vole" and landing on http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/water-vole...

Teresa Frost
WeBS National Organiser, BTO. NFBR Council Member.

Re: Website strategies?

Isn't it a good time for LERCs to start integrating their services more closely?

As data flows increase exponentially, the role of the data-collators becomes increasingly important, and it seems essential that LERCs should present themselves as a unified body with a set of standards and methodologies, however unwelcoming that might appear.

I don't know how greatly the data-holdings differ between LERCs, but from reading forums such as this one it is apparent that there are big differences in many basic factors such as the software used, the classification schemes and protocols recognised, data access arrangements, mapping tools etc.

One illustrative case is in the online recording pages: I can see that more LERCs are encouraging amateur recorders to submit sightings directly through their websites, for obvious reasons.  However:

    How many LERCs have developed this facility?
    How much has each separately invested in design / developmental costs?
    How many input forms follow the same standard format?

What justifications are there for duplication, or such a piecemeal approach?  The benefits of a coordinated approach must surely outweigh the apparent advantages of operating independently, both financially but also more importantly in terms of presenting a uniform, standardised data service across the UK.  If McDonalds offered a different menu in each restuarant nobody would buy anything there.

The Wildlife Trusts website problem you mention is another case in point - I'll come back to that in a separate post.

Re: Website strategies?

simon wrote:

What justifications are there for duplication, or such a piecemeal approach?

I'm afraid you're making assumptions that don't really hold. There's been significant co-ordinatation and funded support for online recording using Indicia which quite a number of LERCs have used along with a discussion/support group. We aren't just doing it on our own. Of course the pages might look different but we still have our own needs. We have different input pages for different recording groups because their needs are different. There are older sites which have been around much longer of course.

Graham Hawker
Thames Vallley Environmental Records Centre

Re: Website strategies?

Sorry, I hadn't realised that LERCs were adopting Indicia as a standard for accepting online records.   Its good to see, but even so I thought that Indicia was primarily a toolkit for implementing biological recording functionality in websites - couldn't the effort of developing recording pages and interface be more effectively shared by LERCs developing/hosting a single common recording facility, which could be accessed through each LERCs individual pages?

Re: Website strategies?

Part of the issue is that of funds.  For arguments sake if a LERC only had

Re: Website strategies?

In terms of standards the NBN (of which most (all?) of us are a part) has draft online recording standards (http://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/20 … Oct-12.pdf). Aimed at improving the consistency and of the approach to developing online recording systems. In terms of what you have noted about a hosted online recording platform, have you spoken to Cheshire record about RODIS? The LERC there hosts and deploys a LERC focused online recording system. Investment by new and existing LERC users takes the platform forward and upgrades are then deployed out to other users. The system is locally focussed and has been designed by and for LERCs.

In terms of Indicia, there has for some time been a 'self supporting' group working on LERC focused implementation of the platform. Bug fixes and feature improvements to the code then benefit other new and or future users who can (theoretically!) role out an entire LERC website with minimal technical knowledge.. This is unfortunately still trickier than it sounds and a shame that the project hasn't been invested in as it could have gone much further much more quickly.

It appears your asking for there to be a single web based hub which essentially has LERC branded page for record entry in particular areas.. If that's a route you'd like to take then its actually already possible and being done using iRecord (/Indicia and iformed custom recording forms) and an increasing number of national recording schemes, projects and organisations are already doing it.

Ben Deed - LERC Officer
Merseyside BioBank

Re: Website strategies?

I mainly mentioned online recording as an example

Re: Website strategies?

Personally I think the differences, which relect local circumstances, can also be a very positive thing.

The very fact we deal with recorders and records at their local level without pandering to an homogenous, cold and centralised system is often our selling point among recorders and community groups.  Collectively LERCs probably still amass more data than any other organisation and manage it to very high standards.

I understand the need to improve coordination and effiency and how some funding bodies would prefer all LERCs to be the same.  I am not convinced all share the lack of confidence though.  I think it is actually a very small number of people.  Ask most recorders in the BRERC area and they will undoubtedly express confidence in us.  Ask most funders in the BRERC area and they wil say the same.  The depletion of their funds is the main problem and there is little evidence a unified LERC structure would necessarily increase support and funding, in fact probably a reduction in funding and support being more probable.

I agree the portal idea should be explored if possible.

Tim Corner